The history of Eskimo North is very much related to my own personal history back to a very young age.
I have memories back very early, to three days after birth in fact, but the chronology is not always clear for me in the earlier years. I really have no sense of time, even to this day, ten minutes ago, yesterday, a year ago, twenty years ago, it's not very distinct for me, but particularly the early years unless there are other things that I can use as time references like the World Fair in Seattle in 1962.
I was quite young and my family took a trip to Spokane. At the time I had an uncle, to aunts, a grandmother, and numerous cousins there. So we went to visit an aunt and there was a cousin there about my age and an older cousin. The older cousin had a friend over and they had this little wireless microphone transmitter. It was an early transistorized affair, something like the type of kits that you would buy from Heathkit or something. Anyway, they were talking through a radio with it and myself and his younger brother both thought it was really cool, but he wouldn't let us touch it or talk through it. He and his friend left and took it with them.
We were left alone to our own devices and there was a record player there, one of those real cheesy affairs with a plastic case, a crystal cartridge in a plastic tone arm with about a five pound tracking weight, a marginal little amplifier and speaker in a plastic case, and a shaded pole motor with an idler wheel drive. Rumble not a problem since the tiny speaker wouldn't respond to anything below 300 Hz anyway. These were the record players that would leave peelings behind the stylus (actually they liked to call them "needles" back then).
I don't know how or why because I had zero electronics knowledge at the time, I don't even think I was in school yet, or if I was it was probably first or second grade, but I got it in my head we could make a transmitter from the parts in that unit. So we disassembled the unit, but weren't able to build anything from it, nor reassemble it. Parents were not happy but hey you leave kids that are seven or eight years old alone unattended and bad things can happen, so that record player met it's demise, but the fascination with being able to talk through invisible waves, that stayed with me.
Several years later, while visiting another cousin, this one a couple of miles north of Seattle (I lived in Seattle), this cousin who was much older than me built this light board for me. It consisted of a hunk of plywood with a couple of 120 volt lamp sockets, a couple of knife switches, and a line cord. He introduced me to the concept of parallel and series circuits. First he wired the board as a parallel circuit. Each knife switch controlled one light. Then he wired them in series, and connected the knife switches, one each across each light bulb. He told me never to close both switches at once, but showed me how with both switches open both lights glowed at partial brightness. If you closed one switch, that light went out and the other went to full bright. If you closed the other switch, the that light went out and the first went to full brightness. Well, that was neat and the conclusion of our visit and he sent that board home with me.
Now I am at home, and you know I really wanted to know what would happen if I closed both switches. I had it plugged in in the living room of my parents house and I threw both switches closed. A bang, a big flash, all the lights went out. My father went down and replaced the fuse, we did have fuses back then, and he decided that I shouldn't be playing with this AC powered device. So we went to the hardware store and got little light sockets for screw-in flashlight bulbs, a couple of bulbs, and a 1-1/2 volt ignition battery. These were big single cells they used to cell primarily for model airplane enthusiasts. The glow plugs back in those times operated off of 1-1/2 volts instead of the 6 volts of later models. These ignition batteries were large and capable of pretty high fault currents. Enough so that closing both switches still resulted in bad things, the insulation on the wire burning off in a cloud of smoke, but that I guess was better than blowing fuses and I was allowed to keep that setup.
I did go on to try other things in place of ordinary light bulbs. Like what happens if you stick one of those camera lights on the battery? Well, it flashes (and gets really hot). And then well, that is neat but why do they put this blue plastic on these? So I peeled the plastic off and did it, it exploded and blew glass shards everywhere but somehow I evaded injury.
I had a transistor radio and some old speakers and I had wired them up using the plug and cord from an old earphone. I hooked the flash light bulb to that and found out I could make the light go with music if you turned it up loud, cool. About this time I was in 4th grade, and behind my grade level in reading, but all of this got me more interested in the subjects so I started to read a lot. My immediate family didn't know anything about electronics, so the only way I could learn was to read more and build stuff.
Back in those days you weren't supposed to have a non-Bell telephone connected to your line. Only extensions you leased from the telephone company were legal. But my father had an old dial phone he had gotten somewhere wired up in the basement with zip cord and twisted connections.
