Bootleg Youth Radio - Radio Rover

Popular Electronics January 1972 Page 114

From the "Television Scene" column by Forest H. Belt

While you read, here's some acid rock, as might have been heard on youth radio at the time, to set the mood

Bootleg Youth Radio

Traveling through a certain city not long ago I tuned across the AM dial on my car radio. I picked up a youthful-sounding announcer saying, "This is Radio Free --town." Then some noisy switching and bumping was followed by a 20-minute run of heavy acid rock. Then there were 10 minutes of youthful ranting against some unnamed annoyances presumably caused by "the establishment."

The signal was weak, but it covered a couple square miles. There was no other station ident. I had stumbled across a recent fad--the illegal broadcasting station.

Kids set up little oscillators with a mike and broadcast around their neighborhoods. They play off-beat music for their friends, often on records some cooperating store loaned then in return for mention "on the air." All too often, they get outside the law, intentionally or not. They have a too-long antenna, high power, and a lack of technical knowledge. Any of these can lead them to interfere with legitimate broadcasters, and put the kids afoul of Federal law. Sometimes, these experimenters exploit their medium with vocal vulgarity and lewd songs and verse. These are legal violations, too. Some almost comically fill the air with pseudo-political mouthings of philosophical ideologies they don't even understand.

Not every neighborhood operation is illegal. The fine line is drawn in Part 15 of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rules and Regulations. If "transmitter" power is no greater than 100 milliwatts (0.1 watt), and the antenna no longer than 10 feet, there's no violation of the law unless profanity is used.

But distance is limited. The tenth-watt of power can only reach a block or less. So a few youngsters who don't know the legalities (or don't care) set about widening their audience. A longer antenna usually comes first, then extra power. One such illegal station ran 100 watts on the AM band. Another fed 60 watts of FM into a whip antenna.

Neither station was in any way legal. The illegitimate operators stood to incur penalties up to $10,000 and a year in prison. One FCC engineer says these operations are only occasional, but they're easy to track down. The risk is steep for a little "in" music or the "privilege" of broadcasting obscenities to an unknown and fragmentary audience.

I've read other descriptions of bootleg radio from this time period, usually just amounting to a paragraph in a radio/TV column, but this was fairly detailed, likely because he actually heard one of the stations, and he did more research because Popular Electronics was a technical magazine.

One of the transmitters Youth Radio enthusiasts would have used is this Knight Radio Broadcaster, a popular kit in the 1960s.

Knight "Phono Oscillator", 1963

This is a heavy transmitter for your heavy rock, at least by hobbyist standards. With 120 volts on the oscillator tube, it's possible that the output could hit 1 to 2 watts. When used with several feet of wire for an antenna indoors, the range was probably a few hundred feet or less, but the trick was to add a long piece of wire and run it outside. 50 feet of wire running out to a tree would make the transmitter sing, and it could give neighborhood coverage, and a ready audience of your friends from school.

The cost of the Knight Radio Broadcaster was $12.95 in 1963 dollars, and I checked with an inflation calculator which figured that would be $101 in 2017, so if your parents weren't rich, you'd have to deliver lots of newspapers to afford to broadcast, but oh what fun for you and your friends!

By the early 1970s, transistorized transmitters were introduced to hobbyists, and the power dropped dramatically.

Science Fair (Radio Shack) transistorized broadcaster kit 1971

This is a very simplistic transmitter kit, and note the range, 20 feet. Likely it had a 100th of the power of the tube kits, or less, just a whisper compared to what a rig like the Knight could do. I've never seen a commercially offered solid state kit that could get near the 100 milliwatt allowed power level; they all used low power germanium transistors, and advertised range to maybe 40 feet.

How could you mount an effective protest within 40 feet, and what would your youth protest be about, maybe your mom cooking eggplant Parmesan that night for dinner?

I liked little hobby broadcaster kits and still do, my first being a Radio Shack model, with a red base for the tuner and circuit, and a green box loop antenna that you had to wind yourself. It was pretty slick for a kid DJ, though in hindsight I'd have liked it more if these kits came with more flair, like a card with alphabet stickers so you could put your station's call letters on it and attach it to the transmitter prominently, and something like a 'Junior Broadcast License' that you could sign and put in technical features, like your station's broadcast power and frequency.

