To Kill An Atomic Subwoofer; Or, How I Blew Up My Noisy Neighbor's Car Stereo
“The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague.”— Robert Koch, 19th Century German bacteriologist and Nobel Prize winner
How much can one take? How much pounding, booming noise, over a period of months, or even years, can one take from the dregs of modern society?
My redneck neighbours across the street do not mind at all that their booming car stereo has been blasting its obnoxious, dreadful-sounding tripe all over the neighborhood every Saturday and Sunday afternoon for the past year. It’s absurd enough that the vehicle from which my redneck neighbour Carl blasts rap and country music is a 1980 Toyota: an orange, beat-up truck that should have given up the ghost and gone to a junkyard back in 1985. Just to see that old truck pull up to his front door with DJ MuffinPuff or Ma and Pa Roach Stompin’ Two Steppers rattling my eardrums and shaking my windows, thump, thump, thump, was enough to make me want to set his truck on fire. I decided I had to do something.
Calling the police was not an option. A stereo being too loud in the middle of the day wasn’t going to be a priority for our city’s finest—even despite the new city ordinance prohibiting a car stereo being audible further than 25 feet away rom the car itself. City cops would not enforce it. City cops wouldn’t care that someone was disturbing the peace with a booming car stereo week after week, month after month, unless of course, that stereo was right next door to the cop’s house. In short, my city had demonstrated that it would do little or nothing to stop this horrible menace that has become a plague on American society.
I was determined to do something, and do something creative, subversive, and electronically devious before I went out of my mind. I was going to remotely destroy his radio.
There would be a risk I would get caught, but I was at my wit’s end. So, I decided it was time to set up shop or as they say, crap or get off the pot.
I had a little electronics experience building FM transmitters and a couple of amplifiers for the transmitters, as well as repairing a few other electronic devices. I was no stranger to a soldering gun. That’s right, even women can use those things! The problem was I had no specific idea what I could do to stop this redneck from ruining my weekends at home.
I knew I had a lot of research to do before I could come up with the proper tool to end this assault on my eardrums. I found some likely options on the internet.
I was tempted by the possibility of completely obliterating the car stereo using a Directional Microwave EMP Rifle 50-Kilowatt X-band Military Microwave Magnetron. I’d found this machine online and was instantly intrigued. This device can be reduced to the size of the Super Soaker™ squirt gun. A machine of this power could create radio-frequency noise, ionize gases, cause semiconductors to burn out and microprocessors to malfunction, and erase computer data on hard drives. Reconsidering, though, I regretfully concluded that a machine this powerful would probably be illegal and dangerous, and possibly kill all the small animals in the area. So I decided to nix the EMP. Besides, how could I afford one of those?
I came up with another idea that had nothing to do with destroying his car stereo, but everything to do with annoying the complete crap out of him and his entire redneck family. I’d read a couple of years ago about how to make an entire side of a wooden building resonate using a wire. You insert a nail into the wood and attach a wire to the nail. Then you diligently rub the wire back and forth between your fingers and it starts vibrating so intensely that the entire side of the building resonates, like a giant violin, creating an unbearable noise inside. I envisioned them all running outside holding their eardrums in pain, like I do when I start to hear Master Jeezy Louizeey playing in his truck.
Then I realised that wouldn’t work either, because their house is made out of cinder blocks. I needed an even better idea.
I consulted a friend who will not be named, a tinkerer involved in laser research and electromagnetic studies. He suggested we build a remote-controlled taser-type device that would send a burst of electromagnetic energy to Redneck Carl's stereo that would short it out, and with luck do damage to other electronic parts in his truck, like his ignition coil or air-fuel ratio sensors. Or maybe it would even blast his battery and send his car hood flying up in the air. It would have been hilarious to see his driver’s seat explode through the roof. Then again, realistically, you generally only see that in a Roadrunner cartoon. Besides that, no ACME Company was available anywhere nearby offering all of the handy-dandy parts pre-assembled for me to use.
The basic theory was the same as a remote control, which uses pulses of infrared light to transmit a signal. The good thing about infrared light is that it is invisible to the human eye (including the eyeballs of my redneck neighbours). My electromagnetic signal woud be invisible if I could find out how to construct my own remote transmitter.
But I was far from being a Nikola Tesla or a Michael Faraday, or even a highly competent neighbourhood electronic tinkerer. I just wanted that joker across the street to silence his stereo.
