FRS History 1980-1989
1981 began with the same programme line up and presenters as in previous months.
For the January transmission more than 60 letters were received; conditions on both 48 & 41 metres were excellent. 7325 gave slight problems and instead 7315 kHz was used. The latter proved to be the right hoice and till January 1983, 7315 would remain FRS-Holland's fixed 41 mb frequency. Unique was a letter from Jerez de la Frontera in the southern part of Spain, more than 1700 kilometres from the transmitting location. It's also interesting to know that people from the Eastern Bloc were very keen to pick up the FRS signal because the programmes offered a good alternative to the state-controlled stations which were not very popular among a lot of radio enthusiasts in those countries as there was a lack of pop music and radio related information. The majority of Eastern Bloc listeners came from the G.D.R. Very few letters reached the station from other countries in that part of Europe such as Czechoslovakia and Poland. The question is whether poor reception could be the reason for this .... According to FRS engineer Bobby Speeds the answer is definitely ‘no’! Taking a look at the sinpos from for instance the GDR in those days, people in countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia must have been able to receive FRSH without too much of a problem, even taking into consideration their receivers were not state-of-the-art and could't be compared with many ones used by Western European listeners. It seems obvious that the non response was caused by the attitude of the postal authorities in those countries behind the iron curtain. Of course also in the GDR the situation was far from ideal. To give one example: FRSH once got a letter from a GDR listener who had already written five times. None of these letters reached the FRS mailbox. On the other hand: several letters send by FRS-Holland to the GDR never reached their final destination. Rather sad and annoying but the station didn't have the power to change this unwanted situation.
E.M.R. final 3rd Sunday
Sun February 15th was a rather sad day for many dedicated SW listeners. European Music Radio, the legendary UK SW hobby pirate, made its final regular 3rd Sun transmission. Since 1977 E.M.R. ruled the airwaves. It was the brainchild of Barry Stephens, the man who also played an important role in the first years of FRS-Holland Between 08.30-11.30 GMT the programmes of E.M.R. were relayed via the facilities of FRS-Holland on 6250 & 7315 and over 100 letters poured into E.M.R.'s letter box. FRS-Holland's schedule was reduced to only 2 hours that day. Due to one of the car-batteries running flat, the last hour of the broadcast was only to be heard on 41 metres. Most important however was E.M.R.'s signal got out very well. Since Barry Stephens had always been so helpful, FRSH was more than happy to do something in return. The following extract is from Sun February 15th 1981 just after EMR closed down and FRSH commencing transmissions ......
Very useful were the reports from a number of monitor stations during a broadcast. For example when another station was on or close to FRS’ frequency, it was impossible to hear it on the location because of being very near the transmitters.Barry Stephens was a very reliable monitor station for FRSH in those early years. Peter V. recalls:
“I remember I left the location a few minutes before 10 o'clock CET and already some 15 minutes later Barry called me. He told me how the signal-strength and the mod quality were and whether the frequency was 100% clear. One thing I shall never forget is that Barry was calling from the little corridor in the house he used to live and his receiver was situated in his bedroom . Our signal was often so loud and clear I could easily follow on the phone our programme coming out of the loudspeaker of his communications receiver. That really was an amazing experience.”
For instance March 1981 FRS-Holland was forced to make a move from 7315 to 7325 because of a strong carrier making it impossible to receive a clear signal. Without the help of a monitoring station much of the 41 mb output that Sunday would have been totally spoilt. Easter SundayApril 19th 1981 FRS-Holland decided to broadcast for a change nothing but golden oldies. Because of a very poor signal on 48 metres- in contrast with 7315 which was superb- the technical staff decided to carry out an extra test to check the 48 mb outlet. This test was already carried out one week later on April 26th and some 40 letters were received for the two hour test. It certainly proved the 48 mb rig was working very well!
So far there hasn't been any attention paid to the work at the location, perhaps the most specific and important part of a trm as Peter V. will affirm ........
“Preparations for a trm on the location always gave a special kind of feeling. Not only it was thrilling to do something illegal. I also believe that there is a great involvement with the station when standing there between transmitters, arials and car-batteries.”
Preparations in the field
Any FRS-Holland broadcast started on Saturdays when two or three of the crew went to the location to hang up the aerials which could take up a lot of time because all sorts of things could go wrong. You had those two pieces of rope, connected with a heavy piece of iron. Ideal person for helping out was Frankie Fanatic who was tall, strong and had arms like trunks.
“I was really closely involved with the work at the location, especially the technical part of the job. Together with P.V. I tried to put the aerials into the trees on a hight of some 12 metres. If it wasn't illegal, it was easy to put just one time the aerials in the right position but as you know it was. So every broadcast we threw the rope into the air to get it on the right position. Mostly we didn't succeed during our first attempts, so we pulled the rope down the ground and this could be a very dangerous thing to do. One time P.V. had the luck of his life that the heavy piece of iron at the end of the rope struck into the ground, just on a distance of one foot from him. It also happened that the heavy end of the rope, thrown by me, never returned. Perhaps it is still in orbit around planet earth...!!”
