I haven't visited this forum in quite some time, but this thread is interesting. Lots of good stories.
My scanning days really began with a crystal radio kit my Dad gave me as a gift at age 11. That was in 1962. No, it wasn't a scanner, but I was amazed that I could pick up AM radio stations without any power to the radio. I then started to "DX" AM radio stations from all around the country. I grew up in L.A. and I knew that there were a limited number of "Clear Channel" radio stations. These were frequencies that were allocated for one radio station only and they were allowed to broadcast with full 50,000 watt signals 24 hours per day. They had 3 letter call signs, and the ones I remember were KFI, Los Angeles; KOB, Albuquerque; KOA, Denver: and WLS Chicago. I was never able to hear the clear channel station in New York City.
My Dad bought the family an AM/FM portable with a shortwave band just above the AM broadcast band and in 1968 the first plane crash in the history of LAX occurred. I was able to pick up the Coast Guard looking for survivors in the ocean as the plane was making an approach from the west during Santa Ana (off shore wind). It was gruesome, but I was amazed and it started an interest that is best summed up by "there are all these signals floating through the air and with the right equipment I can just grab them."
The older brother of my best friend in high school was a ham. He got me interested in listening to public safety and I bought a little portable with the VHF Low and High bands. It was had a dial for tuning and had very little selectivity as it received about a 1 MHz portion of the spectrum. Radio Shack had some large dial tuned radios with a little better selectivity. It was hard to find the right place on the dial for various frequencies so people made pen marks on the chassis behind the dial.
In 1970 I was able to earn enough money during my early college years to purchase a single band Regency TMR-8H. Eight channels using crystals on the VHF high band. What a luxury it was! If you wanted to listen to one frequency that is what you got with no adjacent channel interference. I then moved out of state to continue college and could not afford to buy crystals for the area. When I graduated and continued to live in the same town I bought 8 crystals for the area. I had some summer and winter frequencies and switched them out spring and fall. I had five U.S. Forest Service frequencies; one each for the Coconino, Kaibab and Prescott National Forests; "Air Net" on 168.625 and "Crew Net" on 168.200. I had started to work for the U.S. Forest Service during the summer and had to ask the radio tech on my forest for the frequencies as there weren't any directories for Arizona at the time.
When I moved to New Mexico in 1978 I bought a Bearcat 210 and scanning really got fun. I love small towns and isolation, something I had plenty off in New Mexico as the ranger station I lived at was not even in a town. Somehow the remoteness made scanning all that more interesting. New Mexico is fairly flat, with a lot of "island in the sky" mountain ranges scattered about the state. Many of the ranges had electronic sites and you could hear transmitters located 100-150 miles away. I picked up simplex traffic at 100 miles, including the mobile side of the Albuquerque PD.
After that I moved to two different, somewhat isolated, small towns in a sparsely populated county where I've lived for 33 years. There are two trunked systems in a two county area that is about 200 miles north to south and 45-80 miles east to west. Those are the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and Southern County Edison. Most rural areas in the west use VHF High for almost everything and trunked, digital and encrypted systems are rare. With so many agencies on the same band, VHF High interoperability has been around from the day everyone had high channel capacity radios (20 or so),. I can also hear a couple of Nevada counties and a couple of frequencies on the west side of the Sierra, those of the Sierra National Forest.
Scanning in rural areas is very popular as media outlets with field reporting of incidents that can affect everyone do not exist. Weather affects us more and a scanner is a tool, not just a hobby. Incidents where scanner listeners call in observations of incidents in progress, such as subjects and vehicles involved needing to be stopped occur. Outstanding suspects are located because so many people have scanners and that gives law enforcement more eyes. Everything from assaults, to gas drive aways, to dine and dash and vandalism occur where scanner owners call in their observations of suspects. There are some very surprised suspects who get arrested as a result.
My Forest Service career involved mostly field level positions with wilderness, recreation, special use and wildland fire management duties. I had a handheld on my belt at all times and a base station radio at my desk. I didn't have time to get my ham license until I retired and I had it within a year. The positions I held were time consuming, demanding and stressful with a lot of uncompensated overtime, some 3300 hours in the last 10 years of my career. That amounts to an extra 8 weeks of work annually and overtime was paid for fires and other emergencies.
I've purchased about 20 scanners now, most of which I recycled as some have not held up over the years. I still have the original Regency and the Bearcat 210. The Regency has very little sensitivity and I don't use it. The Bearcat is in my living room and I use it when I have forgotten to turn the scanner on, upstairs in my office. I have a scanner in each of our 3 cars, as well as 2 m/70 cm in each. I have three scanners next to my desk in my home office. I have many handhelds. It is really a cheap hobby compared to downhill skiing, water skiing, RV camping, etc. I buy the newest scanner models because I want to hear everything I can when I travel, even though I don't really need them in the area I live in.
Scanning and radio use has been a substantial activity in my life and I could write more about my experiences, but will stop here.
God invented cops so firefighters can have heroes, firefighters so cops can keep their uniforms clean and EMS to have people intelligent enough to use big words-tachycardia, diaphoretic . .
Last edited by Exsmokey; 01-27-2015 at 11:37 AM..