WATERLOO – Chuck Angel dusted off a half dozen radios from his collection and put them on a table.
The oldest was a Regency Monitoradio Executive Scanner from the 1970s that houses crystals within its faux wood grain metal case.
“That was from back in the days when scanners just started out. … I’ve still got more. I just have to figure out where they went. I’ve been playing with this stuff for over 50 years,” said Angel, a John Deere retiree who is active in ham radio and is a Red Cross radio officer.
There is also a Bearcat 210 from the 1980s and some newer models from the early 1990s.
The scanners — receivers designed to pick up police, fire and other radio conversations — all work; it’s just that no one uses the frequencies anymore, having moved on to newer, high-tech radio systems.
And the collection of obsolete scanners will grow in the coming months as Black Hawk County emergency officials switch from the current Enhanced Digital Access Communications System to the new Project 25 Phase I digital mobile radio system — also known as P-25.
For police, deputies, firefighters and paramedics, it means emergency radios will work in more parts of the county and offer better sound quality.
For the scanner hobbyists, it might mean buying new equipment to keep up. It also means they will no longer be able to listen in on law enforcement radio traffic. Local police officials have decided to take advantage of encryption offered with the new system. Fire operation channels will remain unencrypted.
Public safety officials have been preparing for the switch for about five years, said Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson. He’s a member of the county dispatch board, which opted to build its own radio system instead of leasing the system as it currently does through the communications company Racom.
Switching over has been…