I'd heard about Echolink through QST and some of the online forums -- had even listened to a couple of folks every now and then pop on the local .94 machine from places that would have otherwise required impossibly rare 2m propagation. That caught my attention. Despite the crowd that says internet linking is not "real radio" -- gotta admit its a very cool concept.
I downloaded the (free) software last night, went through the license validation process ensuring that I hold a valid FCC license, and after a little tweaking of my cheap computer mic was "linking" to repeaters all over. My first QSO was with a KL7 in a small town 400 miles from Anchorage; he was on his 2m handheld to the local repeater, and I was connecting to his repeater via my PC and "the cloud". It was kind of a strange experience talking to my computer and hearing it come back with the familiar squelch tail. We had a nice brief chat, said 73 and I linked and listened to a few more. I'm sure I'll do it again...its a different approach to something very familiar to me.
For me this'll never be a real rival to an actual radio, feedline, and antenna -- but I can see the applications here, and it's fun to be able to "dial up" a particular site in a faraway place with the click of a mouse. Wanna key up a 440 machine in downtown Tokyo during rush hour? No problem. No doubt, its also an aspect that I'll show to any young ham prospect -- how radio and the internet can be fused into one system for certain applications.