Honolulu Skyline as seen from Kapiolani Community College, Photo by David Cabatu
Here is a look back at the events that helped me become the "Scanner Guru" from 1994-present. The transformation of the Internet in the late 1990s that helped launch Radio AH7E Hawaii to what it is today.
I was in high school from 1993 until 1997. The Internet only came to light in 1996, but I totally oblivious to it until after graduating high school in 1997,
Bought my first radio scanner, a Radio Shack Pro-50 model for just over $100 at the Kahala Mall Radio Shack. Began listening local police and nothing more.
March 1995 - Upgraded to a Pro-26 (an expensive scanner at the time)! 200 memories, 25-512 MHz, 517-1300 MHz continuous (excluding cellular bands), cellular retransmissions on 1000 MHz. Over the course of time, cellular transmissions moved from analog to digital form.
August 1995 - I became a victim of a 2nd degree robbery at Kaimuki Avenue & 21st Avenue (Beat 84). Local male suspect beat me down and took my scanner by force. He apparently was driving a vehicle with stolen plates, and just got out of prison or so I heard. Suspect was never located. I was shaken up (even after getting bashed into a wooden post), but for the most part, largely uninjured. (And If I remember correctly, the report number was 95-367612. Not bad remembering such an event 10 years in the making).
The first phase of the Honolulu County 800 MHz EDACS Trunked Radio System goes into effect. Repeaters in Q2/96, Ericsson M-RK II radios were given to officers in Q4/96. At this time, VHF/800 Simulcast was still active, so there was no rush in acquiring information on the 800 MHz radio system at this time. A Radio Shack Pro-51 was acquired as it had the capability to monitor the 800 MHz public safety band.
Graduated from high school. Entered college, and became technically inclined with the microcomputer. Learned simple UNIX and Pine commands to send/receive e-mail, and lookup people within the University of Hawaii system. The Internet began to take shape, and I realized that it had a far-reaching audience if only I could find something to do. Did my homework and research and noted that there were a lot of websites related to scanning for other places, but nothing substantial for Hawaii. However, not knowing squat about HTML compounded my problem -- how do I get my resource up and running?
It was around this time that the Honolulu Police Department began initial testing of the 800 MHz Ericsson EDACS/AEGIS radio system. They were simulcasting on both VHF/800 MHz. I thought my scanner was broken on 800 MHz because I kept hearing beeps on the radio transmissions!
A serious handicap to the system was that I was hearing the same transmission on multiple frequencies. I knew there were several sites, but I could not pinpoint exactly where they were. When HPD switched over to 800 MHz analog in June 1997, it became apparent that we needed to learn the system quickly. At that time, there were 18 sites around the island, Simulcast was only 8 frequencies and handled Districts 1, 3, 5, and 7 at the time.
The lack of a scanner capable of monitoring EDACS radio systems resulted in pressing the "manual" button to follow the radio transmissions. I remember having a Pro-91 with Motorola trunking technology, which was of no help to me.
It was around in 1998 that the Internet bug hit me hard. With the help of several Kapiolani Community College students, I began the quest to design and develop a website. Little did I know what was going to transpire in the next couple of years. I bought "HTML for Dummies", researched other websites to see what HTML was all about. Remember, the Internet was relatively new to me. Strict Department of Education rules regarding Internet use at the high school level actually stunted my ability to broaden my understanding.
Because of the lack of website building software available during this time, all HTML pages needed to be hard-coded into a text editor (can you say Notepad?) I had to learn all the HTML tags, and how to incorporate them into a design technique. It was difficult at first, but became easier as with additional experience.
I originally hosted the site on the University of Hawaii personal homepage server for a little while. It consisted mainly of a personal page, then a bunch of pages linked together to make what was the first site dedicated to scanning. It was a rather crude site of things slapped together just so that it could work.
There were some notable changes in 1999. We moved our operations to kahala.net and established our home there for the next several years.
Purchased the Uniden BC245XLT scanner with Trunk Tracker II technology (Motorola, EDACS). For the first time, I was able to monitor HPD radio transmissions without the help of the "manual" button. It was around this time that learning the system began "taking off".
In late 1999, I then acquired the newly released Radio Shack Pro-92 v1.00. A 500-channel scanner, this revolutionized the scanning hobby as I knew it. With Trunk Tracker III technology (Motorola, EDACS, LTR), it also had PL/DPL decoding, alpha tags, default & programmable search ranges! Version 1 would prove crucial in the quest to learning the intricate details of Honolulu's EDACS radio system.
