"Lucky Seven" (Pirate TV Station Syracuse 1977)
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Thread: "Lucky Seven" (Pirate TV Station Syracuse 1977)

  1. #1

    "Lucky Seven" (Pirate TV Station Syracuse 1977)

    I've been trying for some time to find more information on a pirate TV station that briefly appeared in upstate New York in the 70's. What precious little information I have comes from both a few brief mentions on the Internet, and my own vague memory of news articles. The slogan used was "Lucky Seven," and it appeared on channel 7 in Syracuse, New York for a single weekend in 1977, then was never seen again. I recall a news article that said it was a rather polished affair for a pirate, even having an animated "ID" showing a hand rolling a pair of dice that come up "seven." Allegedly, it is the first known instance of a pirate TV station in the U.S., at least from the standpoint of originating its own programming. (As we have covered in this forum, unlicensed passive translators probably existed from the early days of TV on). Maybe even the only such instance (unless you count things like W10BM in Kentucky, which is operating on a canceled license and therefore technically a "pirate").

    I wonder if any New York posters on this board have any more nuggets of information about "Lucky Seven?" Such as, what exactly did they broadcast? (I believe some of the contemporary news articles described the programming, but that was a long time ago and I don't recall details.) What weekend in 1977 did it appear? Did anyone who posts here actually see it? How good of a signal did they put out, and what kind of coverage did they achieve? Has anyone ever learned who was behind the station and what sort of equipment they used? And what was their motive? Did they have some ax to grind, or was it (more likely) just some tech-minded young guys who wanted to see if they could get away with it?

    There weren't too many VCRs around yet in 1977, but I often wonder if anyone who caught the station rolled tape on it? That would be one of the oddest and rarest "old clip" finds in history if it ever turned up.






  2. #2

    Re: "Lucky Seven" (Pirate TV Station Syracuse 1977)

    Actually, the "Lucky 7" pirate operated during April, 1978. It operated for two nights providing such unexpected television entertainment such as the movies "Behind The Green Door" and "Deep Throat", among some other assorted "goodies". Word has it that it was the brainchild of some Syracuse University communications students who used some equipment, normally used for closed circuit broadcasts on Channel 7 on the University's cable system and simply found the necessary means to amplify the signal and send it on its' merry way via a makeshift antenna cut for Channel 7. Considering the height of "Mount Olympus" (where Syracuse University is situated), "line-of-sight" was for many miles around the Greater Syracuse area. Eventhough VCR's were hard to come by on the consumer market at the time, UMatic video tape decks were used by practically every educational institution around the country. Since Syracuse U. is a well known communications school (with a big Radio and TV production facility), well..... you get the idea.

    Of course, 31 years have gone since the famous two night stint of "Lucky 7". I'm sure the statute of limitations has long since elapsed. The funny thing was, the FCC did not get any complaints from the viewing public until AFTER the two night stint of "Lucky 7" ended. The "Lucky 7" incident made the national headlines around the country. I would love to see if one the "Lucky 7" crew could fill us in on how it was done. It staggers the imagination! Of course, don't try this at home, folks!

  3. #3
    Rob Jason
    Guest

    Re: "Lucky Seven" (Pirate TV Station Syracuse 1977)

    I saw "Lucky 7" broadcasts. I was watching on a 1969 B & W Panasonic 12-inch portable, with a one-pole VHF antenna. They also ran "Rocky" (not even a year old then), and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest". I saw it in Liverpool, near route 81 (Galeville, to be exact), maybe 4 four miles as the crow flies from S.U. The signal was very poor. I could not get audio, and it was snowy.

    The "real" stations did stories on it. I know one station that still has it's archives from back then. I bet they have it on tape.

    I had heard they actually built a VHF transmitter. I don't mean to be arrogant, but I know who did it, but I dare not say. The brains of the organization went on to put a TV station on the air in a northeast Pennsylvania city. Put it that way.

    When I worked at ch. 3/WSTM in the early 90s, I mentioned the man's name and "Lucky 7" to then-assistant Chief Engineer Gary Hartman. This is a man who NEVER got mad, NEVER swore. Suddenly his face turned beet-red, he stiffened up and said "that son-of-a-***ch stole parts from us to build that!"

