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Sparks Programme M3: Environmentally friendly car engines - Voices of the dead on tape? - East German broadcasting - Radio Trent invaded during the miners' strike

The cassettes are missing for the first two Sparks Programmes - presumably M1 and M2 (now found, coming mid 2015), so we start with programme M3:

Presented by Andy Burnham and Trevor Brook with Andy Bradgate
* Introduction, with request for letters and radio listening reports from Andy B
* Music from Third World (Now that I've found love)
* East German broadcasting - a hard nut to crack. Problems following German re-unification Source: International Broadcasting
* Music from The Cure
* News that The Cure actually set up their own pirate radio station in a London tower block to promote their latest album. (There were actually two transmissions, I found that the 20th anniversary was recently celebrated, with extracts now preserved online )
* Andy mentions that this programme was recorded in a secret location in London, which was actually a caravan in the yard of Radio Caroline's secret base in North London, which is still used as their mailing address, now redeveloped and unrecognisable, and no longer top-secret.
* Music from Electribe 101 (Tell me when the fever ended)
* Extract of the London pirate radio reggae station PowerJam 93FM [I recall that this was dropped in live - Andy B]
* The Ghosts in the Machine, voices of the dead on tape (Part 1) Source: Skeptical Enquirer
* Music from The Waterboys
* Part 2 of Ghosts in the Machine article Dr Raudive and Dr Hans Bender
* Music from Rainbow
* Recording Electronic Voice Phenomena yourself - how to have a go at recording your own voices of the dead on tape. Source: The Unexplained part work
* [There follows an invitation from Andy for listeners to try this and send in their recordings of the dead - we don't recall that anyone ever did...!]
* Station ID details
* Music from The Cardiacs [the vinyl of which is now very rare and collectible! - Andy B]
* Bill Gates to display artwork on giant screens in his house
* Music from Herb Alpert
* Music from Eric B and Rakim
* Live extract from London pirate Station FM with a different Andy B presenting
* Andy tunes down the London FM band live in the studio to see what's out there.
* Music from Booker T and the MGs (Green Onions)
* Professor P Waltzer from Volkswagen discusses environmentally friendly motive power systems for cars: low emissions diesel and the stratified charge engine
* Music from The Pogues
* Environmentally friendly motive power systems part 2
* Guest appearance from Andy Bradgate and his smelly socks
* Music from Ian Dury
* Station ID details
* A joke invitation to write in to "Auntie Ruth's" personal problems section (which fortunately no one wrote in to!)
* Music from Chic
* From the book "Radio is my Bomb" (a DIY manual for pirates) - Andy Bradgate and Andy Burnham amusingly reenact how "Radio Arthur" broke across Radio Trent during the 1984 miner's strike, in an attempt to encourage the Nottinghamshire miners to join the strike.
* Music from Jethro Tull

Length: 1h33m, Originally broadcast: 15th July 1991

MP3 file size: 53.1 MB
Click to listen or download

Sparks Programme M4: Pirates in the Netherlands - An electronic nose - Cosmic windsurfing - ITV technical quality

Presented by Andy Burnham and Trevor Brook with Jonathan Marks
* Music from Suzanne Vega
* Screen Tests - Independent TV to manage their own technical quality. Source: Spectrum (ITC) Magazine
* Music from Betty Boo
* Electronic Nose (sensor) could snap smells. Source: The Independent
* Music from Queen
* Netherlands pirates at top end of MW band. Source: Media Network
* Music from Roger Waters
* Letter from Alan Ellis, Baldock
* Music from A-Ha
* Cosmic Windsurfing (Solar Sails). Source: Cambridge Consultants Journal
* Music: One O'clock Jump by Duke Ellington

This programme is short because it was recorded on a C-60, I'm not sure why.
Length: 1h02m, Originally broadcast: 22nd July 1991

MP3 file size: 35.4 MB
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Sparks Programme M5: Digital still photography - SW pirate listings - Showtime Radio - DAB in the UK

