A Publication of the Alabama Historical Radio Society December 2023
NOTE FROM PRESIDENT WAG
Our next monthly business meeting will be the brief year-end meeting to include an annual review of Society activities, election of 2024 officers and board members, and the Holiday party and fellowship. This will be on Thursday, December 28th, 2023, at 6:00 PM in-person at the shop; I hope everyone planning to attend has let Steven Westbrook know or signed in on our list of attendees at the shop or just come anyway! We will of course introduce our new year with calendar presentations, perhaps reflective of our collective sense of humor…
In accordance with AHRS Bylaws, the annual nominating committee (Dave Johnson as chairman, “Doc” Holladay, and John Outland) have finalized the slate of candidates to stand for election: All current officers (President, VP, Secretary, and Treasurer) and the 3 term-expiring board members have offered to serve again (Dave Cisco, John Outland, and Charles McCrary). We will accept additional nominees from the floor or if anyone is interested, please make your desire known to the Nominating Commitee or an officer listed at the bottom of this newsletter. One simply must be a dues-paying member in good standing to be a nominee.
Speaking of dues, 2024’s are payable now through the end of January. They are still only $25 by check, cash, (in-person or by mail) or PayPal via our website.
Boyd Bailey’s electronics class on Saturday, December 2ndcontinued on capacitors and the upcoming one, January 6th (9:00AM in-person and via Zoom), should complete the topic and perhaps venture into dial lamps and their place in the circuitry of antique radios. The link will be sent soon.
Our next auction will be after the first of 2024 as we restock items and finish the Holiday season.
The BirmingHAMfest https://birminghamfest.org is still a way off, but mark your calendars that it is a couple of weeks later than usual: Friday, March 15th (4:00PM-7:00 PM) and Saturday, the 16th (8:30AM-4:00 PM, 2024, at the Trussville Civic Center.
Our project to catalog our library, radio holdings & archives and place this information into a web-searchable platform (Past Perfect) has continued. We have purchased the computer hardware to allow us to consolidate all our documentation of library, equipment and paper & photographic holdings in one place. We have requested others who use the program, such as the Antique Wireless Association (AWA) and the Alabama Department of Archive & History, to help us plan and launch the project in the most efficient fashion.
The Society has received generous grants during the prior several months from the Holle Family Foundation, the McCrary Family, and the RC&D Council. These will largely be directed to fund the Past Perfect initiative.
Members may have information of interest relating to Alabama radio history; thank you if this has been shared already with AHRS. However, if you have something relevant that has not come to our attention, please let leadership know so it can be included in our project.
As always, please suggest topics for the newsletter and programs for the monthly business meetings that will resume in standard fashion January 22nd, 2024.
On a personal note, I received a couple of Christmas gifts from a beloved daughter-in-law, a book of “Dad jokes” and a coffee mug embossed with the term “Pepere”. For those of you who think in binary, I thought this “Dad joke” was clever.
A little perspective on the term “Pepere”: Growing up in New Orleans, a term of endearment for one’s paternal grandfather was, and remains, Pepere, so when I was about to become one, I wanted to be addressed that way, but got no traction. One reason was the related term for grandma is Mamere, which my wife quickly rejected (“I am not a mare” and her folks were Southern but not from LA—though her dad was from Foley in Lower Alabama). Our French-Canadian couple friends were also appalled by the term as used by my family; in Montreal, it means a grumpy old man or curmudgeon (which may also be true in my case). The husband is a retired general practice doctor interested in AI and he previously got my bio generated; it was really inaccurate but worth a laugh. He then sent me the AI-generated picture of a pepere repairing an antique radio (far-right), which I do find endearing. The radio looks European to me but there’s nothing I can recognize as a name; does anyone feel it resembles a particular brand or model? To conclude, as 3 of 4 grandkids are teens with the other not far behind, perhaps I can campaign again to be Pepere; my wife is
fossilized as Granna.
Respectfully submitted in the spirit of the Holiday Season,
Max Headroom is a fictional character played by actor Matt Frewer. Advertised as "the first computer-generated TV presenter", Max was known for his biting commentary on a variety of topical issues, arrogant wit, stuttering, and pitch-shifting voice. The character was created by George Stone, Annabel Jankel, and Rocky Morton. Max was advertised as "computer-generated", and some believed this, but he was actually actor Frewer wearing prosthetic makeup, contact lenses, and a plastic molded suit, and sitting in front of a blue screen. Harsh lighting and other editing and recording effects heighten the illusion of a CGI character. According to his creators, Max's personality was meant to be a satirical exaggeration of the worst tendencies of television hosts in the 1980s, who wanted to appeal to youth culture yet were not a part of it. Frewer proposed that Max reflected an innocence, largely influenced not by mentors and life experience but by information absorbed from television.
Max Headroom debuted in April 1985 on Channel 4 in the British-made cyberpunk TV movie Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future, his origin story. In the movie, Edison Carter (portrayed by Frewer) is a journalist fleeing enemies into a parking garage, crashing his motorcycle through the entrance barrier reading "Max Headroom 2.3 metres". At the time, UK clearance height signs used the phrase "Max Headroom" as opposed to "Max Height". While Carter is unconscious, an AI program based on his mind is created. The AI develops a personality identified as "Max Headroom", and becomes a TV host who exists only on broadcast signals and computer systems. Like Carter, Max openly challenges the corporations that run his world, but using commentary and sarcastic wit rather than journalism.