I got to work. The internet helped tremendously with ideas and supported my research plans quite well. I dug through cardboard boxes in my closet and found some old capacitors, a few IC chips, resistors, solder, and my old FM radio transmitters with their transistors. I knew the transmitters could send out a signal of a “whopping” (I say this with sarcasm) 100 milliwatts, but I was looking for some real power. I wanted the transmitter to send a signal to the stereo that was powerful enough to fry its contents and silence DJ MuffinPuff and Ma and Pa Roach Stompin' Two Steppers for awhile. I also knew I had to get within about 100 feet of that old orange Toyota rust bucket to do my evil duty.
My friend estimated that with two transmitters and the amplifier running at the same time, with the resistor values chosen to get the maximum output, I could zap the stereo easily, or blow up both transmitters and the amplifier, or shock myself, or all three.
I arranged a visit to a friend of a friend, who had obtained some military surplus electronic parts that need not be named in this article. Another cohort was kind enough to lend me an old remote control from his very expensive remote-controlled toy car. I would use this to turn the transmitters on and off. The transmitters and amplifier would have to be keyed on and off quickly to keep them from burning up due to the intense, short bursts of electromagnetic power they were going to send to that orange rust bucket.
For the next three weeks, we spent the nights soldering and de-soldering, burning my fingers, and making little lights blink and IC chips get hot while we assembled my little project. I tested and retested, blew capacitors and resistors, and said more curse words than a trucker on a CB radio.
I had to build an antenna and tune it to the exact frequency I was going to use to obliterate the redneck’s stereo. The frequency had to be high enough in the spectrum to deliver the type of damage we were looking for. The antenna had to be extremely directional, and small enough to not be too obvious. I knew I had to be extra careful because I could easily burn myself or cause myself a shock if I did not build the antenna properly. I had to go out looking for more parts and another special piece of equipment. I concealed the innards of the finished antenna inside a PVC pipe casing, painted dark green to camouflage it from prying eyes.
Five weeks after I began the project, after a few tries and some tweaking, I felt I was ready to try out my new “invention.” The devices were contained inside black cases, inconspicuous at night, about the size of a CD case, but one inch thick.
One evening, at about 11 p.m., after my dear partner in crime had had to go home, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer to do a test. I went out in my backyard to try to zap some old electronic devices I had lying around the house.
My first victim was an old Nokia cell phone. I powered it up and placed it on the deck; its little green screen illuminated the wall. Then, I assembled my projects into a triangle and set up the PVC pipe antenna to aim directly at the cell phone, about 25 feet away.
I held the remote control in my right hand, shaking, hoping I wasn’t going to electrocute myself to oblivion. Being the pessimist that I am, I couldn’t imagine that I was going to affect this cell phone in any way. I sucked in my breath, aimed the antenna at the glowing Nokia, tapped the remote control to key up the transmitters, and saw a flicker of bright white light from the Nokia screen! It was just a flash, and I thought that it might have been a coincidence. Once again, I hit the remote, holding it down for two seconds, and the screen fickered and the phone's speaker emitted a crackle.
Then I said that was it, I was just going to zap this bastard into oblivion! I thumbed the remote button, the Nokia buzzed and crackled, and I heard a loud pop and smelled some electrical burning. The Nokia lay smoking on the deck. I’d killed it. I just stood there in disbelief. I picked up the phone and it was searing hot. So I stood there and started laughing.
My next victim was an old Hypercom T7P 257K credit card terminal that no longer felt like working, so I put it up on the deck. It too had a green screen. I walked 50 paces backwards and thumbed the remote, taking aim after a slight adjustment of the antenna. Nothing happened. Again, I shot at the terminal, moving the antenna and one of the transmitters a few inches. The terminal emitted a crackle and a weird smell. Walking over to look at it, I could see the screen had cracked, the liquid crystal inside had spilled its guts, and two of the buttons had actually melted into the body of the terminal!
We were on to something really good, me and my nerd friend. I shot off an email to him explaining what had happened. He was very eager to see the results of my tests. He’d spent most of his time working on electronics in a shipyard for the past 15 years, and was never allowed to even think, at work, about building any device like this.
We agreed to meet early Saturday morning, at about 2 a.m., to get set up to drag our equipment across the road. That would be the night. No longer was I going to be disturbed by “Oh me so horny” music coupled with the blasting of Toby Keith or Travis Tritt. It was time for that car stereo to die a deserving death.
