How many of our readers ever wanted to be a deejay or operate his or her own transmitter to play music? One of those readers was me, and another was my friend Gary Wegner.
We were both AM and TV DX’ers, but we were just kids twelve years of age. We were inspired by stations which played rock and roll. Our first inspiration was KOMA in Oklahoma City. A.J. mentioned it was one of his inspirations too.
Then one day it happened: we found an ad for something called a Knight Kit Broadcaster. The technical name for it in those days was a phono-oscillator. Gary and I nagged his father to drive us to Allied Radio in Chicago. Allied was the company which produced Knight Kits. One weekend we finally managed to visit the wonderful store which had the product of our dreams. Gary bought the kit, and we returned to his house and stashed it there. It was a kit, and we were kids. So who was going to build it for us?
It is really strange how we both developed head colds the next morning, and we were both too sick to attend school. I reasoned with my mother, “Doesn’t it seem logical I can’t give Gary my cold because he already has one?” This made sense to my mother, so she let me visit Gary during the afternoon. Mom failed to notice I was armed with Dad’s soldering iron, a roll of solder, needle nose pliers, and a pair of diagonal cutters.
Do we dare plug it into the wall? After all, we were just kids. We plugged it in anyway, but who had the guts to turn the power switch. Gary did it, and the vacuum tubes lit up. Hooray! We did it, but did it really work?
We were working next to one of those large old console tube radios which had a wooden housing and a giant speaker. We chose 1090 kilocycles because we had recently learned KTHS couldn’t be heard during daylight hours. We set the radio dial to 1090 and plugged a crystal microphone into the jack on the kit. As I used a small screwdriver to tune the little variable capacitor on the kit, we suddenly heard a burst of loud feedback. It scared the hell out of me, so I threw the screwdriver into the air. Surely I must be getting electrocuted. When we figured out it was only feedback, we calmed down; then we centered the transmitting frequency to what we thought was 1090 kilocycles. What do we do next?
Of course we thought we were deejays, so we announced and played our favorite top forty records. We had an astounding revelation: kids don’t sound like professional radio announcers no mater how much they practice. We had our fun, so the two horribly ill children decided to quit for the day. Mom! I need more Kleenex.
The next weekend we decided to check the range of the transmitter. We used my small portable tube radio to check the range. What a disappointment! We couldn’t even be heard in the yard next door. I was secretly hoping the three neighbor girls would be part of our audience. There had to be a way to increase our transmitting range.
There was a little sticker included with the kit which stated, “Complies with part 15 FCC rules and regulations.” The instruction book mentioned we could not use an antenna longer than sixty inches in length including the lead-in wire, or we would be in violation of the FCC rules. Who was the FCC? Most twelve year old kids didn’t have a clue.
I had the idea of disconnecting the twin-lead antenna wire from Gary’s TV and connecting one of the wires to the terminal on the little transmitter. We suddenly had a signal which could be heard for blocks. When were the cops going to break down the door and arrest us? Would our parents share the same cell with us? Would we have to pay Elvis money because we played his record over and over again?
The novelty of our little transmitter wore off quickly, and we sort of lost interest or did we? There might be more to my story. My discovery of the KTHS transition to KAAY rekindled those interests. My next dream was to build a transmitter which was so large one would have to climb inside of it to tune it up.
After reading the KAAY blog, I have a good feeling when I realize many of our readers successfully followed their dreams.
TO BE CONTINUED...
- Knight Kit tribute page: http://www.knightkit.com/
- PDF copy of Knight Kit assembly manual: http://www.we0h.us/Amateur_Radio_stuff/Knight/Wireless-Broadcaster/Knight_Kit_Radio_BC___Amp.pdf
- Popular Electronics 1959 article on the Knight Kit: http://www.smecc.org/knight_kit_home_broadcasters_-_allied_electronics.htm