Friday, May 07, 2004

The Perfect Scanner 

The Perfect Scanner

If you are over the age of ten I probably don’t need to tell you that there is no such thing as the “perfect” anything. Well other than my lovely wife Linda. (CYA) So it is with electronics, radios and scanners. Scanners being what we talk about the most, lets hash it over yet again.

Going back to the days when the “net” was a network of PC based bulletin board systems, anyone remember FIDO, this has been a topic of discussion among scanner hobbyist. It was nice to sit around and daydream about what could be done with scanners if only the manufacturers would incorporate the features that we really wanted.

Two things have happened to make that dream come closer to reality. First and foremost were the advances in solid-state technology. The advent of the microprocessor and the ever decreasing size and cost of components have brought about products in the consumer electronics market place some of which we didn’t even bother to dream about.

The other one is the Internet. It has created a common communications platform for consumers and the makers of the goods and services that we purchase. Almost as important is that it allows end users to communicate with each other and create a pool of information that is available to everyone.

Not just the sales and marketing people either. You can be sure that when this type of discussion gets going that somewhere some of the engineering and design people for GRE, AOR, Icom and Uniden are reading some or all of it. Can you imagine when the Bearcat IV was released to the market having any direct input with the manufacturer on the next model to be brought out?

So life is good, all is perfect and we now have everything we ever wanted, right? You and I both know that being human we will never be satisfied! I would like to make this a topic for the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net some evening and see how my ideas compare to those of the rest of the scanner community. Having said that lets “blue sky” a little and see what develops. Put on your thinking cap Tom Terrific and see if you can add to my wish list. If you can drop me a note in email and tell me what you want.

Here in no particular order is a list of items that I would like to have on the next scanner that I purchase. By the way, I would like to have these same features in both desktop and hand held units.

First the receiver has to be “hot”. By that I mean if it squirts RF out an antenna within twenty-five miles of where I am I want to hear it. Of course if I hear “it” all at once that is no good either so it also has to be selective. This is a REALLY tough balance to achieve. The wider the radios front end the harder it becomes to separate signals from one another. It can be done to a certain extent but it generally costs a few bucks to do. As with the old ham radio adage, “If you can’t hear them you can’t work them” scanner listeners find themselves in the same position.

I want rugged physical construction. Particularly in a portable hand held unit or one designed for mobile use. I can tolerate plastic box cases for something that is going to sit on a shelf in my radio room but I prefer metal.

I consider the following MUST have options on either type of scanner. Alpha numeric display that is large and back lighted, tone squelch with both CTCSS and DCS decoders, keyboard with good tactile feedback that is back lighted, strong clean audio, one piece removable battery pack and connection for a computer interface.

Automatic level control on the audio would be nice. Output would adjust for dispatchers that sit three feet from the microphone as well as those that swallow it. Not to mention all of the radios out there that are misadjusted for either microphone gain or deviation level.

Fast scan rate both in memory and band scanning.

Scan delay and resume mode adjustable per channel.

Lots of memory channels. At least a 1000 channels possibly more with a far greater number of memory banks. I thought after they introduced the FUNCTION key on scanners that they would let the number of memory banks rise above 10. Such has not been the case. If your scanner has 100 channels there are 10 banks with 10 channels in each bank. If you scanner has 500 channels you get 10 banks with 50 channels in each. I would like memory channels in banks of 10 channels each no matter what the total channel count is.

Even better would be to have “soft partitioning” of the memory banks. This would be my preferred option. By this I mean there would be a pool of memory channels with a large capacity. Lets say 1000 channels of main memory. Then you would have anywhere from 20 to 50 memory banks to which you could dynamically allocate any of the channels from main memory. Bank 1 could have 2 channels, bank 2 could have 500 channels, and bank 3 could have 10 channels and so on. Then you could turn banks on or off as needed.

Well I could go on and on if I thought about it. There are only so many hours in the day though and like I said this could make a good topic for discussion on the net. So I will stop my wish list here and see what I hear from others. If you are reading this and are interested take the time to let me know what would be on your wish list. I may add more to mine at a latter date.

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