After completing the work on the aerials, the FRS people went home. Saturday evenings the alarm clock was set for 8 o'clock the following morning and at approx. 08.45 Peter drove his car loaded with equipment to Bobby Speed who so now and then had quite some difficulties getting out of his bed. Then they drove to the location and everything had to be prepared in readiness for the upcoming transmission. Most of the work was properly erecting both 48 & 41 mb hanging in some kind of a V. Around 09.45 the transmitters were tested for a few minutes. A solid organisation was very important and nothing could be forgotten: a SW transistor radio for monitoring the signal, particularly the modulation level, spare parts including x-tals, aerials and valves, the SWR metre and of course the programme tapes. Because the programmes were recorded on C-120's, every hour someone went to the location to change the programme cassette. To reduce the risk of being caught, most of the time nobody was on the location during the broadcast apart from the just mentioned cassette changes.
New programme schedule
Sunday May 17th the FRS people arrived on the location to discover only the left-overs from what once were aerials. That Sunday of all Sundays no spare aerials were available and so the people had to return home empty-handed. Because of the stolen aerials, it was the first time a broadcast had to be cancelled on the regular 3rd Sunday. A week later FRS made it to the airwaves with one self constructed and one spare aerial. On 48 metres there was only a carrier during the first hour: PeterV. simply forgot to plug in the modulation lead .... As a result of the first 9 months of broadcasting and the response from the listeners, a new programme schedule was introduced in May. The English Service, which was temporarily cancelled, returned and the German Service was extended to 45 minutes due to the overwhelming support from listeners in both Germany's. The DX-Show was also extended with an extra 15 minutes. New was the Free Radio Spot in which a land based free radio station featured itself to the SW audience; the Album Show disappeared although Frankie Fanatic was still involved with the station. May also saw the introduction of a brand new address which was already known in the free radio world: P.O.Box 41 in Dedemsvaart, the Netherlands should become FRS-Holland's new mailing address and would remain so until the summer of 1989.
May 31st- a 5th Sunday- an extra transmission was carried out between 10-12 GMT while E.M.R.'s 4th Birthday Show was put on the air between 08-10 GMT. It was the very first of a series of extra 5th Sunday trms. E.M.R. 5th Sunday relays would continue till the end of 1982. Two brand new aerials were put into operation resulting in almost perfect SWR's. Another strange thing happened during that 5th Sunday transmission in May as Peter reveals ....
“During the first 60 minutes I was on my own on the transmitting location and I couldn't get rid of a terrible RF feedback. After a lot of trouble I succeeded in contacting Bobby Speed whose technical skills were much better developed. He got rid of that terrible sound, it appeared that the RF was caused by the cassette machine touching the wet ground.”
From that moment onwards future transmissions would result in hanging the cassette machine in a shopping bag on a branch some 80 cm above the ground level thus avoiding any RF feedback. June, July and August passed almost quietly although a few things are worth mentioning: in June FRS-Holland's 6250 channel suffered from heavy interference from the Free Radio Broadcasting Company, a UK based high-powered station which hadn't been heard for a long time on SW. A rather low modulation level during the last hour of that June broadcast was caused by one of the car batteries which went flat. Also in July it was FRBC causing interference and thus a move to 6260 was made. Annoying was the fact the cassette machine got jammed in the middle of the the July broadcast. Peter V. thought something different was happening .......
“Yes, the fact two aerials were stolen only a few months earlier was still fresh in my mind and made me rather suspicious. Although we were transmitting from private ground, it was always possible unwanted persons could enter the location. So I was thinking that somebody had pulled the modulation plug out of the transmitter. Believe me, it was a relief to know it was only the cassette machine causing the trouble.”
FRS One Year
August 30th saw the second 5th Sunday transmission together with the celebration of FRS-Holland's very first anniversary. A 90 minute documentary, compiled and produced by P.V. & Joop ter Zee, was broadcasted and a good number of copies were ordered by FRS listeners. Sunday September 20th something strange happened as P.V. recalls (listen to two audio cuts > Peter talking about the groundwave and a September 1981 mix; use the little red arrows to switch between the two cuts):
“In those days we didn't realize that propagation conditions were subject to dramatic differences as a result of the 11 year sunspot cycle. Conditions were superb because the sunspot cycle was at its maximum. In fact we'd never heard of any 11 year cycle but a few years later we discovered to what great extend it could affect reception conditions in the mid 80's. So the fact those little 10W rigs were providing such wonderful signals was partly due to the splendid conditions during the early 1980's.”
Frozen cassette machine
November 29th 1981 the 48 mb transmitter returned on air and even in Italy FRS provided fair signals witness the various reports being received. The final 1981 transmission took place on December 20th and for the second time a special X-Mas broadcast was put on the air. One little funny incident took place when Peter V. discovered on the location that the cassette recorder was frozen only producing whining sounds. It had been very cold that Saturday night and the cassette machine had been put away all night long in Peter's car not giving enough protection against the cold.