Home > Electronics Cranny > The Electronics Cranny: All About Little Scanners

The Electronics Cranny: All About Little Scanners

By Fritz Tennis

By Fritz Tennis Electronics Expert

Have you ever wondered what makes little scanners so popular? Well, there’s no need to cuss. Just go somewhere else and let the people interested in the subject listen.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’d like to start with a brief history. The first scanners were developed by the Keithley Corporation of Central Lankville. These early prototypes were simple devices that operated on crystals or berries and required repeated interior penetration on the part of the operator. Their frequency ranges were generally limited– usually to the owner’s front yard and therefore, unless something really great was going on in the front yard, the scanner received almost no signals whatsoever. Oftentimes, buyers would simply return the scanners complaining that they were “stupid” or “useless” or “pointless” and, yes, there was some cussing.

The first frequency-synthesized (little) scanner was developed by the Teagardens Company in 1972 but was never released due to several problems with the device (it was discovered that it caught fire and exploded easily). In 1973, founder Shearboy Teagardens was strangled during a challenge and thus ended the Teagardens Company brief flirtation with the scanner. Fortunately, in that same year, the Keithley Corporation (re-emergent as a major player in little electronics) issued their PT-647-X which, of course, became the Holy Goblet of little scanners.

Keithley PT-647-X

The Keithley PT-647-X

What made the Keithley PT-647-X ingenious was its master oscillator which enabled the listener to generate a practically infinite number of frequencies. “You could get fire stations, police centers, hospitals, kiosks, just about anything,” noted electronics collector Billy Choppy. “The capacitance of its variable-voltage capacitor was almost monstrous and you could peak the tuned circuit to just glide it in,” added Choppy, who was suddenly cussed at by his mother from the top of the stairs. “Don’t worry about her,” he assured us. “She’s not able to understand even a simple block diagram circuit paper, so that’s the kind of intellect we’re dealing with here.”

Keithley followed up their wildly-successful PT-647-X with the X-X-12, issued in 1975 which introduced, for the first time, the idea of a telescoping antenna. Unfortunately, manufacturing problems with the antenna led to many accidental lancings and the X-X-12 was quickly recalled. “It was an inferior product anyway,” said Choppy. “Because of problems with the exoskeletal engine and the little green numerical display face, you were really only able to receive signals from things like distant farms or perhaps some truck people. Indeed, it caused Keithley to go out of business again although, as we all know, they emerged later as a big player in the home numerical keypad market.”

Choppy was suddenly cussed at again by his mother and a clothes basket, filled with trash, was hurled down the stairs causing a ruckus.

Today’s scanners are mostly computerized and feature wide frequency ranges, including international and islands. The electronic sophistication of the modern scanner could hardly be dreamed of even, say, ten years ago. What does the future hold in store? It is anyone’s guess though I like to think that one day we will be able to receive funner signals and not really depressing things like announcements of murders or burials. Until then, take your pick from some of the finest little scanner technologies now available.

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