Forums Radionics Pirate Radio UK : How we sent "text messages" to pirate stations in the early 1990s

This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Gylfi Gudbjornsson December 23, 2015 at 3:31 am.

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  • #1058922
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    General Lighting
    Moderator

    We didn’t have GSM mobiles until mid/late 1990s’ mobile phones were analogue, way expensive to own and had the great disadvantage that anyone nearby with a radio scanner could listen in to your phone calls.

    Using one in a pirate radio studio was also dodgy as it could give away the location of the studio (mobile networks have always logged the device location; the system would not work otherwise), any audio recording would have the studio music in the background and it could pick up interference from the “band I transmitter”. This is a lower power transmitter operating on the old VHF TV frequencies which (unused in the UK for TV since 1985) which sent the studio audio to a receiver and the main “Band II (FM radio)” transmitter which was usually about 0,5 km away on a tower block or other high structure.

    So instead we used these pagers – although it was a national network (still used today) on VHF frequencies rather than the small scale UHF system in the video below

    The receiver would have been slightly bigger and unlikely to have a white LED; those may not have been invented then! – and it is not easy to get second hand UHF pagers from the 1990s (I suspect the Germans and Dutch have hoarded the lot :laugh_at: ). Of course decoding the message in real time on a computer wasn’t that easy in 1990 (you would have something like a service monitor which costs about €10 000) but the music is from the correct era 🙂

    To send a message you had to make a telephone call to some call centre in London’ (often on a premium rate number) and give the correct capcode (the pager ID number) and the message to the operator; who would type it in on a computer terminal for transmission to the pager network.

    As the pagers operated on around 150 MHz and the Band I link was on around 50 MHz the pirates had to be careful that thie signal was not excessively strong or the antenna wrongly connected or third harmonic interference would garble the pager message….

    #1279288
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    Gylfi Gudbjornsson
    Participant

    A few, I dare say ‘a few’ ore like some bloody time ago, there was a fantastic pirate station in the home country area, 87.5fm, everything from old school garage/bass line, techno, house etc. And it just went to bæ….in a word.had many good nights to that station. Do miss it really, but since I’ve tried to remove myself from THAT world, I’ve come to smile upon yesteryear so to say.

    #1279286
    Avatar
    General Lighting
    Moderator

    @Gylfi Guðbjörnsson 703750 wrote:

    A few, I dare say ‘a few’ ore like some bloody time ago, there was a fantastic pirate station in the home country area, 87.5fm, everything from old school garage/bass line, techno, house etc. And it just went to bæ….in a word.had many good nights to that station. Do miss it really, but since I’ve tried to remove myself from THAT world, I’ve come to smile upon yesteryear so to say.

    may well be the same one I listened to when I lived in Reading about 10 years ago – I vaguely remember someone telling me that either 87.5 was used by two different crews in similar areas of SE England; or the same lot had to close it down and regroup (moving the transmitter site to somewhere slightly different but with similar coverage) as Ofcom had been getting wise to where it may be.

    Any decent pirate radio transmitters are usually built by engineers whose day job involves legitimately installing various other kinds of wireless communication equipment; but in recent years many companies have not taken on as many such staff and/or they want clean CRB checks/security vetting (due these systems being safety and business critical) and are aware of the safety/reputation risks of unauthorised things on towers as well as paranoia over terrorists.

    There are also way too many urban/dance music DJ’s around ( some who TBH are old enough to know better) who seem to genuinely want to make the suburban UK town they live in into a ghetto area of London and/or the USA or other nations where young men go around shooting each other for wearing the wrong colour underpants that day; not realising that the rest of the people in these towns left those areas to get away from all of it.

    It is also not that simple to get radio transmitters to work well, about 3-5 times as difficult as complex computer systems (even with these wireless LANs do a lot of the complex stuff automatically); and often under-appreciated even in business environments when the equipment is s vital part of the organisation – so its hardly surprising that people with more than one brain cell who want to use their tech skills for something positive don’t get as involved with UK pirate radio as they once might have.

    #1279289
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    Gylfi Gudbjornsson
    Participant

    There was two ‘crews’ that used it, but they where part of the same collective, ie; ‘share and share alike’ sort of thing.

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