The new millennium brought even more hope for a brighter future!
Licensed as an FCC amateur radio operator in June 2000 as NH6BP (Technician class). Upgraded to General class in late June 2000, and then upgraded once again to Amateur Extra Class in August 2000. Got a systematic callsign change to AH6QN, then reserved a vanity call AH7E weeks later. I went through so many callsign changes so quickly that I confused a bunch of people!
I realized then that radio monitoring hobbyists have scanners, but not all of them had amateur radio licenses; and that amateur radio operators had ham radio equipment, but not all of them had a scanner. The time was right to publicize the website and reach out to a greater audience, and it worked. I've had a loyal following ever since getting the website up and running, but establishing myself into the amateur radio community helped solidify my efforts to get where I want to be today.
The advent of scanners capable of monitoring Ericsson EDACS radio transmissions meant a total transformation of the scanning hobby as we knew it. More people jumped on the bandwagon, and I realized that we were the only website online with complete and accurate information on Honolulu's EDACS radio system. In addition, finding a site like Strong Signals, run by Rich Wells, N2MCA, allowed me to share my expertise in trunked radio systems and monitoring them with the later models that came out in late 2000.
Not sure when I acquired the BC248CLT and Pro-2015 base. They were in my arsenal of radio equipment to monitor other agencies because one radio couldn't do the job by itself.
Website traffic began to take off, and I have my newfound audience to thank. What was merely just 'several' hits a day began going to double digits, then 20, then 30 a day. We've stuck with 25-30 hits per day since. It's an impressive number considering that we are considered a small site.
By this time, I had forged new alliances on all islands (Blake on the Big Island, Janine on Maui, and a Kauai Police officer helped bring exposure to monitoring on the other islands). I had ordered a new base/mobile scanner, the Uniden BC780XLT. This was a feature-laden radio with Trunk Tracker III technology (Motorola, EDACS, LTR), also with Control Channel Only Mode, in which Motorola radio systems could be monitored by just the control channel itself.
We tested this feature on the Kauai County 800 MHz Motorola SmartNet system with impressive results.
We moved our website operations to http://www.qsl.net/ah7e in early 2001!
June 2001: The Oahu Civil Defense Agency switches from the VHF City Radio system to 800 MHz EDACS system.
August 2001: We took our radio equipment to Hilo and Kona, on the Big Island.
October 2001: Ocean Safety Division switches from 453.850 UHF radio system to 800 MHz with a 4 talkgroup setup. "Beach Control" becomes "Ocean Safety".
Late 2001: Honolulu Police switch to the Jaguar 700P portable radios.
April 2002: Honolulu Police switches all patrol communications to ProVoice digital format.
June 2002: Brought our radio equipment to the island of Maui and evaluated its performance on the LTR Multi-Net II trunked system. The BC780XLT cannot "track" the system, but it can monitor their frequencies conventionally. Results were successful for the most part.
November 2002: Oahu Transit Services (TheBus) switches its 525-vehicle fleet to the 800 MHz EDACS system.
Early 2003: Acquired the Motorola Astro Saber II with APCO 25 digital technology. This is my primary 2-meter amateur radio equipment.
November 2003: Oahu Transit Services (TheHandiVan) switches from 800 MHz conventional to 800 MHz EDACS system.
Early 2004: Returned to Kauai to make sure that information remained current.
Sept 2004: Newsroom goes LIVE with multi-agency monitoring capability.
One of my goals is to bring you breaking news and developing stories that affect YOU as it happens, so you don't need to wait for it on the evening news.
Q3/2004: DPS Sheriffs have 800 MHz capability.
April 2005: Visited Kauai on a University of Hawaii trip. Brought my radio equipment to make sure information still remained current.
May 11, 2005: Honolulu Fire Department begins VHF/800 MHz simulcast.
June 1, 2005: Honolulu Fire Department switches all users to 800 MHz and retains VHF/800 MHz simulcast setup. Rescue alarms that use the services of Air-1 are patched into VHF tactical channels 2, 3, or 4.
August 5 2005: Site redesign begins for an eventual switchover to my own hosting company/website domain.
Copyright © 2000-2006 by David J. Cabatu. All Rights Reserved.