Now one thing about transistor radios, they required batteries, and batteries didn't last a long time, particularly if you ran them loud, especially if you had an extra load on the amplifier like extra speakers or a light bulb. So when the batteries went dead, what was I to power my radio with? Well, there was this wire coming down out of the ceiling with twisted ends. What happens if I connect it to the battery terminal on the radio? Cool, it runs! Now I can run my radio even if I have no good batteries!
My parents didn't use the phone real frequently so they didn't notice, until a telephone company man came to the door. Seems that a transistor radio caused the telephone company equipment to drop tickets by the thousand. Of coarse I didn't understand what that meant at the time, but I later learned when I went to work for the telephone company, the varying load of the radio would cause the line relay in the crossbar office equipment to chatter and drop trouble tickets, cards punched with holes to indicate the nature of the trouble, by the thousands. Back in those days, central offices were entirely mechanical, so they weren't smart enough to ignore that sort of thing after a ticket was dropped. So that was the end of free power for my battery powered radio.
I received at one point as a gift this small transmitter broadcast thing, a little plastic case with a very low powered transmitter. It was cool, but only would transmit about twenty feet. I kept reading, and building, and learning and by the end of 5th grade, my reading had gone from below average for my grade to a 12th grade level. Definitely, that light board and early radio experience triggered a very educational, if not a touch dangerous at point, education. A close family friend took me down to goodwill and bought me some old tube radios. I modified one to transmit on the shortwave band. Then I resurrected a neighbors old shortwave floor radio and could transmit to it with my modified table radio, a new distance record of maybe 300 feet.
However, shortwave had a limited audience so my interest moved towards AM. With AM anybody could hear it and back in those days, AM was more popular than it is now. Really most home receivers didn't have sufficient frequency response for the fidelity of FM to be a big advantage, that was mostly reserved for audiophiles. So I turned the same table radio into an AM band transmitter. Along the way I also learned I could modify those set-top UHF television converters into a little television transmitter of sorts. I found a place I could inject a composite video signal and it would modulate the oscillator pretty good, so I'd use the composite video taken from a television right after the detector before the audio subcarrier was extracted, and then whatever that television tuner was tuned to would be retransmitted onto a UHF station.
I used to play little tricks my sister by first seeing what station she was watching, then going back down and putting the TV to that channel, the back up stairs and switching the TV to the UHF channel I was transmitting on. Then I'd go back down stairs and after a bit change the channel, and then when I'd hear her get up, change it back to the original channel. Well, it didn't take her long to catch on to the fact that the TV only behaved this way if it was on "U" so that was short-lived.
I met some friends in school, they were operating a pirate station too, but more power, I think around 25 watts, and they actually had a studio of sorts setup, using two of those plastic special phonographs like the one I had destroyed years earlier. Shortly there after I was given a DX-40 ham transmitter and rapidly adapted it for AM broadcast operation. Changed the icky grid modulation it used to high level plate modulation. This transmitter used a 6CL6 tube oscillator which worked as is with a 1200 Khz crystal, and the pi section in the output I modified by stuffing ferrite bars in the coil initially and by soldering fixed capacitors across the variable caps in the pi, and but this I was able to get it operational in the AM.
I used a output transformer backwards to high-level plate modulate it with an audio amp. I got real interested in real broadcast too at this point, and I was allowed to go to the radio class in the high school across the street while I was still in Jr. high. There I made new friends who shared my interest and they introduced me to engineers at radio stations they knew. And I started calling people and asking if I could go along when they did maintenance at transmitter sites or proof of performance measurements, and a few of them did accommodate me.
In particular, we had two radio stations within a couple of blocks from where I lived, KISW used to transmit from 92nd and Roosevelt and KRAB from 91st and Roosevelt, I lived on 90th and 15th, so just a couple of blocks walk. Only the KISW transmitter was there, the studios were remote, but KRAB the whole station was in a shack there. KRAB was a non-profit radio station that ran with 40 Kw back then on 107.7FM. They had the very first Collins FM transmitter build, serial #1, which Collins wanted for their museum. They were offered a new Collins transmitter and a sum of money; this enabled them to move out of the shack (the roof collapsed when they pulled the old Collins out, the ducting was the only thing holding it up).
