Monday, September 3, 2012


I know I’ve told you I was a Radio Broadcaster on Terrestrial Radio for 25 years or so. Of course, I am still a radio person since I have Swisssh and Starlite Radio.
A day ago, I was reading on a site for “old” radio people about the changes in radio today as compared to what it was like in yesteryear. Now, some of this stuff will be foreign to those of you who were never broadcasters but back in the day I was familiar with these terms and associated equipment. I understand all these things that pertain to radio.
None of them exist in today’s high tech radio world.
Computers rule!
So here goes.
Back in the day we didn’t have computer programmes or digital recorders.
We use tape machines.
Think Black and White TV.
8 Tracks.
All have disappeared from the face of the radio broadcasting world today.
At various stations I used Ampex and Otari reel-to-reel tape machines. We used 8 inch reels of tape for the most part but sometimes we used 10” reels to run a programme for 6 hours or so. The 10” reels were massive and were held on the Ampex machines with big grey-coloured things we called “hubs.”
The tape was made- for the most part, by Ampex or Scotch.
After the tapes were used for a few months, they would get brittle and break.
This caused many problems especially when I worked at a station in Midland that ran two hours of religion every weeknight.
I “prayed” that the tapes would not break while playing.
Occasionally, they did.
I would quickly try to re-thread the tape back onto the machine.
By the way, the tape split- usually, when I took a pee break.
Anyway, I would get the programme back on air as the phones were ringing off the hook. The calls were usually religious cronies telling me I was going to Hell and that Satan was forcing me to break the tapes.
Like I needed that agro!
On tapes liked these, production was also accomplished.
Usually the 8 inch size tapes or smaller.
Items like grease pencils, splicing tape and razor blades were all used to produce radio commercials. There was no quick, easy editing done on a computer like in today’s world because- like big screen TV’s, it just didn’t exist.
Hey, we never even had cell phones in the 70’s and 80’s.
Imagine….and phones had holes on them to dial a number- not buttons.
That’s another blog right there!
In the studio music was played on records placed on turntables.
When one played a 45 rpm disc, a 45 adapter had to be placed on the turntable to fill in the big hole. Long playing albums didn’t require the adapter- nor did 78’s- which I never played on the radio.
Thank goodness!
We played those on machines called “cart machines”. They sort of looked like 8 tracks but had only small bits of tape on them.
20 seconds. 40 seconds. A minute or two.
Some stations recorded top selling, charted songs onto these carts and played them on the cart machines to save wear and tear on the 45 vinyl discs.
Discs could sound scratchy after a hundred plays.
Some 45’s were made of better quality vinyl than others.
We had “pots” on our boards in the studio.
Not of the kitchen variety.
These were knobs used to turn levels up or down for mics, turntables or cart machines. When I first started in radio I operated an old RCA board with big black knobs and tubes inside.
The tunes frequently burned out and you would lose sound to a turntable or cart machine. While you struggled being “live” on air with only one turntable, the station engineer would crawl overtop of you, open the back of the board and replace the tube.
Fun times!
Do you remember typewriters?
They kind of looked like computers- only without the tower and the internet.
We used to type words on typewriters.
They didn’t “save” the information we wrote however.
News stories.
Show prep.
Death notices.
Stuff like that.
Typewriters also had something like a tape inside, only it was called a ribbon. The ribbon had ink on it and when a typewriter key hit the ribbon, the letter of the alphabet you hit on the typewriter keys displayed on the piece of paper you had rolled into the typewriter’s innards.
Sounds confusing- doesn’t it?
The keys looked just like today’s computer keyboards and are in the same place- except for digits such as the dash or the dollar sign- which one always had to search for along the keyboard.
In the newsroom we had a huge Teletype machine that brought us up to the minute news and weather. It was like a computer only it was large, gray in colour and made of heavy metal. It clacked away all day and all night. Now and then one had to re-fill the teletype machine using huge rolls of flimsy paper.
I remember the paper would get stuck as it was printing the 1030 News Summary which you needed in order to read the 11 o’clock news!
We had another phone dial that was used twice a day at radio stations. It was on the transmitter board usually out in the hallway at the radio station. One had to “dial” up the power of the transmitter in the morning and “dial” it down at night.
In Canada AM stations had to cut power at night so as not to interfere with other AM signals. AM signals travel quite far at night. That’s why in the Central Ontario area we were inundated with signals from big Radio stations in the U.S.
That’s when our music industry was lost.
Everyone listened to the big American stations because local stations played religion or some crap music at night- like Peggy Lee or Percy Faith.
Funny, today I like that “crap” music. Problem was this gave our music an American twist. We gave up on our own artists.
Things have changed in the last few decade though.
We have our own Canadian music stars who not only sell records across Canada but perform around the world.
Still, many stations rely on American Stars and content.
Just looks at their station websites.
Pictures of Artists are usually 90% American.
Canadian Music and artists still take a back seat today to anything American.
I don’t know why. I blame it on Music Departments, Programme Directors and music surveys.
Patch cords were used to bring in programmes from national networks or to take one studio off the air and put another studio “live” to air.
It looked like a Bell Canada board.
“Number, please…”
That is- if you know what an old Bell Canada board looked like.
There have been many changes technically over the years.
It’s a whole new ballgame with computers and computer programmes.
That’s why I can run two radio stations from one studio using 3 or 4 computers. My stations can be heard all around the world whereas a station like CFOR in Orillia- where I worked on-air back in the 70’s, barely got as far south as Barrie.
Oh yes, finally, to end our broadcast day we usually played O Canada when we went off the air at midnight. It was usually pre-recorded on a cart and played on a cart machine. The National Anthem was pre-ceded by an announcement saying something like:
“CFOR 1570 in Orillia has now completed its broadcast day. We will return to the air at 6 a.m. Have a good evening.”
Cue music: O Canada.