Modern radios scanners give us wide frequency coverage of the RF spectrum but imagine having the limitations of changing a crystal every time you wanted to monitor a new transmission. This is how radio scanners began there life with sets usually offering 8 channels all controlled by their own crystal.
This may seem a bit limited by our modern standards but at the time these were the cutting edge of specialized consumer electronics.
The early Regency range of scanners came in a bunch of different flavors with each one giving frequency coverage on a separate section of the radio spectrum. TMR-8L (30 – 50 MHz), TMR-8H (150 – 174 MHz), TMR-8U (450 – 470 MHz).
Operation was easy to grasp with simple manual and scan modes. Each channel had big clunky buttons for manual selection along with a indicator to show which was selected. Scan mode would cycle though all channels stopping when the adjustable squelch was broken.
The stark simplicity of these early scanners made the technical knowledge needed for using one very low and we sometimes wonder how a Regency owner would react if you slapped something like an Icom IC-R20 in their hands!.
Bearcat Crystal Controlled Scanners
Even for serious scanner users splashing out on 3 Regency radios along with all the necessary channel crystals must have been a big undertaking just to receive transmissions over large sections of the radio bands.
Thankfully those nice people at Bearcat saw an opportunity and released the Bearcat model 8 which still had each channels receive frequency set by individual crystals but with a vastly increased coverage. Still with gaps but covering all the important sections of the RF spectrum (so far as scanner users of the time were concerned) it gave the owner 33 – 48, 146 – 148, 148 – 174, 450 – 470, 470 – 512 MHz. Its interesting to note that these portions of the bands are still pretty much standard on non wide band budget scanners made to this very day.
Where to Buy?
Getting hold of one of these vintage scanners is easy enough if you’re prepared to brave the eBay lucky dip with the added problem that most will come sold as seen. Actually proving that any crystal controlled scanner works properly is difficult because the common crystals usually supplied are for frequencies that are no longer in the same heavy use as when these scanners were made.
These types of scanners were produced in huge quantities with models always coming up for sale making it much easier to be a bit picky about the condition. Always have a talk with the seller asking for additional information if you need to and as we always say if they are not prepared to help you with questions then walk away.
Specifications for the crystals are low enough to make getting hold of any new frequencies easy if you’re prepared to pay or lucky enough to find exactly what you need in the secondhand market.
As a novelty item these scanners are a great addition to any collection but hardly practical anymore, even when you ignore the way trunking radio functions other services are constantly changing frequencies as better equipment becomes available. Imagine having to source a whole new set of crystals when your favorite utility transmissions shift frequency by just 25 KHz.
Looking at the first scanners has got to make us appreciate the way that stable RF frequency synthesizers have built in so much flexibility into scanners along with a the wider range of radio products we accept as the norm.
Quartz Crystal picture Courtesy of Wikipedia Attribution 3.0 Unported license