They moved to a fire station up on Capital Hill, it was really cool because it afforded them space for large studios from which they broadcast live musical performances. They had minimal audio processing and the sound quality was superb. But they had a valuable frequency and the board of directors, after accepting donations from the community for years, finally sold the frequency and took the money and did who knows what with it.
The first person I met back in Jr High that was into bootleg radio was Scott Shangle, his friend Jim Dolan ran a station using an Apelco marine transmitter, modified similarly to my DX-40, that is ferrite bars shoved in the coil to increase inductance and an AM band crystal stuffed into it. Initially, we both ran on 1200 Khz, but we didn't want to interfere with each other so eventually I switched to 1210 Khz. The marine transmitter was pretty crude in that it ran off of DC and had a vibrator power supply, but it was actually high level plate modulated from the factory though the frequency response was tailored for voice operation.
Another couple of friends that found me by chasing my signal down with a volt meter attached to his car radio was Bruce Girard and Don Iverson. They had already graduated from school so were older than me, but like me they also toyed with bootleg though lower power. Bruce had a little 50C5 transmitter similar to my earlier modified table radio but constructed from scratch. Owing to his location, which is by high school very close to sea level and with excellent ground conductivity, his little 1 watt got out for better than mine ever did. Don Iverson had a small transmitter as well, I don't remember the specifics now, but he was able to put up a big long wire antenna and got quite a good signal out with it except he only rarely and briefly operated it.
I got my first class radio telephone license in my Jr. year of high school, and Larry Adams and Gene Arnold both deserve a lot of credit for that. Gene for being patient and answering a lot of stupid questions, and Larry for his role in guiding a misguided youth. You see, the school had these "labs" and originally they were provided DC power from a large bank of lead acid batteries with a charger. Now, the school decided that was too dangerous because the fault current was very large and so they took the fuses out that powered the labs and put portable power supplies at the benches.
One day at lunch, bored, we took and stuffed aluminum foil into the fuse holders which powered up the bench. We then took 24 guage wires from telephone cable and made coils around them with pencils and stuffed them into the connectors on the bench where they would instantly vaporize in a cloud of smoke. So amusing was this that we did it repeatedly until from the ceiling to about two feet below the ceiling was a solid bank of smoke. Below that the air was clear.
Larry came back from lunch, came into the room, took a couple of sniffs and said, "Is someone smoking?", then he looked up and saw the smoke. We were all ejected, supposedly permanently, but the next day we were allowed back in. Now, before this happened, I was allowed to mess with the broadcast equipment, but after that he say, no you can't touch that you don't have your 1st phone.
I had a third phone at the time, but wasn't going to allow him to use that as an excuse, went and got a 1st class radio telephone operators study guide, studied it, went down to the FCC, took the test, completely draining a fully charged set of HP-45 calculator batteries in the four hours it took me to complete the test, and passed. Well, I know that was Larry's intent all along and I can't thank him enough for that, he knew exactly how to motivate me to do something constructive and it did. He's passed on now and that's unfortunate, he has been a positive influence in many peoples life.
Now another person I met was Jeff Madsen. Initially, I picked his FM station up on my Sony Earth Orbiter receiver. It didn't read on the S-meter, it sounded terrible, but he had some very creative programming. We listened for a while and he gave out his telephone number over the air. I convinced him to allow me to come out and see his station.
It was all jammed into a bedroom, a surplus military narrow band FM transmitter with a welding rod jammed in the antenna jack, some turntables, a tape machine, microphones, a mixer, in addition to an easel and numerous artist supplies, and a bed, in a tiny room. Pretty cool.
Well, he told me his story of being busted once already; ran an AM bootleg station at a location nearer Bothell way. He climbed one of those metal power towers and ran a wire down to his window for an antenna. At the time he was using a surplus military AM transmitter operated on 1570. KUUU, an oldies station back then, operated on 1590 Khz and KUUU's engineer lived nearby. KUUU's engineer was getting interference from Jeff's bootleg AM station and so reported them to the FCC. The FCC came, told him he couldn't transmit on AM with out a license, but didn't say anything about FM.
Well, more pre-history to follow but I've got to get some other things done. I know this is wordy but you have no idea how many details I've left out. Anyway, I'm going to write the actual history, once
Eskimo started in a primitive state, in a separate post as well, so those who wish to skip the preliminaries can. So watch for the next installment.