Presented by Andy Burnham and Trevor Brook with Ruth Phillips
* Introduction, including the first appearance of the deliberately retro - even for 1991 - theme tune: Tender Force by Space
* Music from Carly Simon
* Medium Wave services for local radio Radio Shropshire closing MW outlets. Source: BBC
* All about digital still photography (Photo CD) Source: Electronics Times
* Music from Beverley Craven
* Raid on Irish pirate Riverside 101, who threaten legal action in response. Source: Derry Journal
* Bradley Allen contributes a comprehensive listing of shortwave pirate radio stations
* List of pirates in Manchester from Tom Reid, another listener
* Music from Arrow
* DC777 shortwave car radio ad, reduced to £239
* BT seeks clearance for radio links from handsets direct to the phone network (radiophones) in rural areas. Source: Electronics Weekly
* Music from Kirsty McColl
* Announcement that Showtime Radio wins Independent National Commercial Radio franchise with bid of £1.75 million pounds annually "We value the licence highly - we wouldn't go into it if we didn't think we could make money". (The station subsequently didn't happen due to over bidding, paving the way for Classic FM to take the INR licence) Source: Music and Media
* Music from Grace Jones
* Station ID
* Letter from Neil Oakey in Whitstable in support of the Sparks technical programme format
* The impact of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in the UK, satellite vs terrestrial, at the time the technology was still being worked out and the frequency band not yet set. Source: The Radio Authority
* Letter from Neils A Holst in Denmark listening on a Kenwood R600, wanting more music!
* Music from Living Color
* "Mobile Phones are menace to society" says Chancellor Normal Lamont, and so can be their extortionate multi year contracts. Source: Private Eye
* Music from Gladys Knight and the Pips
* Station ID
* How gullible are you? Source: Skeptical Inquirer
* Music from The Family Stand
* Letter from Dr H.G.A. Hughes in Wales who prefers the speech to the music
* Ad for Radio Caroline The Legend Lives on LP
* Virtual Reality moving from media labs into entertainment, a look at Broadsword's Cyberzone VR game show piloted for Anglia TV, following on from the earlier show 'Nightmare'. Source: Audio Media
* Music: Breaking Away, unknown singer
* Veronica goes commercial in Holland, TROS likely to follow. Source: Music and Media

Length: 1h34m, Originally broadcast: 29th July 1991

MP3 file size: 53.4 MB
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Sparks Programme M8: Electronic smog - Digital SW radios - The life of William Siemens - Analogue recordings on a chip

The cassettes are missing for Sparks Programmes M6 and M7, so on to programme M8:

Presented by Andy Burnham and Trevor Brook with Jonathan Marks
* Introduction from Andy B
* Music from Joe Cocker
* The increasing problems of RF fields, "Electronic Smog" (otherwise known as EMC) Source: BBC World Service
* Letter and listening tip from David
* Music from Heavy D and the Boyz - (1991 dance re-interpretation of Now that We've found Love) [RIP Heavy D, who died in November 2011]
* A short biography of Sir William Siemens, (founder of the eponymous company)
* Music from Kate Bush (Babooshka)
* Part 2 of the life of Sir William Siemens - Source: IEE News
* Station ID and Competition [Don't write in!]
* A letter from Nicholas MacMillan from Essex praising Andy Bradgate's programme and Sparks. He also writes that he did consider trying to record some electronic voice phenomena but 'chickened out'!
* Music from The Waterboys (Radio Caroline favourite - A Bang on the Ear - as requested by Nicholas)
* Undersampling techniques simplify digital radio by sanpling below the Nyquist rate, the latest techniques in communications receiver design at the time (Part 1) Source: Electronic Design
* Music from The Doors
* Court date set for Radio Nova (an illegal commercial station from Scandinavia) Source: Music and Media
* Music from The Velvet Underground and Nico (I'll Be Your Mirror)
* Useful tips on long wire short-wave antennas, including a review the RF Systems' magnetic long wire balun. Source: Radio Netherlands Media Network Antenna Surgery
* Andy B recounts his experience of static shocks from long wire aerials
* Station ID
* Music from Hawkwind
* Analogue EEPROMs store 16 seconds of audio. Non volatile Direct Analog Storage (DAS) from Information Storage Devices.
* Music from Betty Boo
* Letter from TV technician Jerry Hatton
* New station: Radio Contact (Netherlands, not Contact 94) ICP poll shows the dominance of AM radio over FM in Spain. Source: Music Business International
* Two radio technician's jobs with DTI Baldock (now Ofcom Baldock) in Electronics Times
* Amusing anecdote about GEC-Plessey Telecoms (GPT) making company presentations in France (j'ai pété = I just farted in French)
* Music from The Stranglers (La Folie - in French of course)
* Letter from John A Murphy in Armagh, Northern Ireland
* DC777 shortwave car radio ad, reduced to £239
* Closing theme