"Some fun, hey kid?!" - Tramp to Lady in Lady and the Tramp



Muffin drawing - Furrier

I started drawing my Dogs in pencil, just as a way to get the pooches I was thinking about on to paper. I was really into a Dog named Muffin from a pet show I'd gone to, and had Muffin's picture around for years. When I got into the anthro idea, I'd imagine what all of my favorite Dogs would be like if they stood up on two feet instead of down on four, and if they had hand-paws and other features that people had.

Muffin by Boomer (click to see bigger)

I did a number of my Doggie favorites like this in the mid-1980s, and this was done in August, 1988. Others were the German Shepherd from the "Hero" Dog food ad, as a German Shepherd guy, and Marmaduke, plus Dogs I'd have dreams about and wake up to draw them, one being a Spaniel.


That's the picture that my Muffin was drawn from. It comes from the front page of the Summer 1979 Humane Society 'Pets & People' newspaper, where Muffin was featured because he was Dogs Grand Champion. I liked how happy he looked, with those great big crazy ears and happy face, a winner surrounded by his owner and all of his friends. I imagined being a pooch like Muffin, named George and even had a dream about it, so the picture means a lot to me.


Canine Carry Outs - Furrier

My friend Ric and me went to the Arby's on Noblestown Road for our local meat lunch and a pack of 6 Boomer fans came in, saying hi from the counter. They left and went across the street to the Rite-Aid and crossed back to Arby's 5 minutes later, came up to our table and gave me a bag of Canine Carry Outs Dog snacks!

Canine Carry Outs on table at Arby's in Greentree with Squeaky  (click for bigger)

How cool is that! I've gotten Dog food a few times at the radio stations I've been to as a Dog, something they have fun with on the air, but no one's ever gone and bought me Dog food like that.. It's the thought that counts.

I had my Boomer business cards with me, and luckily one was signed Boomer and had a paw pad on it, so I gave it to the guy who brought me the food. I should have bought a round of pop for all of them for that. I thought they were probably getting in some fun time before school has to start again, groan.. ;)

Canine Carry outs are meat, Arby's is a meat restaurant, and I did carry the treats out!

Dudes, awesome.


On the weekend I got this pocket AM radio from a Saint Vincent DePaul thrift store for 99 cents. My guess is it was a free giveaway at the Pirates' stadium, one of those "First 1000 fans at the game get a free AM headphone radio!" game nights. Add a little beer sponsorship to help cover the costs and it made a nice little gift to get people out to PNC park.


The radio is mono headphone only, no speaker. This was a surprise, since most pocket radios that look like this have speakers! In a way this is good, most listeners at a game would be listening on a headphone anyway to be able to hear play-by-play over the crowd, and it also saves battery power by having a lower power audio amp. The case is just molded plastic with no trimmings or textures.


It looks like a simple and traditional superheterodyne, a classic circuit in all kinds of radios, and the detector appears to be a silicon diode, not germanium which is the better choice for a detector, with lower distortion. The ferrite bar in the loopstick antenna is not the smallest I've seen.


The board is marked "TS 314". The tuner is on the top, tuning radio stations from 540 to 1600 khz. Circuit board is the usual phenolic, power is 3 volts from 2 AA cells. Vintage is unknown, and a friend thought it could be from the 1980s.


KDKA is the flagship station of the Pittsburgh Pirates and operates at 50,000 watts at 1020 on the AM dial.

WZUM to jazz today - Radio Rover

After a few years as Pittsburgh's soul station, WZUM AM 1550 in Braddock switched to jazz at noon today, with Bill Hillgrove announcing. Here's their statement, transcribed on the air:

Welcome to the new WZUM from Pittsburgh Public Media. We're a group of ex-WDUQ staffers that started a new service when that station ended five years ago. Since then we've been working bit by bit to bring fulltime jazz service back to Pittsburgh. We started with the Pittsburgh Jazz Channel, online at, and then we went on the air on 88.1 FM WYZR, which can be heard in the Southern and Western suburbs of Pittsburgh. We've also been providing jazz to public radio stations nationwide, and we're the largest provider of 24//7 jazz in America.

