A Review of the Realistic (Radio Shack®) Pro-32 Handheld Programmable Scanner Radio

I am a very sentimental person.

I also frequently think about what technology was like around the time I came into this world (especially radio and computer technology.)

Because of that, for years, I had wanted to own a Realistic (Radio Shack®) Pro-32 scanner.


Because it was put on the market in 1987, the same year I was born.

In 1987 this was Radio Shack’s premium handheld scanner. It retailed for $299.99 (which would be the equivalent of $674.84 in 2019 Dollars.) I bought mine second hand but in very good condition with the original box and paper work for $25 even (more on that in a bit.)

The Pro-32 runs on 6 AA Alkaline or Rechargeable (NiCad/NiMH) batteries. It also uses three watch batteries to power what was a vast memory (200 Bank+10 Monitor Channels) in 1987. The Frequency ranges it covers are:
30-54 MHz FM
108-136 MHz AM
138-174 MHz FM
380-512 MHz FM

This scanner must have been a failure, because it was only featured in the Radio Shack Catalogs from 1987 to 1988.

In 1989, a significantly more sophisticated model was put on the market, the Pro-34. This better scanner also ran on 6 AA batteries, but did not require watch batteries for the memory. In addition to what the Pro-32 received, the Pro-34 had more frequency ranges:
806-823 MHz FM
857-868 MHz FM
896-906 MHz FM

Many police, fire and EMS services as well as some bigger businesses would begin to migrate to 800 MHz in the 1990s.

The Pro-34 costed slightly more at $329.99 ($680.07 in 2019 Dollars)

What I find amusing though, is the Pro-32 seems to be the direct ancestor of several entry level scanner radios such as:

The Radio Shack Pro-79, which came out 15 years later in 2002 and is more power efficient (runs on 4 AA batteries instead of 6 and the memory is flash based instead of requiring those watch batteries) and costed $99.99 ($142.04 in 2019 Dollars.)

The Radio Shack Pro-82, which came out 16 years later in 2003 and has the features of the Pro-79 in addition to push button dedicated searches for certain radio services and costed between $79.99-$99.99 ($111.09-$138.87 in 2019 Dollars.)

The Radio Shack Pro-404, which came out 22 years later in 2009 has all the features of the Pro-82 in addition to a Signal Stalker/Spectrum Sweeper and PC programmable features and also costed $79.99-$99.99 ($95.28-$119.10 in 2019 Dollars.)

The Radio Shack Pro 649 which came out about 27 years later in 2014 and is almost a younger clone of the Pro-404, but can tune in more narrow frequency steps on certain bands and costed $99.99 ($107.94 in 2019 Dollars.)

The closest modern equivalent to it is the Whistler WS-1010, which came out 31 years or so in 2018 or so and has all the features of the Pro 649 but double the memory and costs between $79.99-$119.99 ($81.40-$122.11 in 2019 Dollars.)

I had checked on eBay quite a few times trying to buy this scanner, but there was always a problem purchasing it.

A few weeks ago, I had tried for the final time, when my transaction didn’t go through. Within seconds of the failed transaction, The Good Lord Himself told me stop and wait because I would be purchasing one at Ham Vention 2019 in Ohio.

I’m beginning to learn to obey Him and this time, I did just that.

And do you, the reader, know what?

The Pro-32 scanner I bought a Ham Vention was in much better condition and cheaper than any of the ones selling on eBay!

Any Christian (but only a Christian) is a child of the One True God. And God is a passionate loving Father who wants only the best for His children. This is a very small but still valid example of that.

By the way, this particular scanner is not very common. Case in point: It is vintage and it wasn’t in production very long. That means there probably aren’t too many in existence anymore. It would have taken basically an act of God for one to be available at the flea market, for me to see it there because the flea market is the size of a horse track and covered entirely with vendors and for no one else to purchase it. So the fact that God Himself told me I would be purchasing one at the Ham Vention flea market, strengthens my faith in Him and my walk with Him and it should be good testimony for believers and non believers alike!

I was planning to go to Ham Vention to purchase gently used flashlights and calculators in the flea market anyway, like I did last year.

I am indeed a ham and in fact, I do hold a General Class license.

Those of you whom were forwarded to my blog from Q R Zed already know this, but I don’t like to give out my call sign.

I’m not too active on the radio, because of where I currently live.

My lease forbids any sort of transmitting antennas and neither do I want to interfere with any of my neighbors’ electronics, because I tend to enjoy peace and detest drama.

So for that reason, I basically stay on 2 Meters and 440 with low power portable radios and usually only during emergencies.

I do all my HF, high powered long antenna activities at a friend’s house with his equipment.

So why besides it being as old as me would I want a Radio Shack Pro-32?

I mean, compared to the modern scanners: It is bulky as a brick in size and weight. It is power hungry as a starving pit bull in a butcher. It is slower than molasses in the dead of winter when it comes to scan and search speed. It is analog only which makes it obsolete, at least partially. And the coverage is limited.

Yes, that is all very true.


I find that for what I listen to most which is railroad and marine traffic, older scanners are far more sensitive than their modern counterparts. They clearly pull in signals from farther away that most modern scanners cannot even detect. Japanese electronics, which this particular scanner was made in Japan, seem to overwhelmingly outperform their Chinese and Vietnamese made descendants in ways where performance truly counts.

I interpreted the date code (5A7) to mean this particular unit was made in May of 1987. That means it was made thirty two years ago this month (the same month I bought it)!

What amuses and amazes me the most is that the model number is 32, I am 32 (at the time of writing this) and it is also 32! God definitely has His hand in this!

This concludes my review on the Radio Shack Pro-32.

I would like to thank and cite Radio Shack Catalogs for the picture (which I do not own) and the technical details.

I hope you the reader have been informed and entertained by this piece. Thank you for taking the time of reading and may God richly bless you!

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