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DXing and Pirate Radio

Dan runs from pirates to urinals

This week we begin with “the classics” — AM stations and DXing. Then we move to “pirates” (the unlicensed station types not Johnny Depp types). Be sure to stick around through “and finally” for a look at something every single person does every day … but not with facilities like these!

DXing U.S. AM Radio Stations
Here’s a neat little PDF someone created that helps beginners with DXing AM radio. If you are looking for some material for people interested in DXing, this is a good starting point and explanation of what is out there.

DXing the World
For more advanced DXers, here’s a good site listing stations (AM, FM and many major shortwave) from around the world.

Xtal Sets
Remember when we built crystal sets as kids? The fun of pulling in that magic right out of the air without any power? Many of us got our starts in radio by doing this and by being enthralled by the mystery of how all this worked.

I distinctly remember WHAT triggered my interest in communications. At the age of 3, I was mystified by how sound could come from a speaker that was located in a closet that was at the bottom of a stairwell.

I can also blame genetics since my grandfather had been a radio repair man in the 1940s and 1950s. I had the good fortune to get grandpa’s Knight-Kit tube amplifier, which I found “transmitted” all over the AM band! This link provides some nostalgic and excellent info on crystal sets (including calculations and formulas).

Pirates in the U.K.
In 2009, a movie came out called “Pirate Radio,” with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy. It was an interesting movie based on radio in the U.K. in the 1960s and how ships in “international” waters (sometimes disputed by the British government) would transmit radio back to the British Isles. A big reason this occurred was due to the tight control of the British airwaves by the government and the dominance of the BBC (including rigid music formats that didn’t include some formats that “hippies liked,” ha-ha!).

The most famous of the pirates was Radio Caroline, the inspiration for the “Pirate Radio” movie.

And here’s Radio Caroline today (including their web stream).

Here’s a list of current pirate stations on-the-air in London.

U.S. Pirate Radio
First, I would hope that everyone reading this is a legitimate and legal broadcaster. Most of us are aware of what a pain a “pirate in your backyard” can be. In the Miami area, it’s not if there’s a pirate radio station on-the-air, but how many there are on any given day. On a personal note, it’s pretty rare for me to not immediately know when a station is pirate by their distortion, or overmodulation, or their mono audio, or the fact that they’re playing and saying things not acceptable by nearly any community standards (by the swearing and related content).

In my www-exploring, I’ve seen many ads for pirate transmitters (mostly FM, but he occasional AM or even TV), plus far too many videos on how to make your own pirate station. Why anyone would risk a $10,000 fine and even possibly interfere with communications that save lives or keep people safe (like fire, police, ambulance and aircraft communications) is beyond me! It’s absolutely stupid and beyond comprehension!

Most clearly know nothing about harmonics or filters, and probably don’t realize that their non-type accepted transmitter is putting signals all over the spectrum (including outside the FM band).

I have a thought here for the FCC. When they seize all that equipment from the pirates, how about having an “equipment lottery” for licensed stations for anything usable (mics, booms, CD players, mixers, etc.)?

I can share a video of the raid of a U.S. pirate station (which might help discourage people … as if the $10,000 fine isn’t enough discouragement!).

Here’s a second video of an FCC inspector at a Texas pirate station.

This video is of what appears to be a pirate who claims he’s Part 15 compliant, yet his video shows a range of 1 mile (which certainly doesn’t seem to be compliant at that distance).

And one last video what appears to be another unlicensed station. The person says he’s running 30 watts to a circular antenna in his attic. Also we see a studio and transmitter, yet no EAS gear. It’s unfortunate that a person with this creative and equipment couldn’t assist a non-com with his skill (and equipment).

And Finally …
Nature calls … for everyone! From my friend (and OTBP reader) Len Doughty, general manager of KPGC(LP) in Norman, Ark., comes the 12 craziest urinals you’ve ever seen!

If you stumble across a good or unusual website that might be of interest, please don’t hesitate to send me the link and any info you might have about it. My email address is [email protected].