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General Scanning Discussion - For general questions not specific to a model of scanner or general discussion of use of a scanner. Manufacturer specific posts should be directed to the appropriate forums below and location specific posts should go in the appropriate regional forum..

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  #341 (permalink)  
Old 11-10-2015, 12:14 AM
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I grew up across the Hudson River from New York City. My earliest experiences in scanning came from a few vectors that pretty much each added up to create who is here before you (impressed, I'm sure ). Anyway, I had a tunable AM/FM/"PSB" (VHF high band) receiver that my mother won at a carnival. I used to tune around and hear KWO35, the NYC weather, and a bunch of two-tone paging systems. This was in the early 70s, maybe 1972 or 1973. I could also hear the Circle Line tour boats on the marine channels and, if I found the sweet spot, I could hear the police in my town and the next town over. One of the high points to being a kid was meeting some of the people who were talking, and being able to say I heard them going on a call and asking what happened. They thought it was cool, too. In a way, I "rode along" with these people as they worked. I was also able to tune NYPD on VHF HIGH BAND (!!!!!) and remember hearing the base giving out calls in the Bronx, although I could never hear the cars.

A little while later, maybe 1974, I got an Archer Space Patrol CB that I could tune across CB with. Back then, there were business licensees (legally) using this frequency range in between the regular 23 CB channels! There were also synchronized traffic lights operating on these channels in a nearby community. The lights would change when a series of three tones were sent out. A type of paging system sounded (to me as a kid) like reindeer bells ringing repetitively. So, there's another thing that pushed me to learn about radio.

After much crying, kicking, screaming, and persuasion, I got a Space Patrol regenerative receiver kit that my estranged father made a special appearance to help me put together. Aside from the shortwave stuff that had me mesmerized, I was able to tune to the higher frequencies above CB. Around 35 MHz, I heard a long tone followed by 5 quick tones. Once in a while, there were two tones sent out. I knew the two-tones were paging. I guessed the 5 tone sequences were, too. The system helped me learn Morse code because it identified as "QRA de KEA860." That was New York Telephone on 35.22 MHz. Later it became Lin Page, and then NYNEX. In 1989, I got to actually see what I was listening to.

Low band paging was big before 900 MHz was opened to one-way paging. There were 4 large 3 element yagis on the Empire State Building, in each corner above the observation deck. They're gone now, but back then, two were phased together for 35.22 (which I was hearing) and two were phased together for a 43 MHz paging station (43.84? I don't remember). The base was a 330 Watt Motorola "PURC" and the control system terminal was a DEC PDP11/35 with flipswitch registers. This was decommissioned in favor of a BBL switch that did what the PDP11 did and more. Yours truly ended up fishing the PDP11 out of the dumpster in 1990 and had it in the garage in NJ until I moved in 1996. Never became an expert, and it was a little too late for me to be a long hair, plaid pants, and horn rimmed glasses computer programmer of the 70s (although I did use those computers in high school) but I got to mess with something that went full circle to my early days with radio.

I graduated to a Lafayette Guardian 30-50 and 146-174 receiver with shortwave and AM/FM. It was the end of the Zenith Trans-Oceanic tunable receiver era. This opened up 33.86, which is what my local towns used for fire dispatching. There was also a new channel, 154.445, that began to be used somewhat sporadically. I still could not hear well on there, and set about to find the best way of listening, which eventually included messing with various antennas.

It's about 1975 now and NYPD is making a big conversion to a better system. I have a TV I fished out of the garbage and fixed myself. How I managed to not get electrocuted is beyond me, but it worked. I wanted to watch a cult TV classic in NJ - the Uncle Floyd Show on Channel 68. So, I tuned around UHF. Channels 14 and 15 were strange: I heard police calls as I tried to adjust the fine tuning!!! NYPD switched much of its operations from VHF to UHF TV frequencies on channels 14 and 15! I could hear them all - ON THE TV SET! Cars, too! The callsign: KOP911! The alert tone sounded exactly like leaning your thumb on the "dah" side of a Morse code keyer. Whenever you heard that, someone was in trouble!

