WSTB AM 1280
Left to right: Al LaFavor, Larry Small, David Weathington, Dale Heatherington, Bill Meecham
by Dale Heatherington
When I came to Southern Tech in fall of 1967, WSTB had been on the air about a year serving dorm 1 ( Norton) and dorm 2 (Howell) with top 40 music played by student DJs. It was very low power and unlicensed. The signal emanated from homemade AM transmitters in janitors closets on the top floor of the dorms. They fed tuned loop antennas strung around the roofs which concentrated the RF and limited coverage to only the dorms. During this time engineer George Vaughn rebuilt the system with one transmitter on 640KHZ . The transmitter was located in dorm 1. There was coax taped to army field telephone cable hung in the air between the two dorms. Audio from the studio came into the janitors closet on a leased telephone line. In the studio, located in room 273 on the second floor of the classroom building, was a couple of turntables, a tape deck and a homemade passive 6 channel mixer board. During the fall quarter of 1967 I built a tube based (12AT7) mixer amp to improve the performance of the existing passive mixer board. This was done to boost the output and stop interaction between channels.
WSTB sometimes suffered interference from distant AM stations on 640KHZ so it was decided to move to a frequency with much less interference. Fellow engineer George Vaughn and I built a new and much better transmitter on 1280 khz and re-tuned the loops. The 1280 transmitter was much more stable and had very clean audio compared to the old one. I used a pair of crystals in the 7 MHZ range exactly 1280 KHZ apart and mixed them together to create the 1280 KHZ carrier. Since they drifted with temperature exactly the same the carrier was very stable. Due to time and budget constraints, I chose the two crystals from a bin at J.B. Kramers bargain basement of surplus goodies instead of ordering a custom crystal. The transmitter performed very well, sounded great and at 1280 KHZ never suffered from interference.
Inspired by a trip to WREK-FM at GA Tech and a look at the schematic of their Gates Sta-Level, I built a pretty good automatic level control for WSTB in the spring of 1969. Like the Gates product it had a threshold circuit that prevented the gain from ramping up during periods of silence. It can be seen in the photo above (chassis on right with round meter).
Most of the WSTB staff were connected by an intercom line known as "The SPONGE line". It was a single wire plus ground multi-drop system with full duplex audio. Wire was strung between windows and over the roof. The link between dorms was done by using the army field cable that supported the coax between the dorms. Each "station" on the line required an audio amplifier, speaker, microphone and matching transformer. Even the WSTB studio was on the system. It was possible to actually do DJ shifts from dorm rooms. Many pranks were played and much fun was had by all.
One winter the coax/army field cable between the dorms iced up and was in danger of breaking. I grounded the Norton dorm end and plugged the dorm 2 end into the hot side of an outlet in my dorm room (212). The steel cable acted as a heater and the ice melted. Circuit breakers held, disaster averted.
During the 1969 bathtub race we wanted full campus coverage so spectators could listen on portable radios. To do that we'd have to go pirate! I opened the loop antennas so they operated more like dipoles and actually radiated like a real AM radio station. It worked great and the FCC did not notice.
There was a drive-in theater next to the campus and the screen was clearly visible from Dorm 1. Several individuals who shall remain anonymous built a tiny 35 mhz transmitter and installed it in one of the drive-in speakers. It had a photo cell to keep from draining the battery during the day. A receiver on Dorm 2 captured the movie audio and distributed it to the SPONGE line. One night the audio was broadcast on WSTB. This was a big hit with the occupants of dorm1 but not so much with the administration who quickly put an end to our fun.
Below are some WSTB photos and audio clips mostly from 1969. Enjoy.
Station IDs and promosStation IDs
Brenton Wood does a WSTB promo
DJ recrutement spot
Attention new students #1
Attention new students #2
Fall '69 promo #1
Fall '69 promo #2
DJ Sample clipsGlenn Meadows
Bill Meecham #1
Bill Meecham #2
Bill Meecham #3
Bill Meecham (weather on 2-13-1969)
Brian Carling #1
Brian Carling #2
Brian Carling #3
Brian Carling #4
Unknown DJ #1
Texas Ranger #1
Texas Ranger #2
Texas Ranger #3 Free Cokes
Texas Ranger #4
George Vaughn #1
George Vaughn #2
George Vaughn #3
Crazy Jimmy Price
Price makes a joke about Heatherington's IQ on the air
Heatherington then pranks Price by sending delayed WSTB audio back to him causing incoherent speech
The Papa True Love incident
Al LaFavor paints the rock
Clips from the spring '69 Bath Tub Race
WSTB reporter Al LaFavor at the tub race
This page built by 1968-69 WSTB engineer Dale A. Heatherington.