Poor technology?

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Poor technology?

Postby m0lsx » Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:59 am

I was thinking last night about a comment made else where about GPS on Scanners.
And started to wonder. Are scanners moving forward with technology?
At around the same time as CB launched (1981) The Sinclair ZX-81, a 1KB, expandable to 64 KB, personal PC was launched, as was a 10 channel Uniden scanner. The BC55XLT.
Both my ZX81 & my BC55XLT are upstairs.
I used the ZX81 to decode RTTY among other things. A job it did rather poorly. Partly because the technology was poor & you had to get the volume right on your tape deck to load the software onto the ZX81 each time you used it.
The 55XLT covered very little spectrum & was slow & clunky in it's scanning. Forget alpha tagging, this only had two digits on the screen to tell you channel number.
By the 90's both Computers & scanners had moved on. I cannot remember what PC I had, but I still love my Realistic Pro-43's & have a few of them. They are simple to program, cover plenty of spectrum & other than a known keypad issue, are problem free, robust radios.
It's now 2017, we now have really sophisticated computers & we can use our mobile phones cheap computing technology for a vast amount of things & scanners have become ever more complicated. But has scanner technology moved in step with other advances?
What is the difference between my old Uniden & my modern Uniden other than a few improvements & a lot of programming complication?
I do not need to manually program my scanner now as I can edit my scanner settings using a PC. But I still need to manually enter all the data. It's just that now I get a choice, as it's either manually entered into the PC or the scanner. So I do get a choice. But I can't upload a database to my PC, edit it & then download it onto my scanner. I can't personalise my scanners in the same way I have been able to my PC for decades.
Want a different PC OS, then no issues, just look, decide which you want & do it. But forget it with your scanner.
I can get GPS on my scanner. But I only need to press one button on my old Pro-43 to switch a bank in or out, so what do I gain over a 25- 30 year old radio? Plus this so called GPS system is not exactly intelligent, or well thought out. It simply uses a GPS system, not a thought out GPS system that uses technology in a smart way.
For the past several years I have been able to use a tablet or my mobile phone as a receiver using a dongle & for many years freeware has been available to decode a large variety of digital modes.
Yet it's less than a year since a digital scanner has been available on the UK market & they only decode a limited range of modes, compared to the freeware that has been easily available for years.
It has been possible to buy trunk tracking scanner for many years. But they only track a trunking system not used in the UK other than by Americans & despite internet updates being available for even washing machines & fridges for years. No one offers us the ability to reprogram our scanners for UK use, or the option of using mobile phones etc to optimise our scanning. Yet I can tweek most appliances in my home from light bulbs, to security systems to fridges & heating systems using a mobile phone.
It just feels like as scanner enthusiasts we are accepting second best. Look at what is available on other markets & at the prices & then at what we are being offered & at those prices & it starts to feel like we are getting a very poor level of technology at very poor value for money.
What do others think?
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby alpha_india » Fri Aug 11, 2017 11:46 am

m0lsx wrote:But I can't upload a database to my PC, edit it & then download it onto my scanner. I can't personalise my scanners in the same way I have been able to my PC for decades.

I can - at least I can do these things with a Uniden 125, Scan125 and using Excel to store my database.

As has been said before, the scanners have got better but the software/interface is too often an afterthought that's given very little thought by the manufacturer. A truly open source family of scanners would have a considerable advantage in the marketplace.
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby m0lsx » Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:12 pm

alpha_india wrote: I can - at least I can do these things with a Uniden 125, Scan125 and using Excel to store my database.


But how do you get that Excel database? You have to manually program it in & how do you edit it? Manually?
That is my point. We are all still individually manually inputting the data. Be it into OUR database or into OUR scanner. We still have to manually program our frequencies. Nothing has really changed, other than the fact that we now have an option about where we do that inputting.
The systems we are using have not evolved from the 80's.
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby lars » Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:01 am

I'm not sure I agree. Some modern amateur radio gear is hugely sophisticated. But it's frighteningly expensive. What's happened with computers and consumer electronics gear is that mass-market needs have pushed the prices down, compared to forty years back. An amateur radio rig with broadly comparable features to one that was available in the 80s still costs much the same as it did in the 80s. If you've got, say, £10,000 to spend you can get something truly amazing, but who's going to spend that kind of money? A club, perhaps; it isn't something I'm going to have in my shack any time soon.

Radio technology has improved, I think; but it hasn't reduced in price enough to make the most advanced stuff affordable, so most people never get to use it.
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby G4RMT » Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:12 am

I suspect it's that we expect gear to be cheap now. Before, radio clubs were often the only way many hams could get into HF radio, or serious VHF.

Look at how in the 80s when I joined a club - their HF rig and VHF setup were totally out of my price range. I was earning maybe sixty quid a week, yet these radios were £800 plus to buy. Do the maths and convert a typical wage today and the hobby has never been as affordable. My first radios were bought with bank loans, paid back over two years. Now you simply type in your credit card details. Many club members were retired or in low paid jobs - the club was the key feature in the hobby. 16 element VHF beam, and a decent radio and cross North Sea contacts everyday stuff, and with a 3 element HF beam we could wipe out TVs in a very large radius. Full legal limit on HF and 2m.