Our hearts have always had a place for that special relationship with the listener members that enjoyed what we did in the past, and now we're starting to bring that back, first with this station, WZUM AM 1550, and in a few months a brand new FM station on 101.1. The FCC has approved it all, and now we need to build the FM station. The sooner we can get the funds in to build it, the sooner it's on the air, and we need you to help. We're an IRS 501-C3 charity, and operate WZUM noncommercially. Please donate today at, that's, it's safe and secure.

We're starting this venture in the most humble of ways, and with your help we can grow this service in a way you can depend on as you did before. We have a lot we want to do, community voices, live performances and more, but it only happens with your support. Please help with your donation to get to the next step, build the FM station. Support us now at Thanks.

My first recollection of AM 1550 was when they broadcast as WLOA, and my mother liked to listen to their 'beautiful music', sometime in the late 1960s-early '70s. 1550 has tried a number of other program concepts over the years, several varieties of music and talk, including being the Pittsburgh outlet for the Don and Mike Show in the 2000s, as 1550, The Edge.

The WZUM call letters were picked up when the station was in bankruptcy a few years ago, and was bought by the Pittsburgh team that had been managing its operation. They formed AM Guys LLC, who ran the station as a local, automated soul classics station. WZUM had been a popular Pittsburgh AM station from the 1960s, with soul and breaking album rock played by personality DJs.

Original WZUM promotional record bag, scan by Boomer (click for larger size)

I welcome our new jazz overlords and wish them well, and hope that the soul format and legacy of WZUM can return on another radio station. My hope is that with the new funding that they can improve the sound on 1550 and add AM stereo to the transmitter.

Here's their announcement at the time of the changeover to jazz.


Regenerative Radio - Electronics Vacation

How about a radio that uses a dozen parts, including one transistor and a battery? I built one last night, it's called a regenerative radio, meaning it uses radio frequency feedback to build up signal levels. This technique goes back 100 years when radio tubes were new, and circuits were simple, as a way to get the most out of one tube.

Regeneration works sort of like an open microphone in an auditorium, when you hear echo and squealing, and the PA operator has to adjust the mic level to stop the feedback. In a radio circuit, the feedback is almost instantaneous, and before the circuit breaks into outright oscillation, it can amplify a radio signal 100,000 times or more.

A regenerative radio needs a tuned circuit to select a radio frequency, an amplifier, a way to feed the amplifier's output back to the input in a controlled manner, and a way to demodulate the signal into sound that you can hear. I found the base circuit I wanted to use in a ham radio publication, looking for something simple, and without any audio transformers or hard-to-find germanium detection diodes needed.


In my case a loopstick antenna coil from a pocket radio was used, and since I want to listen to the AM broadcast band, 530 to 1700 khz., it's just right. For the tickler I used the output coil that's already wound on the loopstick. Main tuning and regeneration capacitors are the kind used in pocket AM radio tuners, with two sections, 140 and 60 picofarads. The FET is an MPF 102, a very common j-fet for radio circuits. The RFC choke coil is measured at 4 millihenries, and off of a circuit board from an old TV. Many regenerative radio designs call for a 2.5 millihenry choke, and some use a resistor instead of the choke. For audio output, I just fed the source lead of the FET into the + side of a 10 uf electrolytic capacitor, and to some RCA jacks, feeding the line-in on a boombox as an amplifier. Many circuits feed a transistor or IC audio amp and speaker or headphones. Power is from a 9 volt battery.

Boomer's regenerative tuner, click for a bigger picture

It worked right away, I had sound as soon as it was set up and the battery was connected, and I could hear local AM stations! On the strongest stations I'd estimate the audio output to be around 100 millivolts. Fidelity was unlike anything you hear out of mass produced AM radios today, with lots of upper end frequency response, not the usual telephone quality audio. In fact, the highs are too stong, and that's because stations use pre-emphasis on the treble range, similar to the boost put on vinyl records to reduce the level of surface noise. It works because the receiver pulls the treble range back down again to normal levels, reducing any noise that happens between the transmitter and receiver. I'd like to try an audio stage that has the complimentary de-emphasis built into it, along with amplification for weaker signals.