Length: 1h33m, Originally broadcast: 19th August 1991

MP3 file size: 53.5 MB
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Sparks Programme M9

* Introduction
* Music from The Inspiral Carpets
* Hifi to the extreme - if tweaking fails, just rebuild the house!
* Music from Gladys Knight
* Ad for Philips DC777 Car Radio
* Letter from Chrisian Sen, age 16, from West Germany
* Music from The Shamen
* Paul Donovan's Radio Waves from The Times with an overview of the year's Radio Festival - should the Radio 4 news be read by a Cockney?
* Music from Elvis Costello
* An overview of the Roland RSS (Space Sound Synthesizer) audio enhancer
* Music from Yes
* The new Novice Licences for UK Radio Amateurs (from BBC World Service Megamix)
* Hello to BRT International from Brussels
* Music from The Isley Brothers
* The latest Radio Listening JICRAR figures from Music and Media
* Ad for Radio Caroline 'Legend Lives On' CD
* Music from Joy Division
* A pirate on 6211kHz 'The Voice of Love'? as reported by Media Network
* Interview with Jody Scott from Radio Caroline and Radio Luxemburg interviewed by Jonathan Marks
* Music from Marillion
* The rise of the Betacam SP Cameras video
* Music from Krush
* 1.2 micron process yields 800MHz CMOS Op Amp
* Music from The Beatles
* The latest Radio Listening JICRAR figures from Music and Media (replay)
* Music from Men at Work
* Letter from Brian Cleary in Wexford, Ireland
* Optical channels kill off aerials (Demo of Marconi's CMC System)
* Music from Melanie
* Luxembourg Government auctioning its frequencies
* Media Network report RadioFax beginning a science and technical programme on Mondays and Tuesdays!
* Music from The Velvet Underground
* Japanese AM stations go Stereo with C-QUAM (and has DAB been oversold?)
* Music from Jean Michel Jarre
* Ad for Radio Jackie LP
* 30 years of FM Stereo Broadcasting (AES Journal)
* Music from New Order

Duration: 2h04m53, Originally broadcast: 26th August 1991

MP3 file size: 71.4 MB
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Sparks Programme M10

* Introduction
* Music from The The
* Effects of Loudspeaker and Cable interactions (AES Journal) - 12 AWG and computer ribbon cable tested very well!
* Music from James Brown
* Ad for Radio Jackie LP
* Letter from Ulf Palmenfelt in Sweden (!!!!found him)
* Has multiplexed car wiring finally arrived? (four standards mentioned, which eventually settled on the CAN Bus)
* Music from Blur
* Policymakers should accept that the multichannel experiment has failed - Why Satellite TV is Pie in the Sky (from the Independent) - a fascinating listen
* Music from Rush
* A letter from mini radio pirate Wayne Ashcroft (age 14) with a Midlands FM pirate rundown Freedom 102 Radio Sangan Radio Milan (Asian stations) PCRL Reggae
* Current London pirate rundown: Chic FM, PowerJam, InLeague, Green Apple, Station FM (Reggae), Soca Radio, Innocence
* Music from The Farm
* Ad for Radio Caroline LP (with impromptu music bed remix)
* A tribute to the late Bob Widlar written by Bob Pease (now sadly deceased as well)
* Music from Kirsty MacColl
* A letter from Ian Biggar from Troon writing about unlicensed radio in Ireland
* Digital Dolby sound for the Cinema (SR-D)
* Music from Marillion
* Cross Modulation in the Ionosphere (yes it can happen)
* Music from Enya
* Ad for Philips DC777 Car Radio
* How to hear Ionospheric Cross Modulation on Long Wave
* A letter from Richard R McVicar in Equador on listening to low powered European HF stations
* Digital Audio Broadcasting at an advanced stage of development say BBC Engineering [article starts with an analogy with CD - Oh Dear me...]
* Music from Melanie
* Digital Audio Broadcasting (Continued)
* Music from LFO [Hark, is that the bell tolling for DAB?]
* Kingston Polytechnic researchers build tiny transformers with profile of 5mm
* A letter from Andrew Keddie in Lincoln listening on a JRC-NRD525
* Music from The Cult

