(i)Pirate Radio — It’s not cool until hipster yuppies are doing it

Back in June the blogosphere was alive with the discovery that a cheapo Part 15 FM transmitter for the iPod could be hacked to broadcast a little further than the typical fifteen or twenty feet. Of course, this wasn’t news to anyone familiar with low-power FM and micropower broadcasting, since these cheap little transmitters have been around for more than 10 years, when the BA1404 transmitter on a chip became available.

Ever since then stories have been circulating around the blogosphere about people running their own “pirate” stations with their pricey iPods and cheapo transmitters. Now ABC News is all over it with a gushing story, leaving aside all the typical mainstream press suscipicion of “illegal” activity or any need to see what the legality might be, or what the FCC might say about mobile broadcasting without a license.

Even though the lead iPirate subject in the story says that he’s playing, “some profanity. Comedy, R-rated comedy, Chris Rock’s early stuff” on his car-based iPod station, the story doesn’t even blink at the suggestion that he’s playing material that multi-million dollar FCC fines are made of. But of course, he can’t be threatening or dangerous, because he’s clearly a law abiding middle class citizen “wading through traffic on the way to his New Canaan, Conn., corporate consulting job,” using his uber-hip $400 techno-yuppie toy.

If you want to quit playing with toys and get serious about broadcasting, for the $300 – $400 it costs to buy an iPod, you can get a much better legal low-power microtransmitter or a real FM transmitter with 1, 10 or more watts and still have some change (like $100 – $300) left over to buy a cheaper, less trendy mp3 player to drive it, or even build a small studio.

But then, that might be truly dangerous to society, since you’d be eschewing a hip toy in order to actually focus on broadcasting, maybe even using equipment that would reach more than “four car-lengths.” It would go from a harmless lark on the morning commute to being real pirate radio, the kind of thing that could get you busted under state law in Florida.

However, when your pirate is a safe middle-class corporate consultant commuter using the ultimate gadget of the moment, it’s just cool, hip and unthreatening. He won’t be agitating for change, or worse, revolution. Just playing some Chris Rock and profanity to piss off the squares on their way to work in the adjacent cubicle.