Tuning only went up to somewhere in the 900 khz. area, so I'll need to remove the one of the capacitor sections, the 60 pf side. Regeneration is too strong as well, close to oscillation even at the lowest capacitance. That must be due to the loopstick's output coil being too close the tuning coil, so I'll make a tickler that can be slid along the coil and moved farther away. With refinements, I think this could make a nice hi-fi AM broadcast tuner for local stations.



Miles To Go - Furrier

I was reading Ricochet's Junk Blog, with a post about his collection of pin-on buttons, including Garfield, and how he cut the weekday Garfield strips out of the newspaper to make a book out of them.

It reminded me of how I did the same thing with a comic called Miles To Go, which ran in our local paper in 1981-82. I had an empty scrap book with a green cover, and started to collect Miles strips.

I scratch-wrote Miles on the cover  (click picture for larger)

I was also into Garfield a good bit, Marmaduke, Peanuts and Dennis The Menace because of his Dog Ruff, a big shaggy mutt. I didn't collect those, except for a few special ones with Dog humor or guest pooches to the strip.

Somehow I got locked on to Miles, I think it was the easy humor and storylines that appealed to me, plus the fact that it wasn't a really popular comic like the others made it kind of special, because not everyone was talking about it. It didn't hurt that Miles was a big Sheepdog type, and I liked shaggy Dogs.

My scrapbook with some Miles To Go Sunday strips  (click for larger)

Miles was a full fledged comic, it ran daily strips and a Sunday story in color. The Sunday edition was the best, with room for more storytelling. Here's a favorite from Valentine's Day 1982.

Sunday comic Valentine's 1982  (Click to see it bigger)

Phil Frank wrote and drew Miles, but he was probably better known for another comic, Farley. Miles was a character in Farley too, working at radio station KFUR, broadcasting to Dogs and cats. I don't remember reading the Farley comic, it might not have appeared in a Pittsburgh newspaper, or it was around before I was reading newspaper comics.

The daily strips were in black and white print, I saved them too.

Some daily strips from October 1981  (click pictures to see a bigger Dog)
My kind of humor, gone to the Dogs.. :)  (click pic to see it bigger)

When I'm looking at my collections of old things and run across this scrapbook, I'll read a page or two of Miles and remember how reading and collecting the comic was a fun little thing to do.



Ric's Junk Blog:

Phil Frank's official site:

Phil Frank's comic, Farley:

Dog clothes - Furrier

I've enjoyed dressing as a Dog for a long time, since early junior high at least, when I used Halloween grease pencil to paint a shiny black shoebutton nose and whiskers on my face. I made ears out of paper, flopping ones, and pointed German Shepherd ears from thin paperboard, with a thin strip between them as a headband.

Later on I found scraps of fur in the trash and cut ears out of that, and then found a discarded stuffed animal, a bear I think it was, and thought how I could make it into a Doggie head mask since it already had the shape and my head could fit in it.

Boomer in an early Dog head mask  (Click on picture to see it bigger)  

After taking out the stuffing, I was left with just a furry bag as I recall, since the bear's features were just pieces sewn or glued on the outside and I had taken them off. I cut holes for the eyes and mouth, then started to sew, adding black thin fabric for a Dog's black lips, and making a nose with the same material and sewing that on too.

The eyes are special, they have plastic lenses in them. Like other floppy costume Dog heads, the open eye holes would collapse down as I bounced around, constantly covering my vision and I'd have to keep pulling my head up so I could see. To fix that I got some clear plastic sheet that was soft enough to take a needle and thread through it without cracking, cut it into circles and sewed it on the inside of the eye holes with loops of thread. That made my Dog head professional, since I thought that's how all mascot costumes were built at the time. It's still not ideal since the plastic has imperfections that cause the view to be cloudy, but at least I can always see!

The eyebrows and brown features were drawn on with magic marker, which wasn't easy with the curly and semi-rough textured fur. I'm sure that was a pretty stinky session when trying to draw all that on! Being an early mask, it was experimental, all of my masks were, but here's proof this was in the alpha stage.

The back of Boom's early Dog mask (click for a bigger view)

It's another puppy face, just drawn on the back of the same mask! For this picture I just turned around and this is the back of my head. Yes, these are current pictures, taken yesterday. A friend of mine has started building Dog masks and made me think about the ones I used to make, so I thought to show and woof about what I did too.