Two days after the TV-movie was broadcast, Max hosted Channel 4's The Max Headroom Show, a TV programme where he introduces music videos, comments on various topics, and eventually interviews guests before a live studio audience. During its second and third year, it also aired in the US on Cinemax. Max Headroom became a global spokesperson for New Coke, appearing on many TV commercials with the catchphrase "Catch the wave!". After the cancellation of The Max Headroom Show, Matt Frewer portrayed Max and Carter in the 1987 American TV drama series Max Headroom on ABC. The series returns to Carter and Max challenging the status quo of a cyberpunk world, now portraying them as allies and providing a slightly altered version of Max's origin. The series was cancelled during its second year.
Max's appearance and style of speech has influenced and been referenced by different media, such as Ron Headrest, a fictional character in the comic strip Doonesbury who was a political parody of Ronald Reagan, and Eminem's 2013 "Rap God" video, in which the rapper resembles Max. Max Headroom was emulated by an unknown person in a Max mask while hijacking a local television broadcast signal in 1987, later referred to as the "Max Headroom Incident". To advertise and promote Channel 4 and its subsidiary channels shifting from broadcast to digital signal, an aged Max Headroom (again portrayed by Frewer) appeared in new commercials in 2007 and 2008. Max has a cameo in the 2015 film Pixels.
On 22 November 1987, an unidentified person wearing a Max Headroom mask and costume carried out broadcast signal hijacking of two television stations in Chicago, Illinois. During each signal interruption, the hijacker speaks with distorted audio and stands before a swiveling corrugated panel to mimic Max Headroom's geometric background effect. He referenced Max Headroom's endorsement of Coca-Cola, the TV series Clutch Cargo, WGN anchor Chuck Swirsky, and "all the greatest world newspaper nerds" (a reference to WGN's call letters, which stand for "World's Greatest Newspaper").
The first "Max Headroom Incident" was 25 seconds during the sports segment of WGN-TV's 9:00 p.m. news broadcast. Approximately two hours later, the second signal hijacking was about 90 seconds during PBS affiliate WTTW's broadcast of Doctor Who ("The Horror of Fang Rock"). The second video ended with the hijacker apparently exposing buttocks and being spanked with a flyswatter. Normal programming then quickly resumed. These video pirates have never been identified.
Methods and Investigations
The broadcast intrusion was achieved by sending a more powerful microwave transmission to the stations' broadcast towers than the stations were sending themselves, triggering a capture effect. This was a difficult task in 1987, but was possible before American television stations switched from analog to digital signals in 2009. Experts have said that the stunt required extensive technical expertise and a significant amount of transmitting power, and that the pirate broadcast likely originated from somewhere in the line of sight of both stations' broadcast towers, which were atop two tall buildings in downtown Chicago.
No one has ever claimed responsibility for the stunt. Speculation about the identities of "Max" and his co-conspirators has centered on the theories that the prank was either an inside job by a disgruntled employee (or former employee) of WGN or was carried out by members of Chicago's underground hacker community. However, despite an official law enforcement investigation in the immediate aftermath of the incident and many unofficial investigations, inquiries, and online speculation in the ensuing decades, the identities and motives of the hijackers remain a mystery.
Soon after the intrusion, an FCC official was quoted in news reporting that the perpetrators faced a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to a year in prison. However, the five-year statute of limitations was surpassed in 1992, so the persons responsible for the intrusion would no longer face criminal punishment should their identities be revealed.
Quote of the Month
“Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand”
We meet every Saturday (unless a Holiday weekend) at 8:30 A.M. until around 11:30 A.M., at the one-story AHRS Shop at the corner of 8th Avenue North and 18th Street, (1801 8th Avenue North, Birmingham, AL 35203). Please use the rear (Southeast) entrance.
The Shop is open on Tuesdays at 8:30 A.M. until around 11:30 A.M. Note that parking can be a problem on Tuesdays, so you may have to find street parking occasionally.
Regular monthly members meetings are on the fourth Monday night starting at 7:00 PM with the Executive Meeting starting at 6:30 PM
Please come join us!
The electronics classes are generally on “Zoom” and “in-person” at the AHRS Shop, typically the first Saturday of each month (except when something special is taking place, then we agree on an alternative Saturday)
Check your emails for the schedule and how to participate.
We start from the beginning Ohms Law, inductors, resistor and Capacitors color codes, as well as what each component does within the radio circuits. We also teach how to use test equipment used in the repairing of radios. We teach troubleshooting radio troubles, as well as how to read a radio diagram.
Currently the class is studying advance topics relating to troubleshooting and project radio repair. We are retooling our website in hopes of archiving prior classes for those who may have missed a prior class. Email will provide timely details on date, topics & links.
There are coil winding classes, and one-on-one repair help. Come join these classes!
Membership dues are $25.00 a year, payable beginning in January. If you have questions about your dues, you can contact Treasurer Mike Woodruff at 205-823-7204. Dues can be mailed to AHRS at P.O. Box 131418, Birmingham, Alabama 35213 or paid on-line at https://alhrs.org
Be sure and check out our website at https://alhrs.org, which has copies of all newsletters from 2006 to the present (click on News), videos, photo galleries, museum, Old Time Radio columns, Projects, Reading Rooms, Archives, and Contact Information. Within the next few months we hope to update our website and add additional content and new capabilities
President – Richard “Wag” Waguespack
Vice President – Steven Westbrook
Recording Secretary – Grady Shook
Treasurer – Mike Woodruff
Boyd Bailey, Member and Instructor
Newsletter Editor/Webmaster – Steven Westbrook
Youtube Channel: Alabama Historical Radio Society - YouTube