Duration: 2h04m53, Originally broadcast: 2nd September 1991

MP3 file size: 71.4 MB
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Sparks Programme M11

* Items included in this extract.
* Introduction
Music from Latin Quarter
Letter from Martin Price, Shrewsbury
Article about ceramic substitutes for electical contacts
Music from Jethro Tull
DC777 Ad
* A Fully digital signal chain for post production - Digital Audio in TV Post Production studios
Music from De La Soul
Sick Building Syndrome
* A letter from Andrew Preece in Scotland
Music from Danny and the Juniors
* Article about industrial spying and bugs, Shopping for Secrets - a special report into Industrial Spying
* Music from Alice Cooper
* Media Network announcement about Sparks News Programme
* Ad for Radio Jackie LP
* Andy reads out a rather surreal and threatening letter sent by the DTI Radiocommunications Agency to Radio Caroline manager Peter Moore warning them off Radiofax carrying programmes for Radio Caroline and warning them off supplying programmes to Radiofax, claiming it is 'causing interference'
* Response by Radiofax Station Manager Trevor Brook to the incorrect allegations in the letter that Radiofax was causing interference. Trevor responds rationally and in detail to the DTI's accusations of interference, including how Radiofax intervened to clean the bands of intermodulation products on 6205KHz and discussion about the band plan
* Quote from John Redwood "We want to see full use of the radio spectrum in the United Kingdom"
* Music from The Pogues
* New recorded music formats around the corner (CDs vs DAT vs DCC) - Barry Fox thinks DCC will win the format war! (DCC and Mini Disc, both due out in 1992)
* More about new Digital Compact Cassette products from Panasonic, Sony, Thomson, Matsushita and Grundig
* Music from The Kinks
* The Cleverest Carburettor - how the famed SU carburettor works and how it led to the improved HIF horizontal integrated float model (includes an interview with Malcolm Smith from the legendary Carburettor Centre (and Radio Caroline) of 426 Archway Road, London) - An article from August 1991 Practical Motorist magazine
* A letter from David Broome in Devon listening on a Racal RA17L
* Music from Hawkwind
* An interview with John Cahill, Chief Engineer of County Sound Radio, County Cork (Ireland) about his engineering setup
* A letter from Charles Bowman in Lancashire (age 14)
* Music from The Isley Brothers
* Sparks theme music to end (Tender Force by Space)

Duration: 1h04m48, Originally broadcast: 9th September 1991

MP3 file size: 37 MB
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Sparks Programme M12

