Computer Aided Technologies

Since 1989, the recognized Leader in Computer Control

This is a direct reprint from SCANCAT-GOLD REVIEW - RCMA JOURNAL 6-96, and is presented here with full permission of RCMA Journal and Ed Lentz, reviewing author.

I hope that last month's review generated some interest regarding computers and your scanning hobby. Computer-Aided Scanning is a new area of the hobby and has opened up many more possibilities of what can be done with a scanner. With the right software and interface, you can enhance the capabilities of your scanner as well as give yourself capabilities that the scanner would not normally have. Some benefits of computer-aided scanning are:

-- increased scaanning speed;
-- decode and log CTCSS, DCS and DTMF tones;
-- ability to automatically load and reload frequencies into the scanner
-- access to frequencies that are locked out or not available on the scanner
-- ability to dump frequencies from a CD-ROM into the scanner
-- manage frequencies using a database
-- visual display of signal strength
-- control a tape recorder
-- others being developed every day
Many scanners have the ability or can be modified to accept the RS-232 interface from computers. The Radio Shack PRO-2004/2005/2006/2035/2042 scanners, AOR 5000/3000/3000A/8000/2700 and the ICOM R-7000/7000-2/7100/9000. I think these are all the scanners that you can connect to the computer but there could be more. Right now the AOR-8000 handheld s a very hot item since it and the AR-2700 are the only two handheld radios capable of being controlled or programmed with a computer.

The initial cost to get into Computer-Aided Scanning is expensive and you can save a few bucks by a little smart shopping. Some of the Computer-Aided Scanning programs will run on the older 8088 and 80286 computers. These machines can be purchased for only a few hundred dollars or less. The scanners can be purchased via mail order and generally you will save a few bucks. The programs are a bit difficult to save anything on since most are written by small shops or individuals and they price to cover their time to develop the programs.

One of the first of the Computer-Aided Scanning programs was SCANCAT from a company called Computer Aided Technologies. Back when SCANCAT was first introduced there were very few radios that could be controlled by a computer and about the same number of commercial programs. I don't think any of the original companies are still producing Computer-Aided Scanning programs other than Computer Aided Technologies.

SCANCAT-GOLD, , has many features that I know I will not be able to cover. Compared to scanning with just a scanner, this is not even in the same ballpark. You need to order a sample of SCANCAT-GOLD and run it through its demo so you can see some of the things that are just a keystroke away. SCANCAT-GOLD will run on everything from a HP 100XL palmtop to the latest Pentium. Windows 95, Windows or DOS, it doesn't matter. A new version written specifically for Windows is in the works. Sorry, a Mac version doesn't exist.

SCANCAT-GOLD presently supports:
AOR-8000 including EEPROM upload utility to modify the radio's bandplan.
AOR-2700 AOR-3000/3000A, AOR-2500, AOR-3030 HF receiver
Most ICOM radios
Drake R-8 and R* A
Kenwoods including TS-440, TX-450, RS850 & R-5000 and others
Yaesu including the FRG-8800 and FRG-9600, FRG-100, FT-840 and others
NRD-525 and 535 Japan radio
Lowe HF-150 and HF-250
Watkins Johnson HF-1000
OptoElectronics add-on boards for the Radio Shack PRO series radios
and OptoElectronics SCOUT 3.1

Any file created with one radio can be used on any of the other radios as long as the frequencies are in the radio's receiving range. File creation is one of SCANCAT-GOLD's greatest assets as far as I'm concerned. A separate program called "SCANPORT" is included with SCANCAT-GOLD. SCANPORT runs inside SCANCAT-GOLD so you never have to leave SCANCAT-GOLD. If the file is in ASCII then it can be imported into SCANCAT-GOLD with SCANPORT. DBF or comma delimited files from most database programs are just as easy to import. I'm able to import frequencies directly from my personal frequency list in one step. Percon and Grove Enterprises frequency database files import directly into SCANCAT-GOLD. Subscribe to TRS Consultants HF Schedules? These files import directly into SCANCAT-GOLD automatically.

Another nice feature of SCANCAT-GOLD is it's ability to combine as many as 15 different files that you have stored. You can set up the files by city, states, police, fire, or any way you want. Think of the files as banks but you no longer have the 10 or 20 frequency limit. The limit is now your disk space. For grins I loaded the complete FCC frequency list for my county in one bank and had a total of 17,571 frequencies.

Along with gigantic frequency list you have complete control of each frequency record. Control the Signal Threshold, have up to 6 alarms, and set variable timing delays. Lockout Birdies or frequencies while scanning. With the OptoElectronics boards or the DC-440 Tone reader you have CTCSS tone and DCS support.

Something that I found really neat with SCANCAT-GOLD was the ability to scan using TWO radios. If you own two ICOM radios, one HF and the other VHF then you can program SCANCAT-GOLD to run BOTh radios at the same time. Only one CT-17 ICOM interface is required since the ICOM commands are addressable to each radio. I use this feature to monitor the Coast Guard since they work both HF and VHF frequencies in my area.

I can't comment on the manual because I don't have the latest. The older manual left something to be desired so I used the "F1" help menus built into the program. "Works for me." Supposedly Jim has upgraded the manual to a professionally bound manual of over 100 pages, indexed and cross referenced to help you find features quickly. Also a "by radio" lookup is included since each radio does operate a bit different with SCANCAT-GOLD.

Another neat item that you can purchase from Computer Aided Technologies is their "CAT-WHISKER" antenna. We all know how dangerous it is to leave a handheld radio standing up on it's bottom. Stands to hold the radio upright exist but are difficult to find. The "CAT-WHISKER" is a chrome plated telescopic antenna with a bendable joint near the bottom and a BNC connector that allows you to lay the scanner on it's back and have the antenna vertical. Two different lengths and two prices 5 - 23 inches for $19.95 and 6 - 36 inches for $24.95. Shipping for either is $2.50.

SCANCAT-GOLD can be purchased from several different radio suppliers including The Ham Station, EDCO, Tucker Electronics, Grove Enterprise or directly from Computer Aided Technologies.