Allied Wireless Broadcaster

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  nowradioguy 1 week ago.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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  • #171998

    audioguy
    Participant

    I am curious to know if there are any others on here who got started in radio by building an Allied (Knight Kit) wireless broadcaster and getting on the air? I did, and it was an enormous amount of fun! I still have one and it works.

    #172008

    Tom McNally
    Participant

    When I was about 14 I had the Lafayette version of a wireless broadcaster.   It cost about $ 5 and had two tubes on a metal chassis.   Like many things back then, it was powered directly from the AC line and one side of the power cord went to the chassis.   Very easy to get shocked !    It didn’t go very far, so I wound up building a more powerful transmitter with help from an older kid (maybe 16) down the street who was a ham.   The new transmitter was probably about 10 watts and used a crystal to set the frequency.  The crystal was supposed to be on 701, but it doubled and came out on 1402.  I lived in Mt. Holly, New Jersey then, and the closest station on 1400 was in Pleasantville, a town I had never heard of at the time, but would get my first on air job there when I was 18.  The transmitter wasn’t very loud, as it used a technique called Heising Modulation that was used in early broadcast and Ham Radio AM transmitters.  My studio equipment was two turntables, a reel to reel machine, and a microphone into a small Lafayette mixer.    I drilled holes in the top of the mixer and put small push buttons in, that would divert the inputs to another amp, to cue the sources.    I used to make recordings, then ride around on my bicycle to see how far the signal went.    I had a nice collection of the hits on 45’s from a friend who worked for a jukebox company.

    Bottom line is, I learned a lot and had some fun !

    #172180

    Steve Fredericks
    Participant

    Tom–I can relate to your great story.  Had the same Lafayette broadcaster.  In fact, I still have it, and IT STILL WORKS!  You had a more sophisticated setup than I did–I would record the Top 40 off the radio and then play the songs back on my ‘station’.  It was on 790 and, of course, 1580.  My range was over a mile and all the neighborhood kids would tune in.  After high school I went on to a 50+ year career in radio.  Just retired late last year.

    #172182

    nowradioguy
    Participant

    I am curious to know if there are any others on here who got started in radio by building an Allied (Knight Kit) wireless broadcaster and getting on the air? I did, and it was an enormous amount of fun! I still have one and it works.

    There were at least three separate groups of us who lived in RI back around 1964-65 who had Allieds.
    The first group had the best signal from the roof atop a three-decker house situated on one of the tallest hills in Providence. Their “CE” also shared with me the idea of feeding the “studio” audio to the secondary of the output transformer on the Allied, thus achieving plate modulation. This allowed the use of (unshielded) lamp cord to connect the studio, several floors below, to the Tx atop the 3rd floor of a house. No need to use that awful crystal mic/phono input on the Allied.
    Shortly thereafter, my buddy and I bought our own Allied, which I managed to assemble. My dad built our “control console”, a wooden structure which held a Radio Shack VU meter, a Realistic public address amplifier, some potentiometers (old volume controls) and some inexpensive Radio Shack “audition-program” switches. We had a cheap crystal mic and a Realistic turntable with ceramic cartridge. We connected a horizontal wire antenna via (unshielded) wire to the Allied Tx output. Signal reach (and quality) was so-so.
    My brother and his friend decided to build their own station, also using an Allied. My friend’s dad built them a wooden console and equipped it with a full-size Western Electric (!) VU meter and attenuator. Their studio was in my brother’s friend’s basement, and their Tx and vertical whip antenna were on the roof his parents’ three-decker house. Much better coverage than my buddy and I had! So we decided to merge the two stations – yes, we connected the audio to the Allied output xfmr – and ran the new station on weekday afternoons and weekends for the next three years. We had a much better mic (a Shure), 2 or 3 turntables with magnetic cartridges (!), and a reel-to-reel recorder. We had a guy who could sell time, we bought 45s from the local record shops with the money from the ads we ran. At our peak we had SEVEN of us. We even obtained a bootleg copy of some PAMS demo jingles and edited out the various station’s call letters.
    It was sure fun while it lasted!

    We pretty much all went our separate ways – college, military, full-time job – in late 1968, early 1969.

    #172215

    audioguy
    Participant

    Thanks for your great comments gentlemen! I had the Lafayette broadcaster too (you can tell I was bitten by the bug very early in life). Mine did not go very far, though. Also, it seemed like the output had more of an FM component than AM, actually. It had a nice cabinet but that was about it.

    I am intrigued by the idea suggested by ‘nowradioguy’ to use the transformer output backwards to plate modulate the transmitter. Why didn’t I think of that as a kid? Since I still have mine, I’m going to give it a try. I’ve played around with a number of modifications to lower the audio distortion and increase the modulation percentage but this sounds like a much better way to go. What I really should do is rebuild the entire thing on a new chassis and add a transformer to isolate it from the line. As it is, I always run mine from a 1:1 isolation transformer so I can avoid the possibility of getting a shock. It’s still hard to believe that people designed equipment with a hot chassis back then and even used metal enclosures. But it saved money and I guess that was pretty important.

     

    #172218

    nowradioguy
    Participant

    Thanks for your great comments gentlemen! I had the Lafayette broadcaster too (you can tell I was bitten by the bug very early in life). Mine did not go very far, though. Also, it seemed like the output had more of an FM component than AM, actually. It had a nice cabinet but that was about it. I am intrigued by the idea suggested by ‘nowradioguy’ to use the transformer output backwards to plate modulate the transmitter. Why didn’t I think of that as a kid? Since I still have mine, I’m going to give it a try. I’ve played around with a number of modifications to lower the audio distortion and increase the modulation percentage but this sounds like a much better way to go. What I really should do is rebuild the entire thing on a new chassis and add a transformer to isolate it from the line. As it is, I always run mine from a 1:1 isolation transformer so I can avoid the possibility of getting a shock. It’s still hard to believe that people designed equipment with a hot chassis back then and even used metal enclosures. But it saved money and I guess that was pretty important.