  4. #4

    Re: "Lucky Seven" (Pirate TV Station Syracuse 1977)

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Jason
    I saw "Lucky 7" broadcasts. I was watching on a 1969 B & W Panasonic 12-inch portable, with a one-pole VHF antenna. They also ran "Rocky" (not even a year old then), and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest". I saw it in Liverpool, near route 81 (Galeville, to be exact), maybe 4 four miles as the crow flies from S.U. The signal was very poor. I could not get audio, and it was snowy.

    The "real" stations did stories on it. I know one station that still has it's archives from back then. I bet they have it on tape.

    I had heard they actually built a VHF transmitter. I don't mean to be arrogant, but I know who did it, but I dare not say. The brains of the organization went on to put a TV station on the air in a northeast Pennsylvania city. Put it that way.

    When I worked at ch. 3/WSTM in the early 90s, I mentioned the man's name and "Lucky 7" to then-assistant Chief Engineer Gary Hartman. This is a man who NEVER got mad, NEVER swore. Suddenly his face turned beet-red, he stiffened up and said "that son-of-a-***ch stole parts from us to build that!"
    I know the area, somewhat, with my wife having relatives in Liverpool. Considering the distance from your location (about 4 miles from the University) and the height of average terrain of "Mount Olympus", I tend to think that "Lucky 7" was running no more than 10 or maybe 100 watts (maximum) or their antenna was not very efficient. They probably used a cable modulator (probably Blonder-Tongue type) "rocked" for Channel 7 as the "exciter" and was able to feed it into a home-brew RF deck (maybe a two stage amplifier) to give the signal some punch. I heard that the local access channel for S.U. coincidentally at the time happened to be on Channel 7. (Man, what a coincidence! ) The probable reason why you had problems with the audio on "Lucky 7" was the amplifier they used was not linear enough to handle all 6 Mhz of the TV signal. It probably favored the video carrier more than the audio.

    I had a feeling that the individual in question, who you mentioned that you knew was the brains of the operation, was the same person who went on to "bigger and better things" in the broadcast industry. I'm sure others would concur. Of course, "Lucky 7" is history. But, it's hard to believe it was over 30 years ago.

  5. #5
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    Re: "Lucky Seven" (Pirate TV Station Syracuse 1977)

    Quote Originally Posted by Stanislav

    There weren't too many VCRs around yet in 1977, but I often wonder if anyone who caught the station rolled tape on it? That would be one of the oddest and rarest "old clip" finds in history if it ever turned up.
    Even though the odds of someone rolling tape on this is next to...well zero, still can't rule it out. Who knows what is "out there" in someones private collection.

    Actually the number of people having VCR/VTR machines at the time of Lucky 7, might come as a surprise. Back then many people actually rented such machines rather than buying them outright, of course it was cheaper that way. I believe this was what Bob Crane and John Carpenter did when they went city to city making their "movies" during the 70's, though of course Crane did own such a machine out right, that was at his house but Crane and/or Carpenter did rent the machines on those trips.

  6. #6
    I graduated Syracuse University a month later in 1978. BSEE. IIRC, the student paper "Daily Orange" mentioned that they heard that the transmitter was built from parts of a guitar amp. A guitar amp, meant for audio, running at 175MHz (frequency of channel 7), I thought? Well, most guitar amps today and back then used vacuum tubes, which can operate at 175MHz if you build the surrounding circuits right. The power supply would remain pretty much the same. So it would be plausible. Also heard that the manager of the SU closed circuit TV "station", "Synapse" (fed to a handful of TV sets in locations like the basement of the Bird Library and some dorm lounges, almost nobody watched it) checked and found no RF equipment missing during the pirate broadcasts.

    I did see it briefly, on a TV with a crappy antenna. very snowy, but that was because of the bad antenna...

  7. #7
    I suspect most of us in the business in the area know who was behind it - it's been long enough that it's not much of a secret anymore. Perhaps someday he'll share the details of the story with all of us!
    All kinds of good stuff over at http://www.fybush.com

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