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What are Handheld Radio Scanners?

HH Scanner

What Are Hand Held Radio Scanners?

 A radio scanner, in its basic form, is a radio communications receiver that is capable of automatically scanning, or tuning, at least two frequencies. The scanning process will stop when a modulated RF (radio frequency) signal is found. Reception of this frequency will continue until either modulation ceases or the scan is instructed to continue by the user. In practical terms a radio scanner will have a vast range of frequencies to scan typically between 29 MHz and 512 MHz. The user can adjust the "squelch" setting of the scanner to apply filtering to a signal to make a scan more or less sensitive to unwanted transmissions or interference. 

Today, hand held radio scanners are designed to be light weight and extremely portable. The modern hand held radio scanner is controlled by microprocessors and micro electronics which is a far cry from their first inception, during the 1970's, when they were very heavy, slow and expensive and used batteries the size of a house brick and just as heavy. Scanners today have the capability of being programmed and have the capacity of storing  thousands of channels and monitor those channels in hundreds per second. 

Hand held radio scanners are intended to monitor or scan local VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) bands in the RF frequency spectrum. Both VHF and UHF are generally used relatively locally as opposed to SW (short wave) frequencies tend to be used for more long distance reception. Scanners can also handle the various methods of modulation such as AM (amplitude modulation), FM (frequency modulation) and WFM ( wide-band frequency modulation). 

Hand held radio scanners resemble a "walkie-talkie" in appearance and usually have an antenna protruding from the top, this is sometimes telescopic, however, most have short fixed length antenna affectionately know as a "rubber duck".  

Apart from hand held radio scanners there are also home based versions available. Home based radio scanners are generally larger in physical dimensions although they do the same basic job as a hand held unit, however, some have many more features that, if fitted to a hand held scanner, would make it less portable and complicated to use in a mobile situation. Home based radio scanners are, very often, connected to a large external directional antenna and used to monitor more distant signals. 

Enthusiasts all over the world have popularized the use of hand held radio scanners. Many use them to monitor transmissions from emergency services such as police, fire, ambulance and coast guard as well as aircraft and air traffic control, Marine communication and weather information channels. Clubs and societies have formed so that like minded people can share radio scanning experiences and technical information about scanners, frequencies and codes. There are also online forums with many members discussing the whys and wherefores of radio scanners and scanning.