Blog Archive

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

An old scanner finds new life in 2018

Lately, I've been scanning like it's 1996. No narrowbanding, no alpha tags, no PL tones and no digital P25 mode. The radio is a Radio Shack PRO-60, a sturdy and selective scanner of the pre-digital era, and one that I especially like.

Allow me to backtrack a bit. In 1996, when Radio Shack was still selling scanners like hotcakes, I bought a PRO-60 for the retail price of  $380. The radio covered 30-1000 MHz, but left out cellular frequencies in the 800 MHz band (due to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.)

My PRO-60 in action.
In no time, I had the radio filled with public safety, ham and aviation frequencies, and listened to it in my car or carried it with me. It even made trips with me to the Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, where the police and fire channels never stop squawking.

The scanner was well designed - solid and professional, with logically laid out buttons and keypad. On its left side, it had two barrel plug DC inputs - one that bypassed the batteries entirely, and the other that was intended to recharge NiCad AA cells installed in the radio.

One day, paying half attention, I plugged the external DC into the recharge jack while using non-rechargeable batteries. A day later when I checked the scanner, the processor was ruined and some of the keypad inputs were shot. Some buttons worked, some didn't, and occasionally the LCD display blinked on and off.

To make matters worse, Radio Shack would no longer repair the PRO-60 because in the year 2000, the company claimed it was too old. Drat. I was a victim of planned obsolesence by the people at Tandy Corporation.

The PRO-60 shown in the 1996 catalog.
So the radio collected dust on a shelf for a few more years, before I finally removed the antenna and battery holder, and tossed the rest of it into the trash. I've had lots of other scanners over the years, digital and analog, simple and complex, but I hoped one day I'd find another PRO-60 and feel better about frying my first one.

Fast forward to 2017. Just before Christmas last month, I spotted a near-mint PRO-60 on eBay, from a seller in Ohio who treated it with respect and observed the correct power plug configuration. Four days and $54 later, the radio arrived at my doorstep.

While outdated by today's standards and mostly a collector's item, the PRO-60 still has a lot to offer - a triple conversion receiver (making it immune to most interference), selectable wide or narrow FM, AM for aviation listening, and the 220 MHz ham radio band - a rarity in older scanners.

There are still plenty of agencies using analog radio to make the PRO-60 useful, and the audio is crisp and loud. Best of all, I feel vindicated over what happened to this scanner's predecessor, and I'm determined not to make to make the same mistake twice.

No comments:

Post a Comment