So, I wanted something better. On my birthday list around 1975 was a Radio Shack Pro-6 crystal scanner. The channels: 33.86, 154.28, 154.445, and 155.61. All of a sudden I knew what was going on! I could hear the police much better than the tunable radios, but 33.86 reception was terrible. That was replaced by a Bearcat SP-H/L crystal scanner with the same line-up. I saved up about $300 in quarters from taking the garbage out and eventually bought a Bearcat 210. Now I could put anything I wanted into the scanner and the world opened wide. My county broadcast alerts on 37.38 with tone paging. I could hear IMTS phones, and the Bearcat 210 would block the idle signals so the scanner didn't lock up on the open channels. Pretty soon, I got a friend to buy a Bearcat 210 scanner, too. We had our own after-school scanner club (he recently retired as a big city deputy fire chief). His father already had a Regency crystal scanner and he would listen to his favorite - Jersey City police, with MODAT unit identifiers. They were very busy channels. Traffic on 155.190, the New Jersey Turnpike, was almost non-stop with troopers. And we could hear big fires in Newark, Jersey City, and NYC. Whenever the TV news had some breaking news, my friend and I knew just a little more. And, we could hear the TV station queuing the reporter on scene on 161.67 MHz. Other TV stations moved up to 450 MHz frequencies to do queuing. There was also a newsgathering organization that would give out breaking news on 453.000, just like modern "notification groups" do now.

I did other things, too, besides scanning. I had a CB, did a lot of SWLing (the most fun being with my regenerative receiver kit, followed by using my neighbor's Trans-Oceanic), and I eventually got a ham license.

Suffice it to say, once upon a time, the scanner hobbyist had the world at his or her fingertips. We weren't "bad guys" for wanting to listen back then, and many of us got our first glimpse into the world of public service, which would lead to careers. Public service wasn't a bad thing back then, either. And if we ever wanted to hear something different, there were boats and planes and trains and taxis and trucks. Commerce and industry ran on radio, too. And it wasn't all just in the big city. Farmers had radios to stay in touch out in the fields or on their way to market. Veterinarians, dentists, and all kinds of other professionals did, too. Needed a car part? The mechanic could call the delivery man on the radio and have him stop at the supplier.

Wanna know how the professionals used radio back then? Check out the Jack Webb TV shows when you find them. Of course, Emergency! Adam-12, but also Mobile One (about a TV station's reporter and early electronic newsgathering). Also, 240-Robert from 1979. Those shows paid painstaking attention to detail concerning use of radio. And look for our own Harry Marnell who is a national treasure of radio. Missouri also has a number of old-time radio people and a very rich history on 42 MHz. If you ever make it to Jefferson City, check out the little museum at the Highway Patrol's General Headquarters. I believe Missouri had the FIRST series of new 3x3 callsigns (3 letters, 3 numbers, starting with a K) in the entire nation (KAA200, KAA201, KAA202, KAA203...). If you listened at the right time, you could hear "K double-A 203" from Europe! Or, you could hear South American stations on 33 MHz (I did in 1980).
902 your stories mezmorize me. I really wish I knew you back in the day.
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  #342 (permalink)  
Old 11-10-2015, 12:20 AM
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That just reminded me of the the old TV show Emergency!....
The Emergency! dispatches were done by Sam Lanier who was an actual LA County dispatcher. And he did it all without all the unneeded terms such as "gonna be" like they use today. Simple and to the point.

Sam Lanier
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  #343 (permalink)  
Old 11-10-2015, 12:33 AM
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I miss those days in the 70s as a volunteer fireman responding to calls and seeing all those citizens standing in their front yards with a scanner in their hand watching us go by. I always gave them an extra toot on the air horn.

Then later as a patrol officer I received so much good intel and assistance from listeners, and never once came across anyone using a scanner illegally. I don't understand all these agencies that want to encrypt everything now and not take advantage of the public's assistance.
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Last edited by W8RMH; 11-10-2015 at 12:42 AM..
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  #344 (permalink)  
Old 11-10-2015, 12:37 AM
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Originally Posted by W8RMH View Post
The Emergency! dispatches were done by Sam Lanier who was an actual LA County dispatcher. And he did it all without all the unneeded terms such as "gonna be" like they use today. Simple and to the point.