The scanner I'm playing with is the first radio that allows copy and paste between an internet page and the radio - you can enter thousands of frequencies very quickly. The downside being that you have so many you then spend hours putting them into sensible groups - it means for me, copying the data into Excel, so you can move the columns about - but still so much better than typing in each frequency! The sooner this kind of things appears on other radios, the better.
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby m0lsx » Sat Aug 12, 2017 12:31 pm

G4RMT wrote: Look at how in the 80s when I joined a club - their HF rig and VHF setup were totally out of my price range. I was earning maybe sixty quid a week, yet these radios were £800 plus to buy.


I was working in the building trade in Peterborough in 1980 & well paid bricklayers were earning up to £40 a day at the time. And I remember buying my Trio QR666 at that time from a dealer in Wisbech for just over £100 second hand.
Some of what were referred to "Rich CB'ers." Where coming over to Echo Charlie on Amateur Radio kit & at the time it was almost impossible to buy such gear unless you were licensed. Something like a Yaesu FT 101 which as I remember it was selling for around £500 second hand in places like Exchange & Mart.
I have some old amateur radio magazines from the 60's & 90's, but nothing other than some Practical Wireless magazines for around 1980. But in 1975, a Grundig Satellite was selling for £200, a huge sum then.
I believe the Ft 101 sold for around £500 when new in 1970 when they were introduced & thats about the same price as a FT-450 today. As don't forget VAT did not get added to anything until we joined the EU in 1973.
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby alpha_india » Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:21 pm

m0lsx wrote:
alpha_india wrote: I can - at least I can do these things with a Uniden 125, Scan125 and using Excel to store my database.


But how do you get that Excel database? You have to manually program it in & how do you edit it? Manually?
That is my point. We are all still individually manually inputting the data. Be it into OUR database or into OUR scanner. We still have to manually program our frequencies. Nothing has really changed, other than the fact that we now have an option about where we do that inputting.
The systems we are using have not evolved from the 80's.

Frequencies are initially entered manually onto the database - I tried relying on the faerie folk to do it but they were unreliable. What's your alternative?

Once it's on the database it's macros, tickboxes an drop-down menus to select what frequencies I want to load, what Search ranges I want to specify etc. Then a one-touch macro to generate the scanner profile ready to upload with Scan125.

I'm not a "dark age" Excel user, it's not the usual crappy, poorly structured, ill-thought and generating more trouble than it's worth database generally associated with the hobby. If I enter the frequencies manually it's because I'm not daft enough to pay for the usual rubbish masquerading as a "frequency list".
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby m0lsx » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:36 am

alpha_india wrote: Frequencies are initially entered manually onto the database - I tried relying on the faerie folk to do it but they were unreliable. What's your alternative?


If I want to move information from my phone to my PC, to my laptop, to my tablet etc etc. I do not need cables & various programs to achieve it. I can blue tooth it, or move it via a dongle or a memory card. It's not new technology to have memory able to move from item to item without the need for a cable & "other" software. Why can't I swap data between say my Close Call Scanner, my main PC database & my other radios? Why can't scanner communicate with scanner without approved & normally poorly thought out & badly implemented software?
A Uniden 125 is about the same price as a reasonable bottom end phone. Would a £100 plus phone that needed separate software & a programming cable sell? Would it sell without blue tooth, the ability to add memory & some processing ability? I can buy a mobile phone with more PC capability than the Moon landing module of 1969 for the same money as a Baofeng. Yet I still need separate software & a lead to transfer data between my PC & my scanner!!!!!
I am not knocking programs like Scan125 or our ability to make workable databases. What I am saying is, that manufacturers are still in the dark ages, when it comes to what they are offering us.
If I have been able to buy a cheap phone, a cheap dongle & set up a handheld SDR scanner for peanuts & do so for several years. Why with their buying power & technical ability has the likes of Uniden come up with what it has & for the price it has & with so few advances over the past few years? As other than close call & a few digital modes, what have we gained?
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby m0lsx » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:56 am

Just as a add on.
In most businesses. A company like Uniden would look at say Scan 125 or at a mobile phone turned into a scanner via a dongle. And say, I can exploit that idea, I can make it cheaper & I can sell it for more than they are paying.
But what is happening is that Scanner manufacturers seem oblivious to what is happening within the hobby. They are unaware of what people are doing with programs like Scan125 & with Rasberry Pi's, mobile phones & with dongles etc & are still still churning out what amounts to, basically the same technology as in the 1980's. But with a few modifications.
Look at a mobile phone from the 1990's & one from today. You get much much more & for much less money. Now look at a scanner from the 1990's & one from today & what have we got. Maybe Close Call, although that dates from the 90's & maybe a few more channels or a different screen & maybe a few more modes & how long have we had the extra digital modes available for? That we can measure in weeks.
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Re: Poor technology?

Postby Minus1 » Wed Aug 16, 2017 2:55 pm

It' s been 18 years since aircraft flying above F245 in Europe had to be equipped with 8.33 kHz radios, yet the number of scanning receivers that handle it properly can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Even dealers try to pull the wool over your eyes by saying most scanners 'handle' 8.33 kHz — when in reality they merely allow you to tune in 8.33 kHz steps — but have no appropriate narrow AM bandwidth :rolleyes:
I reserve the right to ignore people who have made no attempt to the read the manual, and expect others to do it for them.
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