Extreme newbie help needed

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robertpc

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Hello all. I never had any interest in scanners until stumbling across an old Uniden hand-held scanner while visiting my in-laws a few months ago. I have no idea what model it was. After playing with it for a few hours, I was lucky enough to discover a few police and fire transmissions. I had no idea what I was doing (and still don't) but I became interested in buying my own scanner to hopefully listen in on police, fire and whatever else interesting I can find. :)

I was hoping to find some help in this forum for an extreme newbie like myself. First, I need help deciding what scanner to buy. I don't want to overspend for a scanner with a bunch of features I'll never use. I just need the basics. Oh, and I would be using the scanner mostly in Lake In The Hills, IL (McHenry county). I've seen several recommendations for the Uniden BCD396T but honestly that seems like overkill for a guy like me and I don't really have $500+ to spend. I guess if I had to pick a number, I'd say I would prefer to spend no more than $300, assuming I could get a good scanner, that is EASY to use.

I will also eventually need help "programming" (if that's the right word) the scanner. I've seen many references to sites that list frequencies, etc. but to put it bluntly, I am such a novice that most of that information is like a foreign language to me. I can find the data. I just don't know what to do with it! :(

So, if someone could first recommend a good scanner for me, I would be greatly appreciative. Thanks so much in advance for helping me out!
 

kb9hgi

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if your looking for a cheap hand held and easy program uniden has a bc-92xlt that has 200 channels with service search and 800 mhz but no trunking. Anyway I have one of these and works pretty good for a scanner without alot of bells and whistles. I picked up mine at Walmart for 99.00 which was a good price for a scanner to carry to work.

You might want to stop in at your local Radio Shack store and see what they have to offer.
Anyway welcome aboard to the world of scanning!
 

JnglMassiv

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robertpc said:
Oh, and I would be using the scanner mostly in Lake In The Hills, IL (McHenry county).
Here's the RR database link for your county:
http://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/?ctid=646

It looks like LITH is all VHF conventional so virtually any scanner will be fine. McHenry appears to have a P25 trunked system which you'd need a pricey $500 scanner to monitor. The State has recently rolled out a statewide P25 system, too. In short, to listen to LITH police and fire, any old scanner will do. To 'hear it all', you'll need to cough up some dough.
 

robertpc

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Thanks to both of you for the help. Since I'm just starting out I think I'll start small. It sounds like the Uniden scanners are the way to go. What do you think of the BC95XLT? Is the pc programmable feature worth am extra $20 over the BC92XLT? It seems like that's the only real difference between the two.
 

bnsfds-15

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RobertPC. Since your Just starting out with scanners, I would recommend something say from Radio Shack. They have decent scanners starting at about $100, and then up from there.
Uniden Scanners, the cheaper ones are so small that it might drive You nuts using the buttons. I would be happy to help You out as much as I can with frequencies, etc. I live in Markham WAY down in the South suburbs but I know the area in the way of radio stuff pretty well.
 

bnsfds-15

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The one thing I forgot to say is that, at least I think that for someone just starting out they should start with a handful of frequencies and go from there, the McHenry County page on here is good, but its almost overkill for someone just starting out
 

robertpc

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bnsfds-15 said:
RobertPC. Since your Just starting out with scanners, I would recommend something say from Radio Shack. They have decent scanners starting at about $100, and then up from there.
Uniden Scanners, the cheaper ones are so small that it might drive You nuts using the buttons. I would be happy to help You out as much as I can with frequencies, etc. I live in Markham WAY down in the South suburbs but I know the area in the way of radio stuff pretty well.
Thanks! I don't think I have a problem with the small buttons. It was a Uniden scanner that I used at my in-laws that kind of got me started on this. Not sure what model it was, but it looked alot like the BC95 or 92. I'll check Radio Shack too though. I appreciate the help. I'm sure once I get a scanner I'll have questions on how to use all of the great info. on the McHenry county page.
 

bnsfds-15

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That's fine. Let Me know. One thing is that the little antenna You will get with the scanner will do ok, but You'll want to upgrade almost right away, Radio Shack makes some good, bigger antennas that will fit right on the scanner that will help with reception of the stuff Your getting plus pull in new stuff. What all are You interested in monitoring?, You can hear Fire, Police, EMA, Ham Radio/Storm spotters, boats, Railroads, etc all on the most basic scanner.
 

robertpc

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I'm mostly interested in Police, Fire (not sure what EMA is) and am open to discovering new interesting things. Do you think it's worth investing in a basic scanner that pc programming feature?
 

bnsfds-15

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EMA is Emergency Management Agency, what used to pretty much called Civil Defense among other agenices that now fall under that EMA banner. As for the PC thing, I can't say either way I don't have the program, I guess I'm just old fashion and figure I can program my own scanner, I think its better that way, keeps the user more familiar with the radio's functions, but that is Me.
 
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i_galbreath

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I have a BC92XLT and I am very happy with it. I live in an all VHF-UHF county so it is perfect. I would recommend a scanner like that or RadioShack scanners are good too. I would suggest hand programming it, gives you more experience with all the little controls and functions. I would suggest getting an upgraded antenna, instead of the stock antenna.
Deffinately go with rechargable batteries or else you will go through tons of batteries.

