Desert Crossing Radio

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Desert Crossing Radio was a mobile pirate station operated annually between 1995 and 2003 by hackers traveling from Los Angeles to the Defcon conference in Las Vegas as part of the DefCon Caravan. Transmitting on 104.7MHz FM (typically at around 20 watts), it played requests from people traveling in the caravan in addition to providing them with updates regarding the caravan's progress across the Mojave desert. Reception was generally quite good, though an abortive experiment with broadcasting in stereo in 2003 resulted in a switch back to mono half-an-hour before the caravan's departure.

Although mainly intended for operation while the caravan was mobile, it wasn't uncommon for it to transmit occasionally while at the conference. During the remainder of the year, it could be heard on an equally sporadic schedule around the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. The programming can most adequately be described as eclectic: musically everything from classical to punk rock was played with the odd drunken rant thrown in for variety when the station was non-mobile.

Seven Sweaty Hackers in a Ford Escort (1995)

Desert Crossing Radio started as a project of the Los Angeles Research Coalition, a group of hackers and geeks who operated a pirate radio station called "The Voice of Mercury" in Orange (and later Los Alamitos), in suburban Los Angeles. For DEFCON III, a member of the group had started a caravan to the convention, and "Prof. Feedlebom" hastily assembled a modified Ramsey FM-10A and a 1-watt amplifier in his pickup truck for the broadcast. The first caravan (then called the Defcon Kaliforna Kar Karavan) wound up being two cars and nine people: "Prof. Feedlebom" and "Technopagan" in the pickup truck, and seven others packed into a Ford Escort.. "Too's Compliment" rode in the trunk. This was the result of the caravan organizer not accounting for the fact that only two people who expressed interest in the caravan actually possessed a motor vehicle capable of making the trip to Las Vegas.

The Voice of Mercury Years (1996-2002)

After the initial disaster that was the first caravan, the LARC group took responsibility of organizing the caravan from start to finish.. the responsibility mainly falling to "Enigma" for the caravan logistics, and to "Prof. Feedlebom" and "Technopagan" for the radio station. A new transmitter was purchased in 1996 from Free Radio Berkeley, with a preamplifier and final amplifier being designed and built by "Technopagan."

In 1998, a second transmitter was added, based on a Ramsey FM-10A, which was a repeating tape loop of information about the DefCon convention.

In 2000, the caravan management was changed slightly. "Prof. Feedlebom" had moved to San Francisco, and operated The Voice of Mercury from onboard his Chevrolet Blazer from a caravan that departed Bakersfield, CA to meet the main caravan in Barstow.


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