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Bootleg Radio

I have no idea of how much power we were running. It could not have been more than a few hundred milliwatts.

I enjoyed Robert Kegerreis’ article (“The Story of Bootleg Radio 1610,” Jan. 1).

I had a similar adventure that went undetected for quite a while. We were on the air for about four years, 1961 to 1965. It was in Greencastle, Pa. I was 14 when this all started.

My friend was the son of our school superintendent. He got me interested in electronics. His basement was full of neat stuff from the U.S. Army depot at Mechanicsburg. His father would take him there on occasion to bid on surplus stuff for “educational purposes.” Some of it was used at school in physics and science classes.

Well, some of that stuff got diverted to our projects.

I have no idea of how much power we were running. It could not have been more than a few hundred milliwatts. We used a 12BE6 penta-grid converter as an oscillator-modulator. We got the idea from Popular Electronics magazine. It worked very well, and the audio quality was very good. Back then, broadcast band crystals were easy to find. We were on 670 kHz.

The plate tank circuit was a ferrite variable loopstick. We tuned it with a small neon bulb I glued to the coil for max brightness.

We made our own power supply; I remember it was 250 volts DC. No solid-state parts. We used the telephone line as an antenna with the theory that if the signal appeared to be coming from everywhere, it would be impossible to trace.

The town was about a square mile at that time, and we covered most of it with a nice signal.

The scheme was finally detected when my friend’s father noticed Christmas music playing in the background of a telephone call on a December morning. He called the phone company to tell them what a good idea it was. Of course they knew nothing about it; and they could hear the music as well.

A service truck from Bell of Pennsylvania pulled up in front of the house later that day. His truck radio was tuned to our station. The rest is easy to figure out.

We did not get into that much trouble but “WGS” went dark.

James Pollock, P.E.
Haddon Heights, N.J.