Amateur Radio and Radio Monitoring

I've been interested in amateur radio and radio monitoring for quite awhile. I got my HAM technician class license (KE6FAS) back in 1994. I tend to do a lot more monitoring than chatting, however.

Yaesu VX-6R

Equipment List

My current collection of radios and related equipment includes:

Yaesu VX-6R

I just picked up new Yaesu VX-6R Dual Band Transceiver. This radio is the best integration I've seen of a handheld multiband ham radio and a wide range receiver/scanner. With 1000 memories, 24 memory banks, receiver coverage from 500KHz to 999MHz, transmit capability on 2-meter, 440MHz and 220MHz, and several other features this radio is quickly becoming the favorite in my collection. Scan speed is not in the same class as a "dedicated" scanner, but the different scan and search modes are the most flexible I've ever seen.

For programming the VX-6R I use the free VX-6R Commander program available from (KC8UNJ) Jim Mitchell's website

yaesu_120D (18K)
Yaesu VR-120D

Yaesu VR-120

Another favorite radio of mine is my very compact Yaesu VR-120D. This tiny "DC to Daylight" receiver covers 100KHz-1300MHz. In order to improve reception I replaced its stock rubber ducky with a Radio Shack telescoping multiband antenna (#20-006 $14.49). Like other relatively inexpensive general coverage receivers this one is plagued by some intermod interference (especially from those darn strong pager signals), but the form factor, functionality, and overall performance still make this one my favorite.

To access all the functionality using just 4 main buttons, a dial and a shift button requires you to remember a large number of combinations of these input elements. I found I could rarely remember how to access the lesser used functions, so I created a pocket cheat sheet. I printed this out double sided and keep it in my wallet for reference.

I also make extensive use of the TK120 program Bob Parnass wrote for loading channels and configuring the VR-120D. This makes it much easier to manage frequencies, bands and labels.

Speaking of frequencies - there are no shortage of frequency lists available on the Internet. I compiled many of the ones relevant for the San Jose area into an Excel spreadsheet for convenience. Download Don's Ultimate Frequency List.


For awhile I was very interested in APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System). I assembled a mobile station in my 2001 Jetta using the Vertex VX-150 Transceiver, the KPC 3-Plus TNC, the Magellan GPS, the Tandy Model 102, and some homemade cables. Although the KPC 3-Plus supports APRS without the need for a computer, I found it very limiting. I wrote my own APRS control software in Microsoft BASIC for the ancient (circa 1983) Tandy Model 102 that provided several additional capabilities. Occasionally I revive my APRS station either in my car or my home, so you may be able to find my location here. You can also view a screen capture from UI-View32, the APRS software I use on my laptop, showing my station and nearby fixed, mobile and weather stations in south San Jose.

pro83 (13K)
Radio Shack Pro-83

Radio Shack Pro-83

I added the Radio Shack Pro-83 the day after last Thanksgiving for $59.99 while they were having their "50% off until noon" sale. I heard several hams talking about the great deal that morning on one of the local repeaters, so I couldn't resist, even though I really didn't need another radio. The cool feature of this scanner is something Radio Shack calls "Signal Stalker" which lets it grab nearby strong signals and automatically tune to them. This feature is similar to the "reaction tune" capability of the Optoelectronics Scout when coupled to a compatible scanner, but at much less cost. Time will tell how well this feature works.

aprs_station (15K)
Portable APRS station in trunk of my Jetta

If you want to program the frequencies in the Pro-83 scanner from your computer, you will need to purchase (or build an equivalent), Radio Shack interface cable #20-289. At $24.99 it's a bit pricey and doesn't include any software. There are currently two software packages available for programming the Pro-83. Because of limitations in the firmware of the Pro-83, both packages can upload frequencies to the radio, but cannot download information from the radio to the computer.

I purchased ScanCat Lite Plus from Computer Aided Technologies (CAT). When I first installed this software I encountered a bug in the function that loads frequencies into a single bank. I sent an email to CAT and they responded in minutes. A few hours later I received an email with a link to download an updated version of the software which included a fix for the bug I had just reported. Now that is great customer service! I've had no problems since installing the updated software.

The other software option is ARC83 from BuTel software. You can buy this software directly from BuTel or from Scanner Master. I haven't personally used this software, but it seems to get pretty good comments in the scanner related discussion groups.

hals38 (19K)
Hallicrafters Model S-38
A classic tube shortwave manufactured from 1946-1955. Works on some bands. Needs to be recapped and realigned. A future project!

Yahoo Groups

If you own or are interested in purchasing a scanner, receiver or transceiver, there is probably an associated Yahoo Group. Click on the appropriate link if you are interested in joining the Yaesu VR-120D Group, the Radio Shack Pro-83 Group, the Yaesu VX-6R Group, or the ScanCat software Group.