RX4M (Radio Experiment on 40 Meters) put in more time and hours to overcome obscurity, only to quickly fall back into obscurity, thanks to a pirate-unfriendly location in Washington State. Even by the mid-‘80s, few DXers or pirate listeners had heard RX4M, and few remembered it.
The first difficulty for RX4M to overcome was the poor communications of the late ‘70s. When the station began broadcasting in August 1979, there was no Internet and all DX news either was discovered via monthly bulletin or magazine, meaning a minimum delay of two months for information to be reported.
The next problem was the Pacific Northwest. At the time, very few shortwave DXers and almost no pirate listeners were located in the region. Some young pirate listeners were networking in southern California, toward Los Angeles, but even that was a long haul from the Seattle area.
Despite a nightly broadcast schedule and boasting two transmitters (20 and 100 watts), no DXers in either NASWA or the Newark News Radio Club (two of the largest shortwave clubs of the time, and two of the best for pirate news) reported RX4M until April 1980 on 7370 kHz.
The few listeners who remember RX4M know it as possibly the only North American pirate to operate with a regular shortwave station, like a licensed outlet. It was on nightly from *0550-0630* UTC with a variety of programs produced by different station staff: News with Tony Giles, Post Office Box 80 with Aaron Richardson, DX Forum with Mickey Anderson, Let’s Talk Technical with Larry Adams, and the Good Morning Show with Jerry Nelson. Other time slots were filled with old-time radio programs, such as Burns & Allen, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, Sherlock Holmes, Fred Harris & Alice Faye.
A point of confusion for RX4M, is that it nicknamed itself “The Voice of Clipperton” and was often logged as such. In 1978, one of the most publicized amateur radio DXpeditions was to Clipperton Island, a tiny unpopulated coral atoll off the west coast of southern Mexico. As proof of the immense publicity of the Clipperton DXpedition, the hams on the atoll made more than 31,000 contacts while enduring intense sunburn on the unprotected island. As a result, many people thought that RX4M was located on Clipperton Island. Actually, the station named itself after the Dentron Clipperton amateur radio amplifier that could pump out 1,500 watts. In an attempt to avoid confusion, the station spelled it as “The Voice of Cliperton” on the QSLs.Even the broadcasting of old-time radio at the time was revolutionary. Today, OTR shows are a staple on LPFM, weekend low-budget licensed AM radio stations, MP3 compilations, and YouTube. But, in 1979, few OTR outlets were available, let alone known tape traders.
Through the summer of 1980, RX4M slowly gathered more listeners. Mickey Anderson also announced broadcasts on 4810 and 9620 kHz, but these frequencies were not reported. RX4M finally peaked in the late summer when the station switched to late broadcasts on 7390 kHz and shows on 21750 kHz from *0035-0115* UTC. In early autumn alone, RX4M was reported in FL, CA, WA, MT, IN, ND, CO, MI, TN, NY, and New Zealand.
In those days, regularly scheduled broadcasts were rewarded with more than just reception reports. On October 25, 1980, the FCC closed the station. Little is known about the raid, except that the FCC agent told the RX4M operator that the station was audible in Europe on 21750 kHz. Mickey Anderson sent a “closed” press release to NASWA and said that after 14 months of continuous broadcasting, “We feel that our termination was premature, as we were left with enough half-hour, unused, old-time radio programs to last for the next eight years…we will return!”
RX4M, the Voice of Cliperton, was never heard again and no shortwave pirate since has adopted its style. At a time when many DXers were bitterly anti-pirate, many reporters said that RX4M programming sounded very professional.
No known RX4M recordings exist.
©2011 Andrew Yoder
There is good reason to believe that the station staff at least participated in the production of the Unofficial Radio Bulletin (URB); there were three or four issues of the newsletter which featured pirate radio information.
Monitoring Times May, 1985