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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 Miner's Strike

The cassettes are missing for the first two Sparks Programmes - presumably M1 and M2, 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: Big Band Jazz

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
Click to listen or download

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
Click to listen or download

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
Click to listen or download

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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
Published: 25 March 2012


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