Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Early Radio Memories (4)

In the summer of 1971 free radio was in the air, culturally and on a number of frequencies across the United Kingdom and Western Europe.  Those of us living in the English Midlands would listen to Radio North Sea (Nordsee) International on shortwave during the daytime and on medium wave (AM) after dark.  Radio Caroline was still there, and Radio Veronica was another option (although her programming was mainly in Dutch.)  There were rumours of land-based “pirates” in London and other large cities, and despite the attempts of the BBC to provide a pop music service and the promise of local independent commercial radio to come (it came in 1973) the predominant culture was free radio, offshore or otherwise.

British politics crept in to the situation.  Both the outgoing Labour Party, and the incoming Conservative Party (after the 1970 General Election) continued the jamming of RNI and other offshore stations.  There was strong condemnation from the supporters of free radio with leaflets and press statements such as this:

As we write this, Radio Nordsee International is being jammed by the British Government “in the interests of Czechoslovakia.”  So the Government has now sunk to such a depth that it will employ Communist methods in support of a Communist occupation regime.

This Government has been determined to crush free enterprise radio by any method it thinks it can get away with.  The trickery, the blatant lies and now the jamming betray an utter contempt for freedom and democracy.

Strong stuff, eh? 

Meanwhile in a much smaller way the free radio revolution was ever a topic of conversation at the King’s School, Worcester, where a small group of us were being shown a small plastic box that had a wire antenna, two input jacks and a nine volt battery clip.  It was a small and primitive FM transmitter which would take both a microphone and an audio signal simultaneously.  The owner, the older brother of a classmate of mine, was producing short programmes on reel to reel tape and cassette to be broadcast every Sunday in the neighboring town of Malvern.  With careful tuning the transmitter range was about one mile.  Looking at the circuitry and design I knew that I could copy it and even improve upon it.  Later that day I asked if I may borrow the transmitter for a couple of days during the week.

He said yes.

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