I had first learned about scanner radios in the Summer of 2001.
However, I wouldn’t own one until September of 2002. That means that I have been listening to scanners for nineteen going on twenty years at the time of writing this blog entry.
For Christmas of 2002, I was given some cash and I went to my local Wal*Mart and purchased a Uniden BC80XLT and that scanner is what this piece will be a review thereof.
Before that, I had owned a Uniden BC144XL, which disappointed me at the time due to its inability to receive 800 MHz (which is where the bulk of law enforcement communications was occurring in my area at the time), no search feature, and a general lack of portability.
So I was beyond thrilled when I became the proud new owner of a Uniden BC80XLT, which indeed has those features that the BC144XL lacked.
It was a few days before Christmas when I purchased it.
I remember sitting in the Wal*Mart parking lot on that December evening and the first band I attempted to search was the 806-956 MHz band.
I, being a somewhat rebellious and troubled teenager, sure felt very smug and equally empowered when I could suddenly hear all sorts of law enforcement communications coming in!
For the next few days and eventually weeks, I searched this new radio band and listened to all that I could hear. It wasn’t just law enforcement, I could also hear some businesses and civilian government entities.
In either late January or early February of 2003, I started using the search feature on other bands.
The first one I tried was the VHF High Band (148-174 MHz.) From listening to that, I heard fire dispatch traffic from other fire districts besides the one I resided in. I also was able to hear railroad communications (which would become a staple in my scanner listening from 2011 up until very recently). The first time I heard railroad transmissions, I initially assumed it was The Feds. There was also some law enforcement activity from smaller towns and parishes, a few businesses, and ambulance traffic on this band. Aside from a very rare transition of a tugboat or towboat on the Bayou Lafourche north of Lockport or some pleasure craft hailing from Lake Fields, there is very little VHF Marine traffic available in Raceland, Louisiana. The Coast Guard Safety Information Broadcasts out of New Orleans do come in periodically, but are not very legible. I grew up on a bayou but sadly not a navigable one.
Another band I frequently tried was the UHF Low Band (450-470 MHz.) From there I heard lots of businesses and local government activity from neighboring parishes. There were also the brake pressure data transmissions from trains that could be heard on this band.
I had been fascinated by trains in early childhood, but somehow I forgot about them in late childhood or pre-teens. However, when I learned that railroad communications could be heard on a scanner, my interest in trains gradually came back and culminated in late 2011.
This scanner was instrumental in rekindling my train interest!
In Raceland, Louisiana, there were no nearby military bases and no MARS or CAP traffic, so the 137-144 MHz band was dead.
Aside from the hearing DEA out of New Orleans when conditions were just right, the Federal Government Band (406-420 MHz) was also dead.
Aside from cordless phones, the 29-50 MHz band was also dead.
6 Meter (50-54 MHz) FM Amateur Radio was always dead (actually, I never heard FM traffic on 6 Meters until May of 2018 at Dayton HamVention.)
2 Meter (144-148 MHz) FM Amateur Radio was pretty active.
70 Centimeter (420-450 MHz) was slightly less active than 2 Meters.
As for the UHF T Band (470-512 MHz), I could hear the audio portions from two television stations coming out of New Orleans.
Around this time, my sister was seeing a doctor at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, so I convinced my parents to let me come along and bring that scanner. They agreed but made me use headphones. Once we crossed the Mississippi River, it was as if a flood of radio traffic started coming in-and on every band too, save the UHF T Band, which was and still is designated strictly for television broadcasts in the New Orleans area. Of course, my bands of choice were 406-420 MHz and 806-956 MHz so I could tune in the Feds and the NOPD, respectively. Chalk that up to me being a curious and, once again, rebellious teenager! But other bands were equally active, even the VHF Low Band! It was because of all I could hear on a scanner that initially made me want to live in the New Orleans area. And of course, up until recently, it was as if there was a type of energy of which I cannot completely describe flowing from the New Orleans area. The last time I visited New Orleans which was shortly before Hurricane Ida, I could no longer feel this wonderful energy. Instead, it is now as if there is a very evil presence in the City. But the former, no longer present, energy always inspired me to write some of my best works (including my “Grocer and Writer” stories) any time after visiting the New Orleans area. And this energy has inspired countless other writers, musicians, visual artists, and all other creative people. So it was radiofrequency energy and also, the mysterious creative energy that drew me so much to New Orleans. In my younger years, I would have tremendously desired to live there had the cost of housing not been so high.
…All right enough about that…
Even the former [seemingly] good energy which inspired so much creativity for so long is humanist at best and therefore not of God! As a Christian, I must need be tremendously careful around any sort of spiritual energy and thoroughly test it.
The radiofrequency energy in the New Orleans area has also taken on other forms and most of these are not available on a scanner. I’ve said it before and I will say it again that Hurricane Katrina and cheap unlimited cell phone plans took out the majority of the scanner traffic in the New Orleans area. However, when visiting other large cities, cheap unlimited cell phones plans have made wide-area business band radio more obsolete than ever. God be thanked that there is still plenty of railroad and marine traffic to be heard on a scanner in New Orleans!
Speaking of Katrina, it was shortly after that wicked woman did her wicked deed that my Uniden BC80XLT began to malfunction. It would not pull in any signals whatsoever. I opened it up and saw that the wire connecting the antenna jack to the circuit boards was cut. A part of me wonders if someone sabotaged this scanner. For Christmas of 2005, I would replace it with a Radio Shack Pro 95, which was a much-needed upgrade, though now itself is mostly obsolete.
Around Christmas of 2021, I was feeling very nostalgic for my teen years and the technology I used in those days, so I found a fairly decent Uniden BC80XLT on eBay in gently used condition with the box and all.
When it came in the mail, I tried powering it on NiMH batteries, but it didn’t work right. Sadly it prefers those useless, toxic NiCads or those pesky, leaky Alkalines.
So, while this scanner is very sensitive (as most Unidens from that era and before are), I can only use it sparingly.
After all, it only has 50 memory channels, which fills up all too quickly.
While most public safety agencies are now on a combination of 700 and 800 MHz, it is almost all digital which renders analog scanners useless for that purpose and frequently encrypted, which will leave any [legal] scanner in the dust. Many of the 800 MHz trunked and conventional systems were phased out and their frequencies recycled to be added with the 700 MHz trunked systems for greater capacity.
If I had to rate the scanner in its heyday, it would get a high four out of five stars, because it was a sensitive and reliable mid-grade scanner.
However, in using it nowadays, I would probably give it a high two or low three out of five stars, mostly because of the battery issues.
I guess this, therefore, concludes my review of the Uniden BC80XLT.
I hope that you, the reader, have been informed, enlightened, and maybe even entertained.
May God richly bless you!