* Items included in this extract.
Music from Was (Not Was)
Making the most of Europe's Airspace (Developments in Air Traffic Control)
Music from The Waterboys
* Quote from John Redwood "We want to see full use of the radio spectrum in the United Kingdom"
* Letter from Radiofax to John Redwood (DTI Minister)
* Music from The Charlatans
* "Advertisers, Pirates and the Pan-European Dimension", article by Howard Rose questioning the viability of Quality Europe FM (QEFM) satellite radio
* Music from Mott the Hoople
* DC777 shortwave car radio Ad
* Flashes of insight into Ball Lightning
* Music from Bob Marley
* Letter from David Gowan, Aberystwyth in support of Gay radio
* Music from Hazell Dean
* "Hurdles in the road to a smog-free destination" (setbacks to General Motors' Impact project to be the first with an electric car in 1994 - we're still waiting aren't we?)
* Music from 808 State
* Digital conversion techniques in SSB receivers
* Music from Queen
* Letter from Tom Reid, Macclesfield with his SW station log
* Japan Broadcasting and NTT reportedly working on 3D TV that won't need viewing spectacles "several years from being a consumer product"...
* Music from Alice Cooper
* Report on radio listening in the UK (40 million a week)
* Music from Danny Wilson
* Radio Caroline CD Ad
* Article on the opposition to the shutdown of Radio 4 Long Wave
* Letter from Dave Smith, Wales

Duration: 1h34m04, Originally broadcast: 16th September 1991

MP3 file size: 53.8 MB
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Sparks Programme M14

The tape for programme M13 may be missing or possibly we superstitiously skipped M13, anyway on to programme M14
* Introduction
* Music from Anita Baker
* Radio faces Satellite invasion (market report on the Netherlands)
* Letter from Arturo Fernandez Ferrero
* Radio Jackie Ad
* Music from London Beat
* Letter from Stewart Allen, Halifax
* Switches shrink to atomic scale (IBM breakthrough)
* Music from Kate Bush
* Letter from Kenneth Munroe, Lincolnshire asking about SW listening books in Braille
* BT produces bills in Braille
* Can Soviet industry catch up in high technology
* Music from Marvin Gaye
* Small TV production companies in financial difficulties waiting for ITV franchises
* Music by the Hoodoo Gurus
* Review of a new Magazine called Radio Active Magazine
* Letter from Jim Lowe, Liverpool with a list of pirate stations broadcasting (August 1991)
* Free directory enquiries for the blind taken advantage of by Barclays
* Music from Pink Floyd
* Extract of Pirate Radio station storyline on Coronation Street
* DC777 Ad
* Music from Genesis
* Hard Disc recording at home (!) a review of the CardD from Digital Audio Labs
* Music from Tom Petty
* Problems for asthma sufferers from dust mites, and infestations of fleas
* Critical article about Radio Caroline from The Broadcaster magazine

Duration: 1h34m24, Originally broadcast: 30th September 1991

MP3 file size: 54 MB
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Sparks Programme M16

M15 is missing and had the first part of the HiFi show report. Sparks Programme M16 (rather poor tape this one, apologies for the hissy recording)

Presented by Andy Burnham, Holly Robson and Trevor Brook
* Introduction. 1988 Radiofax presenter Holly returns from Nepal with some stories
* Music: Follow You Follow Me by Genesis
* Holly: an interview with Bruce Gyngell from the Sunday Review about how he runs TVAM
* Letter from Bart McGuire, Belfast
* Music: Dancing On the Floor (Hooked On Love) by Third World
* Radio Authority shows the Independent Television Commission (ITC) how to regulate - by refusing to give Showtime Radio extra time
* Network of 100 computers for testing prime numbers (NeXT using Xilia to use spare workstation) [A technique now routinely used for home PCs as well]
* Music: Bostich by Yello
* Review of a Biography of Edward Jenner by Richard Fisher (history of vaccination)
* Music: Promise Me by Beverley Craven
* Part 2 of the interview with Bruce Gyngell
* Live Report: Andy visits the Hi-Fi show - Nakamichi cassette, tuner, high end DAT, B&W speakers
* Letter from Matthew Serle of Tadley
* Music: After The Love Is Gone by Earth, Wind & Fire
* Live Report: More from the Hi-Fi show
* More about Showtime Radio failing to raise the money for the FM Independent National Radio franchise, which is how Classic FM won
* Music: I Know You Got Soul by Eric B. & Rakim
* Fuzzy Logic finds a home in domestic appliances including robots, and the Mezzo F7 from JVC and Sanyo which employs fuzzy logic recording level control CDs
* Ad for Radio Caroline CD
* Music: When You're Young by The Jam
* Holly, who has been working for Voluntary Services Overseas, talks about TV and radio in Nepal, amongst other things
* Music: Walk Away Renee by The Four Tops
* Letter from someone who works for the British government in Moscow and uses the DC777
* Music: Is There Anybody Out There? by Pink Floyd
* David Hutson from Northern Telecom Social Club adversiting Golden Age of Pirate Radio event on October 19th (we cover this in a later programme)
* Next week; interview with Peter Chicago, Radio Caroline engineer
* 2.5 minutes of Sparks theme (Tender Force by Space)

