What a great piece this is! Gene Hughes, the radio monitoring expert who published the first "scanner-geek bible" Police Call some 40 years ago, is profiled in Wired News by cracker legend Kevin Poulsen. At age 77, Mr. Hughes is now retiring. Boing Boing pal Steve Diet Goedde shot some wonderful photos of the wireless master, and the tools of his trade, for the story (sorry: no latex catsuits in this image set).
It was the best day amid the worst years of Gene Hughes' life. He was 13 years old and seeking escape from the loneliness of a Los Angeles foster home by playing with an AM radio his uncle had mailed him. Tuning around the dial, he picked up something different from the dance hall music and campy radio dramas that normally spilled from the tinny speaker -- something unexpectedly genuine. "I suddenly heard strange voices, women broadcasting addresses and numeric codes," he recalls.Link
He quickly figured out that he'd somehow tuned into Los Angeles Police Department dispatchers crisply directing the city's black-and-white police cars to real robberies, domestic disturbances and traffic accidents throughout the City of Angels.
That was 1940, nearly a half-century before shows like Cops would turn live police action into mass entertainment. And what might have sounded to someone else's ears like unwanted interference from a city transmitter, was to Hughes the pulsing music of an invisible world.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.