Social-site 1963: teen-pioneers made DIY cable.

12 Jun


Whereas for years we were all informed by the BBC and CBS’s of this world, we are now living thru a change, in our various cultures, that is the result, once again, of New Technology and the New Frontier of Citizen Journalism created by it.

It is a platform that is still emerging and developing, and just like Film Making and Television before it, rules and practices are being made up by those who choose to use it, and who create new words needed to support these evolving practices.

Of course the whole shooting match is a living hell for the establishment and governments world-wide. Personal communication was the one thing that they determined should not be given. And this mind-set continued until the Cell Phone became affordable.

The extent to which the government would go, here in the UK, is demonstrated by their actions in respect of the cable that we laid in the fields, behind the houses at Whitleigh, via which we could all chat and exchange music.

When the story broke in the Western Evening Herald, all hell broke loose, and it resulted in the council Parks Department arriving with a team of men to dig it up and recover the cable.

Derek Jacobs was interviewed by the Herald, and John Tozer involved his MP, but to no avail, as it was the General Post Office that was the only body in the country that was legally entitled to carry a communication cable from one property to another.

Sensing there could be trouble, and possibly a wider interest, the MP involved, and the council, and Home Office, decided to play it down, referring to the whole thing as a sort of prank being carried out by Naughty school boys who had probably gained some knowledge at a radio club or in the classroom.

Somewhere in all my junk there is a copy of the minutes of the committee meeting that was held every week to thrash out the running of it. It was started by us schoolboys but after seeing it in operation some adults wanted to get involved and it was next door to me, Mr Byrne’s house, where the dining room would be turned into a committee room one evening a week.

There were rules about when people could come on and put on a show during the day, some only came on at weekends, it was a community entertainment service for a small number of families and did no harm.

When there were no volunteers to put out a show, people would chat like ham radio knowing anyone else on the network could be listening in. We called the cable ‘The Line’ and that is how everyone refered to it in conversation in the street or at committee.

It was a chance meeting between Derek Jacobs father and a reporter from the Western Morning News that led to Derek being interviewed and the trouble starting.

Were it not for that it would have carried on with no one knowing anything about it. I don’t think any of the adults involved thought they could possibly be breaking the law, we boys KNEW we were.

We wanted to be working on Radio Caroline which we all thought one day we would. The Line was to be our training ground while we waited to leave school, and for that eventual call from Ronan at Caroline to offer us a contract, a call that never came.

Looking back, it was the earliest example I can think of in terms of what is happening now.



4 Responses to “Social-site 1963: teen-pioneers made DIY cable.”

  1. Vincent June 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    You can see their point.

    John Stonehouse (the guy who faked his suicide – then turned up in Australia – an event referenced in the title sequence of “The Fall And Rise Of Reggie Perrin”) was the then-Minister of Posts And Telecommunications who tried to JAM Radio North Sea.

    They responded by running a campaign which got Harold Wilson ousted from NUMBER TEN!

  2. Cy Quick June 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    Then Citizen’s Band radio came into being in the 1970s. Big time deal in USA and banned in UK. Many thousands of Brits defied the law and used CB. After demos (including a 500-vehicle convoy in 1980 meeting at Heston Services and driving into the West End, unintentionally snarling up traffic for hours) won CB on FM.

  3. Alfie June 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Well done for actually DOING something anti-establishment in the ‘60s rather than (as I did) simply moaning a lot and passively joining the FRA! Mind you I was a very minor civil servant from 1969 to 1974 and so may have been a teensie bit reluctant to draw attention to myself for career reasons.

    You do, however, make me wonder whether it is only UK Governments, (out of the so-called democratic states) who suffer from this “Thou-shalt-not-talk-one-to-another” paranoia!

    Even in the 60s it wasn’t new – my understanding is that the post-war Radio Luxembourg had its power restricted by the intervention of the British Government so that the transmissions couldn’t reach us clearly in case the Commies took over mainland Europe and started telling us things that the Tories didn’t agree with.

    Then fast forward to the early 80s and the craze for Citizens Band Radio – a way for people to talk to one another, albeit in a horribly mangled semi-American slangy way! So how did the powers that be in the UK react to THAT possibility?

    Restricted it to FM kit with a range of about a mile, that’s how! AND then they made everyone who still wanted to use it pay TEN QUID for a licence! Which, with the exception of truckers and a few adolescent boys, killed THAT off as a mass communications concept.

    That’s all history now and I’m older and wiser BUT the first time anyone in Government tries either to licence, register or otherwise control or restrict Internet usage, I for one will be behind the barricades and doing civil disobedience on a scale the Whitehall Weasels will have trouble believing!


  4. Cy Quick June 13, 2011 at 5:00 am #

    Sean Street, Professor of Radio, in the Bournemouth Media School, at Bournemouth University, in his book A Concise History of British Radio 1922-2002 (published 2002) documents (to my delight) the radio situation before my birth in 1940. Luxy was there before the War, but it was on Long Wave in English, not 208 metres Medium Wave. On my father’s 1936 Ekco table radio were names such as Fecamp and Paris PTT, which Sean details, from the International Broadcasting Company, as the offshore pioneers called themselves, the heroes of the listener back then. ISBN 1 903053 14 5 is the number to order.

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