How was it to put this on after years have gone by? Kind of odd, but the memories are familiar. For one thing the mask is harder to get on my head these days, though it had always been kind of tight. I remembered the scent of it so well when it was on, a mix of fabric and the magic marker.

I'd think about ways to be a Dog in school, then come home and put on a mask, and run around the house on four legs, playing pooch and admiring myself in the mirror, looking like a Dog.


Jabber Walkies - Untitled Normal Page

I walk some, and then I jabber about it.. :)

A few days ago I was out for a walk while it was still dark yet, It was unseasonably warm and dry, so I had a good long walk. With the holidays, there have been plenty of lawn ornaments out, since Halloween and all of the gravestones and pumpkins.

As I was walking along, I looked up a slope into a yard to see the distinct outline of a Dog, and did a double take, thinking a real pooch was standing there. "That's just a reindeer looking like a pooch... no, it's not, that's a real Poodle-looking statue! I have to come back later after it's light and get a picture."

Dog statue lawn ornament through the fog  (click on for bigger)

That's heavy fog, around the Dog. I haven't seen a fog like this for a while, you could call it a pea soup fog, very thick, and it reminded me of when, as a younger pup, I'd stick my head down into the chest freezers in the supermarket on a summer day and breathe in the cold fog, it felt just like that. It was 26° F when I went out.

Closer shot of the 'doodle with decorated tree (click for a bigger view)

He kind of has a Dog show stance, very cute, and I've never seen this breed as an ornament before. I got up closer to get a few shots without so much of the fog. The wires might be for posing or animation, it appears he's plugged in, he's an Electric Dog!

A buddy down the street calls them 'Golden Noodles' (click for the big picture)

With the fog and cold temperatures, there was a light frost over everything, the grass, the Dog's fur was flocked, and even his jingle bells and ribbon were frosty. I wish he could come to life so I could take him on a walk with me.

It's good to take a camera out during different or more unusual weather conditions and lighting to get different kinds of shots.


Interesting pictures - Untitled Normal Page

I like to walk at night, after all of the cars are put away, and a Dog can walk freely without a leash and observe things.

It's Fall now, and a few days ago I was walking down Cherry Street, and saw an interesting scene with the sodium vapor streetlamps making the street look shiny after a light rain that had just passed. There was a tree whose leaves looked surprisingly bright in the orange lamplight.

I'd just started my walk and thought that would make a good photograph, but I wanted to finish my walk first and come back with a camera and tripod, as it wouldn't be getting light for a while yet.

Cherry Street leaves and streetlamps 11-19-15  (Click on it for full size)

It did turn out to be a nice scene, taken with my Olympus Camedia C-770 camera on a tripod. The one thing about scenes under orange lamps like this is they may disappear sometime soon as sodium vapor lamp heads are replaced by white light LED fixtures. At the time when sodium lamps were being introduced, people weren't used to the pink-orange, and the color rendering of the bulbs is poor.

Others said that the light was better for drivers at night, being in the red spectum it would cause less night blindness; your eyes would need to adjust less going from a street-lit area to dark sections of the road. Maybe LED manufacturers could reproduce sodium's color in an LED lamp?

After taking the street and tree scene picture, I picked up and started to walk home, and only a few steps up the road I saw this scene:

Seuss Sheepdog and tree creature, 11-19-15, (Click for larger size)

It was on the ridge of a yard, right above me. It reminded me of the characters from Dr. Seuss books, a realistic Old English Sheepdog side profile, with his tongue out, facing some kind of a larger alien creature of some sort. This was taken on Auto with a tripod, and that's pretty much the scene's true brightness. I've walked this way many times before at night, but the cloud cover was making the silhouettes stand out against the sky.

I was facing East to take this picture, and I'm hoping to get a picture at dawn, maybe with some interesting colors behind the bushes.

I did get some shots of the sunrise, not behind the Dog, but over the school.

Sunrise over Aiken School from Greentree Road 11-21-15 (click for larger)

I was coming home from my walk at about 7 am and saw this scene, so I grabbed my camera and went back, it was just around the corner. The weather had changed pretty fast over the past day, from warm and wet to cold and dry, and when these were taken, the temperature was about 30F.