Across the street, shielding part of my view of the redneck family’s house, was a stand of young trees with thin trunks, nestled next to the corner of a chain link fence. It made a perfect hiding place. We'd just have to move the equipment across the street and pile it near the trees. I’d found a great spot to erect the antenna, pointing directly at the truck which was parked a little too close to their little cinderblock house. Most of the equipment was already across the street, lying in the grass, waiting for my friend to arrive.
At 1:45 a.m. he showed up, passed by my house, turned around, and parked up the road a block. I’d suggested he not park in my driveway because I’m paranoid like that. I just looked at him walking up to my house and giggled like a little girl. Silencing that subwoofer and stereo was going to happen. There would be no backing down. That stereo was going to burn.
It was time to get busy. With the destruction, that is. We walked across the street and squatted down behind the trees in the corner, leaning against the chain link fence. I had a tiny light, but it was still hard to see. I had to feel my way around and he helped me get everything set in the exact position we needed. My comrade bravely stood up and checked the antenna and its position and then we positioned ourselves as comfortably as we could down in the weeds and dried leaves and broken branches. He asked if I was ready, and I was, so with a bit of hesitation he handed me the remote. I think in all essence he wanted to blast the stereo himself.
I crawled through the treetrunks, scratching the side of my face on a branch which stung, but I was so excited by this time I didn’t care. On my hands and knees, I raised the remote and aimed it at the transmitters, a little scared of the antenna above my head, and pressed the button. We heard a "ping" sound, like a rock hitting a piece of metal, from the area near the truck. We looked at each other, puzzled. I tried again, and heard another weird noise, like a grating sound, but not loud, which was good because I didn’t want to wake up the rednecks; it seemed to come from beneath the truck. We both crouched there for a couple of minutes as mosquitoes bit us, unsure what we should do.
By this time, I just got pissed and thumbed it again, holding it down, taking out my frustration on the remote. I saw a small blue flash inside the truck and heard a pop like a light bulb going out. We looked at each other again, and he wondered aloud if we’d actually hit the stereo or did even worse damage to the truck.
No answer was forthcoming. I decided we’d better get back to my apartment before we were seen, or someone in the cinderblock house woke up and went outside to investigate. Neither one of us wanted to face a crazed redneck who might have a shotgun.
Hurriedly we gathered up the equipment, pulled the antenna from the tree, and hustled quietly back across the road.
For the next hour or so, we sat in my darkened living room, discussing the whole experiment, and wondering just what might have happened across the road when we tried to tase the stereo. When the adrenaline faded, my eyes got heavy, and my colleague decided to head home and I watched him walk down the street to his car.
At 11 a.m. the next morning, I awoke from a strange dream, only to recall what we had done the night before. Panic started gripping me. There was a message from my comrade on the phone to call him.
First I had to see if there was any evidence of our dastardly doings. Pushing aside a few blinds on the living room window. I saw Redneck Carl outside with his truck hood up. Then, I saw his wife’s nice green Chevy Lumina, with its hood up too. He kept going back and forth from one vehicle to another. I just stood there in shock and said, “Uh oh.”
The best way to get a closer look was to just go outside and pretend to do yard work. My eyes still sticky with sleep, I stepped outside, grabbed the garden hose, and started to hose off my dusty car. The redneck’s kids came outside and I heard one of them say, “What happened, daddy? Why won’t the cars start?” My eyes got big. I heard him cursing and he yelled at his kid to go back inside. I stepped around to the front of my car, hose in hand, to get a better view. Then I saw him get in the truck and attempt to start it. I heard nothing. He then did the same thing with the Lumina. Once again, nothing. He cursed until his wife came out and he yelled at her to go back inside too.
I went back inside, stifling laughter, and fell back on my couch and let go! I ran and called my friend and told him what was going on outside, and I swear I never heard him laugh so hard in my life!
Later that afternoon, my neighbor was able to get the Lumina started, but the orange truck was still dead. And so was its stereo. Weeks later, a nosy neighbor lady told me that Redneck Carl said he came out one morning to find his stereo wires with burn marks on them and also the faceplate melted on his Toyota truck! I feigned no knowledge of the incident, and told her that was the strangest story I’d ever heard!
To this day, no one in our neighborhood has been subjected to the obnoxious ghetto blasting we had to listen to for over a year. Mr. Redneck Carl has remained silent ever since, although he always keeps his porch light on at night now.
Our good deed was accomplished. Ever since, our neighbourhood has enjoyed only the sweet sounds of mockingbirds and chirping squirrels, no more “Me so horny!”
By the way, this whole story is complete and utter bunk. Just thought I’d let you know.
Poetic Terrorism: What's That?
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