    Audioguy,
    I’m curious as to how/why your Lafayette unit had “had more of an FM component than AM”, unless you are referring to unwanted carrier shift.
    Anyway, just to be clear: I myself did not devise the method of feeding the secondary of the audio output xfmr. That idea came from another user of an Allied trmtr, who was the “CE” for the station he and his friends operated. I happened to mention to him that I had to run the pot for the mic input – to which I was feeding the studio audio – almost at its maximum loss setting to minimize (but not eliminate) distortion. He originally suggested inserting a 1-megohm resistor in series with the mic input, but, later during the conversation, he mentioned the feed to the xfmr. I was impressed beyond words when I realized this not only was feasible, it improved the sound immensely.
    And, yes, I received more than one shock from inserting the AC plug into the wall backwards.
    60-Hz hum could sometimes be a problem; ever experience that?
    #172243

    audioguy
    Participant

    The Lafayette broadcaster I owned had a lot of frequency modulation on the carrier for some reason. The combination of weak audio and a weak carrier meant that it wouldn’t broadcast very far at all, at least for me. I never tracked down the reason. The Knight broadcaster worked a lot better by comparison.

    One time several of my friends and I decided to do a broadcast outdoors. We had to run a long cord to get power for the transmitter and the tape deck that we were using for music. I think we used two or three of my dad’s electric lawn mower cords, which together ran more than 100′. We discovered that our broadcast got out unusually well that day. Our station could be heard on a 2-transistor radio mounted on the handlebars of a friend’s bicycle at the far end of our block. We never figured out the exact reason for this but we thought that it might have something to do with the extension cords. Fortunately we did not try this on a rainy day. That would have been a bad idea!

    #172249

    nowradioguy
    Participant

    The Lafayette broadcaster I owned had a lot of frequency modulation on the carrier for some reason. The combination of weak audio and a weak carrier meant that it wouldn’t broadcast very far at all, at least for me. I never tracked down the reason. The Knight broadcaster worked a lot better by comparison. One time several of my friends and I decided to do a broadcast outdoors. We had to run a long cord to get power for the transmitter and the tape deck that we were using for music. I think we used two or three of my dad’s electric lawn mower cords, which together ran more than 100′. We discovered that our broadcast got out unusually well that day. Our station could be heard on a 2-transistor radio mounted on the handlebars of a friend’s bicycle at the far end of our block. We never figured out the exact reason for this but we thought that it might have something to do with the extension cords. Fortunately we did not try this on a rainy day. That would have been a bad idea!

    I’m sure the FM on the carrier was a bonus feature Lafayette forget to mention in their brochure.
    As for the 100 feet of extension power cords: yep, they provided you with a nifty antenna that day.
    #176420

    captbob
    Participant

    I had a Allied knight Kit am broadcaster given to me for Christmas in 1961.  After building it I assumed the coverage would be about 100 ft but one day decided to take my table radio ( didn’t have many portables in the day ) out to the farm pond which had a pump house 300 feet away.  To my surprise I got a great signal so I assumed it was all legal as Allied supplied a very official sticker for the kit that stated it met FCC rules.

    The next year I moved the kit into a town nearby and my friends including a school mate by the name of Dennis Rutherford and I from high school started our own radio station which ran after school and on Saturdays.  We taped high school football and basketball games and aired them Sat afternoons as well as DJ shows.  As Fall approached we made a deal with the local county fair and moved the whole station there for the five day run.  A fellow showed up the first day and showed an interest in broadcasting and had a good voice so we let him join the crew.  His name was Jim Merick.  Well, we used that Knight kit until I figured out a way to modulate the oscillator in a standard am tube radio and we switched to the modified radio to broadcast.

    It all came to a screeching halt some two years later after the paper in the next town ran a story about us and the licensed station there turned us into the FCC.   The inspector that visited us was nice but firm saying he read 100 times more signal from us then permitted.  By that time we all had the radio bug.  In 1965 I got my first real job in radio running the board for WLEC in Sandusky, Ohio.  From there I went to Toledo, Cleveland and Detroit stations doing DJ work.  Then owned stations in Ohio and Florida. That guy Dennis Rutherford?  He became a traveling engineer for Gates, later Harris broadcasting installing transmitters all over the world.  And, Jim Merick?  Well, he is better known as J R Nelson and ended up as Scott Shannon’s sidekick on Z100 in New York.  Jim also voiced thousands of liners across the country and in Europe.  Bottom line is we all got in the biz because of that little Knight kit.  Go figure.

    #176440

    Steve Fredericks
    Participant

    Great story, Captbob!  Your experience brings back a lot of wonderful radio memories.

    As noted in a comment above, I still have my Lafayette broadcaster and yes, it still works, although it now just sits in storage.  Although I am now fully retired from commercial broadcasting, I am still ‘on the air’…sort of.  I have a Procaster AM transmitter and broadcast to the same small neighborhood I did back in the early 60s—playing the same songs, too!

    #176601

    nowradioguy
    Participant

    Most of us stayed legal “back in the day” with the 100-milliwatt limit on AM. The right frequency and a good antenna, though, made the 300-foot expected maximum distance easy to beat. And in those days (1960s), it was relatively easy to find a vacant spot on the AM dial, day or night, though we stayed off at night (school work, you know).

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