Welcome to the world of scanning. Need anything feel free to message me.

Ian
BC92XLT
FT-60R
 

hdesign

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Hi robertpc,

I'm too am new to the world of scanning so I know the feeling of having to choose something that will work. My first taste of getting involved in this field was with the Radio Shack Pro-97. My price was about $249 at the time, now about $149 so it's a good place to start. I recently picked up the Pro-96 *ouch* for a bit more but managed to get it on sale. The difference with our local (Lake County) digital is worth it for what I am able to hear. It's so much some times I have to turn specific banks or talk groups off. You will have more than enough to listen to with police and fire alone in this area. Especially with Lake County PD on the EDACS system.

Either way, and this is my opinion, do yourself a favor and program the system by hand as i_galbreath mentioned. Get used to the scanner you select because there may be times where you need to turn things on or off, add functions, codes, etc. and your PC may not be available. -- Most importantly, don't try to learn everything about your new scanner in one day.

If you go with the Radio Shack (RS) models, there's a couple software programs you can pick up to assist in this task:

ScanCat: http://www.scancat.com/

Win96 and Win97: http://www.starrsoft.com/

My input for either is Win96 (Programs the RS Pro-96) and Win97 (Programs the RS Pro-97), depending on the model you choose, will be easier to use than the ScanCat program. I've read that people have found bugs in the ScanCat software just as I have when using it. -- Win96 and Win97 work very well.

I hope this helps.
 

JnglMassiv

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bnsfds-15 said:
One thing is that the little antenna You will get with the scanner will do ok, but You'll want to upgrade almost right away, Radio Shack makes some good, bigger antennas that will fit right on the scanner that will help with reception of the stuff
Whoa, whoa..let's not overwhelm the guy. First, he needs the scanner, then we can sell him the upgrades. :)

The stock antenna will be fine for your local PD/FD, particularly since they're both VHF. At some point, you may want to consider an antenna upgrade but I think that will be further down the line when you want to expand coverage beyond local stuff.

In fear of complicating the issue, I'm hesitant to even mention this but here goes: I cannot live without alphatags any more. For those unaware, older and more 'entry-level' radios display the channel number and programmed frequency when monitoring a transmit. For example, Lake In The Hills PD dispatch may look like this:
Code:
Ch1  155.4300
Not bad and probably what most of us started out with. However, as you fill more of the radio with channels, it's going to get tricky to keep them straight when they start to look like this:
Code:
Ch1  155.4300
Ch2  155.10750
Ch3  158.5500
Ch4  588.2300
Ch5  460.4750
Ch6  460.1250
On a busy day, that radio is going to be talking nonstop and remembering the channel numbers/freqs will become difficult and tedious. Six entries is manageable, 60 probably isn't.

Alphatagging allows the user to assign a message or name to each of the channels. This way, you won't have to remember that Channel 1/155.4300MHz is LITH PD primary. The list of six will now read:
Code:
LITH PD primary
LITH PD secondary
LITH PD car2car
Empire carpets  :)
ChiPD Zone1
ChiPD citywide1
Once they're in the radio, the frequencies aren't really that important to know at all times. You're most likely interested in the agency and its users. Alphatags will get you that information more efficiently. Again, I consider this a 'cannot live without' feature.

There are some drawbacks, namely that the somewhat more difficult to program initially and this feature tends to be included on mid-tier and better (a bit more money, perhaps) radios. However, I think that it makes the radio much more fun and usable. PC software takes much of the programming headache away. It's food for thought and worth consideration.

And I'd ignore any Uniden vs. Radio Shack talk at this point. At RobertPC's apparent price point, each manufacturer produces a similarly featured and capable product.
 

ERICMYERS

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JnglMassiv said:
Whoa, whoa..let's not overwhelm the guy. First, he needs the scanner, then we can sell him the upgrades. :)

The stock antenna will be fine for your local PD/FD, particularly since they're both VHF. At some point, you may want to consider an antenna upgrade but I think that will be further down the line when you want to expand coverage beyond local stuff.

In fear of complicating the issue, I'm hesitant to even mention this but here goes: I cannot live without alphatags any more. For those unaware, older and more 'entry-level' radios display the channel number and programmed frequency when monitoring a transmit. For example, Lake In The Hills PD dispatch may look like this:
Code:
Ch1  155.4300
Not bad and probably what most of us started out with. However, as you fill more of the radio with channels, it's going to get tricky to keep them straight when they start to look like this:
Code:
Ch1  155.4300
Ch2  155.10750
Ch3  158.5500
Ch4  588.2300
Ch5  460.4750
Ch6  460.1250
On a busy day, that radio is going to be talking nonstop and remembering the channel numbers/freqs will become difficult and tedious. Six entries is manageable, 60 probably isn't.