Duration: 1h31m28, Originally broadcast: 14th October 1991

MP3 file size: 52.3 MB
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Sparks Programme M17: Palplus - Peter Chicago interviewed - Amstrad's videophone - SSB on shortwave - Letter from the DTI - Hospital radio on FM

A real find with lots of Radio Caroline and radio regulatory content

Presented by Andy Burnham and Trevor Brook with Jonathan Marks

* Introduction
* Music: Too Many Walls by Cathy Dennis
* Letter from M Keenham of Cosham, Portsmouth
* Eureka 637 Pal+ widescreen HD TV planned for terrestrial TV
* Heart attack early warning by fibre optic blood sensing
* Music: The Second Summer of Love by Danny Wilson
* Trevor interviews Radio Caroline engineer Peter Chicago at his home - premonitions of anchor issues - become legal or stay offshore?
* Music: Fairplay by Soul II Soul
* Letter from Tampio Salmiavi in Tampere, Finland
* How the Top 100 record charts are fiddled
* Music: Take These Chains by 10cc
* Amstrad's Alan Sugar sees a big future for home videophones
* DC777 Ad
* Minister John Redwood announces nine network operator applications as the BT monopoly ends
* Letter from Lefan Bruno near Paris
* Music: Have A Cigar by Pink Floyd
* Sparks theme and introduction
* Metres to Microwaves, historic radar book review - magnetrons, CV6 triodes and all that
* Music: When I Grow Up by Michelle Shocked
* Changing to single sideband, SSB, for short wave... or not, say the BBC and Trevor - nobody is thinking of the ugly AGC problem
* Letter from Peter Grenfel in Western Oamaru, New Zealand - hearing both 12,255 and 6,205
* Music: You Could Look It Up by T-Bone Burnett
* Radio Jackie LP Ad
* Music: Everybody Needs Somebody to Love by Solomon Burke
* Letter to Radiofax from M.J. Mitchell, Chief Exec, DTI's Radiocommunications Agency 'no mechanism by which you could transmit legally in the HF broadcasting bands'.
* Long letter from Jennifer Jones of Cheltenham, extremely well informed about the workings of officialdom and media control - GCHQ employee's pseudonym we wondered?
* Music: Where Are You Baby? by Betty Boo
* Radio Caroline CD Ad
* Home Work Clears the Air and telecommuters - saving polluting journeys by working from home by computer
* NAHBO reports Redhill Hospital Radio to be first to go on FM 87.6MHz (never happened)
* Cable TV in the USA uses a 'worm' to zap ROMs of non-paying pirate viewers of premium channels
* Music: Lip Up Fatty by Bad Manners

Duration: 1h35m47, Originally broadcast: 21st October 1991

MP3 file size: 54.8 MB
Click button to listen

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Sparks Technical and Media News - listen to the some of the very first editions.

Technical information:
From the original cassettes, programmes have been:

  • Processed through a Surrey Electronics Variable Emphasis Limiter 3
  • Digitised using an external 48kHz codec and transferred to PC over a digital optical link.
  • Edited in Audacity on Suse Linux
  • Converted to MP3 using Lame on a dual 2.8GHz Xeon CPU system

Page produced by Andy Burnham and Trevor Brook
First published: 25 March 2012


Recommended Links

Media Network Vintage Vault

Digital Spy Radio Forum

British DX Club

Radio Caroline

The Ross Revenge

Radio Jackie

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