Our perception of hackers is that they greatly prefer up-to-the-nanosecond technology over the sort of gadgetry used by previous generations. But that doesn't mean they reject any methodology more than twenty minutes old.
Case in point: Denhac, the Denver hackerspace located at 975 East 58th Avenue, is in the midst of preparing to apply for a low-power radio station -- and the folks there are looking for members of the community to take part.
"A few of us have been interested in radio frequency communications for a while," notes Jason Simons, a spokesman for the nonprofit 501(c)(3). "And when one of our members said some of the low-power FM spectrum is going to be opening up this fall, we decided to look into how we could start a low-power FM station."
A gathering at Denhac, from the hackerspace's Facebook page.
The "low-power" term suggests a piddly amount of juice -- something on par with a walkie-talkie. But as Simons points out, the truth is far more potent. In his words, "A low-power station usually transmits at around 100-150 megahertz, with a reachable area, depending on elevation and other factors, of anywhere from three to seven miles. If we get the right antenna and the right engineering, we could probably hit downtown -- so we could be looking at half-a-million people who would be able to listen."
Not that getting permission to start a station is as simple as applying. Denhac needs to raise money to purchase a transmitter, as well as assemble a plan that convinces assorted government types that it deserves that slice o' spectrum. "We're a nonprofit for educational purposes, so that's a point in our favor," Simons says. "But we have to have so many hours of original programming and community involvement."
Fortunately, the preexisting Denhac schedule provides a starting point. "We are a very community-involved hackerspace," he maintains. "We do a lot of free classes and try to educate the community on art, physics and lots of other things people feel schools are deficient in these days.
Denhac at Denver Comic Con, also from the Denhac Facebook page.
"The formats of so many stations are so unoriginal and boring and not really oriented to the community at large," he continues. "It's just the same songs over and over again. And we want to take the radio waves back and deliver content to the community that's highly customizable and not susceptible to the whims of a huge radio conglomerate -- a good array of programming and music that you don't hear on your 106.7s and your 105.9s and that's directed toward local audiences."
According to Simons, a two-week application window will open this fall, toward the end of October, and Denhac crew members feel confident they can satisfy the vast majority of application requirements -- with a little help from friends. "We're looking for people in the community who are interested in producing content. Because we're a 501(c)(3), we can take donations, and if they're over $50 in a year, we can give a tax-deductible receipt. But we also would love to be contacted by people who want to volunteer time or effort, if you're a radio enthusiast or just want to learn more about it. And the content portion is really important. We have to have eight or twelve hours a day of original content and we can't rebroadcast it more than twice -- so we'll have to constantly create new and original content that's community oriented."
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More from our Media archive circa December 2008: "Hear from the man behind KBFR, Boulder's pirate radio station."