Alphatagging allows the user to assign a message or name to each of the channels. This way, you won't have to remember that Channel 1/155.4300MHz is LITH PD primary. The list of six will now read:
Code:
LITH PD primary
LITH PD secondary
LITH PD car2car
Empire carpets  :)
ChiPD Zone1
ChiPD citywide1
Once they're in the radio, the frequencies aren't really that important to know at all times. You're most likely interested in the agency and its users. Alphatags will get you that information more efficiently. Again, I consider this a 'cannot live without' feature.

There are some drawbacks, namely that the somewhat more difficult to program initially and this feature tends to be included on mid-tier and better (a bit more money, perhaps) radios. However, I think that it makes the radio much more fun and usable. PC software takes much of the programming headache away. It's food for thought and worth consideration.

And I'd ignore any Uniden vs. Radio Shack talk at this point. At RobertPC's apparent price point, each manufacturer produces a similarly featured and capable product.
Keep it simple, man. RS PRO 2055 does alpha tags, is easily configured with Win97 software, is cheap, readily available at RS including the usb cable and antenna options, nice big display and nice big buttons. RS even programs in your local area for you (basic but a good start )

I'm experienced, and my new BCD996T is kicking my ass programming the damn thing. If you get into this hobby heavy, the pain factor is the fun part, but until you have some basic experience, the key is to enjoy the hobby simply.
Eric
 

robertpc

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Thanks everyone for the advice! I am leaning towards purchase of a portable scanner, probably the Uniden BC92XLT or the BC95XLT. Just looking for the best prices right now. Thanks again to everyone. :)
 

robertpc

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Messages
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Well, I just purchased a scanner but I'm wondering if I made the right choice. I went to a local store to purchase the Uniden BC95XLT for $119 and they had the SC230 on clearance for just $10 more. I bought the SC230 with the intention of just using it for basic scanning (I have no interest in Nascar or racing of any kind). I thought this might be a good deal since the SC230 has the alpha tagging feature that was recommended. Well, I haven't opened the scanner yet, and am wondering if I made the right choice. This scanner seems to be SO geared towards Nascar (including the manual instructions, buttons, etc.) that I am wondering if this is the right choice for me.

Can anyone knowledgeable enough about both both scanners help me out? Should I keep this for use as just a basic scanner and consider myself lucky for getting this bargain, or would I be better off exchanging it for the 95XLT?
 

JnglMassiv

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robertpc said:
Well, I just purchased a scanner but I'm wondering if I made the right choice.
I'd say you hit a little jackpot. That's a great price for that radio. Check the ebay links at the end of the RR.com wiki entry:
http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/SC230

It will work great. It has some Nascar stuff proprogrammed but you can disable it. I'd check out the Butel page and download a demo of the ARC-Sport for SC230.
http://www.butelsoftware.com/
 

robertpc

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JnglMassiv said:
I'd say you hit a little jackpot. That's a great price for that radio. Check the ebay links at the end of the RR.com wiki entry:
http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/SC230

It will work great. It has some Nascar stuff proprogrammed but you can disable it. I'd check out the Butel page and download a demo of the ARC-Sport for SC230.
http://www.butelsoftware.com/
Thanks, maybe I'll keep it then. For anyone else who is interested, I picked up the SC230 at Blains Farm & Fleet in Woodstock, IL. They had them on clearance for $129.99. I think there were 4 left when I was there this afternoon, 3/30/08.
 

viking396

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robertpc said:
Hello all. I never had any interest in scanners until stumbling across an old Uniden hand-held scanner while visiting my in-laws a few months ago. I have no idea what model it was. After playing with it for a few hours, I was lucky enough to discover a few police and fire transmissions. I had no idea what I was doing (and still don't) but I became interested in buying my own scanner to hopefully listen in on police, fire and whatever else interesting I can find. :)

I was hoping to find some help in this forum for an extreme newbie like myself. First, I need help deciding what scanner to buy. I don't want to overspend for a scanner with a bunch of features I'll never use. I just need the basics. Oh, and I would be using the scanner mostly in Lake In The Hills, IL (McHenry county). I've seen several recommendations for the Uniden BCD396T but honestly that seems like overkill for a guy like me and I don't really have $500+ to spend. I guess if I had to pick a number, I'd say I would prefer to spend no more than $300, assuming I could get a good scanner, that is EASY to use.

I will also eventually need help "programming" (if that's the right word) the scanner. I've seen many references to sites that list frequencies, etc. but to put it bluntly, I am such a novice that most of that information is like a foreign language to me. I can find the data. I just don't know what to do with it! :(

So, if someone could first recommend a good scanner for me, I would be greatly appreciative. Thanks so much in advance for helping me out!
First, welcome to the federation of NEWBS. :) I am also a member but am going full tilt into Ham Radio after wanting too for many years.

The wife and I bought a Radio Shack Pro-92 4 years ago and I used it for weather and local police calls. I had no idea it could get Amature Radio, police, military and such. They no longer sell it but I saw a few on eBay recently for not much money.

Good luck! I'm in the South Elgin area, so only about 25 minutes south of you.

Erik
 

bomber2782

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Not sure if you care, but my local Radio Shack had the pro-97 on clearance for $89.99. You might want to look at some local stores near you to see if they have any.
 
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