Sam Lanier
Great show among many others during that time period that determined my path in life.
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Old 11-10-2015, 1:58 AM
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That was a great show along with SWAT and Adam-12 might have been the reason my my interest into radio. That was a great yet sad story about the dispatcher. I guess some guys are born to do things right. Man dies while trying to save lives doesn't get any better than that.
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  #346 (permalink)  
Old 11-11-2015, 11:12 AM
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I grew up south of Kansas City in Kansas and when I was around 9 or so, my Dad bought a Regency MR-10 VHF Hi and a MR-33 VHF Lo receiver from our cousin who owned a land mobile shop that sold Regency commercial gear. This was around 1968 or so and I remember listening to the local sheriff on 39.64 and during the riots in KC that summer we listened to the KCMO PD on VHF high band well into the night! Used to listen to the DX on VHF Lo as well. We later got some of the Regency scanners that used crystals and had a great time listening to the local sheriff, city PD's, and the Kansas Highway Patrol.

I really got into scanning around 1976 and had one of the first programmable Regency's which I think was 16 channels. There was still a lot of VHF low being used - mainly in rural areas, but the vast majority was on VHF high. Some of the big departments were going to UHF (450-460) at that time, but not many - I think this is when KCMO PD was going to that from their VHF high system. There wasn't any digital modes, trunk systems (at least around there), or encryption as we now know it. The only thing that was used was voice inversion - and there were several outboard boxes you could buy to fix that (I had one !) You could listen to the Feds up till about the mid 80's when they started using digital encryption.

Information was hard to get - the 'net didn't exist. Due to the local nature of scanning, unless you lived in a big metropolitan area where there was a club, you were kind of on your own. I was lucky as there were a couple of other scanner buffs that I worked with at the Sheriff's department. The main resource was the Police Call books - and it was a race to get the latest edition when they came out. The local Radio Shack knew to hold the first three copies back for us. We also used to go to the FCC office up in KC to go over the FCC microfiche to find out who was on frequencies that we had monitored fi we couldn't find them in Police Call. We kept track of frequencies and such in card or Rolodex files (no computers) and were always searching for new frequencies. Since all three of us were hams, we would get on 2m simplex and pass information back and forth as well as share our frequency files.

The attitude of the departments were a lot different then as well - we had a sheet that we gave out at the Sheriff's Office with all of the KHP, County, and City frequencies to anyone who wanted one. We used to get lots of tips and information from the public about stuff they overheard on their scanners.
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Old 11-11-2015, 3:23 PM
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The main resource was the Police Call books - and it was a race to get the latest edition when they came out. The local Radio Shack knew to hold the first three copies back for us.
Those were the days

I remember always saving my pennies for those books. I also remember Radio Shack being my scanning candy store. I miss the Shack....hoping they make a comeback, it sure was nice being able to go over there and find all your scanning needs taken care of....if I could compare it to something now, it would be the Wal-Mart of scanning.....at least it was back then.
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Old 11-11-2015, 4:10 PM
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AC2OY: TOURING THE MO HP, museum, real early scanning was listening to 1610khz on the am band. Before there were radios in cars, the officers tuned each day to the am band, at 4pm. Department dispatches were sent out at that time. Might have been alittle higher than 1610 but it was the high side of the car radios. If officers needed help during the day, they would use a phone and a dispatch for aid went out on the same am band. I guess officers hoped that someone was listening because 2 way had not been developed yet.
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  #349 (permalink)  
Old 11-11-2015, 4:54 PM
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I believe Missouri had the FIRST series of new 3x3 callsigns (3 letters, 3 numbers, starting with a K) in the entire nation (KAA200, KAA201, KAA202, KAA203...)
Sometime around 1949 or 1950 the FCC issued private land mobile callsigns with geographical region prefixes (the same regions used for amateur radio callsigns) so somebody in each region had the "first" callsign of K*A200.

FCC Region - Callsign Block
0 - KAA-KBZ
1 - KCA-KDZ
2 - KEA-KFZ
3 - KGA-KGZ
4 - KIA-KJZ
5 - KKA-KLZ
6 - KMA-KNZ
7 - KOA-KPZ
8 - KQA-KRZ
9 - KSA-KTZ

I never figured out what prefixes were issued to Alaska, Hawaii or the other islands.
For some reason they did not use numeric suffixes below 200 and still don't to this day.
At some point I think they started running out and reissued old callsings to new licensees in other regions and used the rest of the alphabet.
Sometime in the late 70's or so they started with the 4 letter prefixes and quit reissuing old (expired or cancelled) callsigns.

Here is the current callsign system: eCFR — Code of Federal Regulations
and the amateur radio regions are at the bottom of: FCC: Wireless Services: Amateur Radio Service: Call Sign Systems: Sequential
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Last edited by nd5y; 11-11-2015 at 5:06 PM..
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