Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Radio Memories

Posted to OGR on 02/21/2010

A recent posting on a FaceBook fan page oriented to members who worked or used to work in radio asked if we had recurring nightmares about everything going wrong in the middle of a broadcast; nothing queued up, song running out, log falling on the floor all at the same time, ETC. It seems that a lot of us have had variations of the same dream. That started me thinking about how much the technology in the radio control room has changed over the years. Back in the day, the music I played was on 45 rpm vinyl disks, the commercials were on “carts”, the precursor of the consumer 8 track tape, jingles were on open reel tape recorders and the audio console was a big grey hulking monster with meters, knobs, jacks and plugs. All this equipment, turntables, cart machines, reel to reel tape players, microphones, racks of records, consoles, carts and tapes were crammed into a horseshoe configuration in a 12 by 12 control room with a single disk jockey who was expected to operate all this stuff, make transmitter readings and entertain all at the same time. While it is true, that in larger markets, operating engineers ran all the equipment and the announcer sat at the microphone with his notes, most of us ran what was called “combo operations.” The term “disk jockey” really refers to the one man or woman does all, the combo operation.

Fast forward 40 years to the radio control room of today. During my recent stint at WUSC-FM, I worked in a control room with 2 turntables, 3 CD players, two microphones, a flat sleek audio console and two computers, one of which contained all the public service announcements and station “liners,” the other was used to log all the music I played. I brought my own computer containing my music. During my shows, I used the microphones, 2 of the CD players the console and all three computers. In fact most commercial stations no longer have any turntables or CD machines in them; just a microphone, a console and a computer or two. Here at OGR our live DJs use a microphone and a computer and that is all! It is amazing to me that all this equipment that used to be necessary to operate a radio station is now compressed to a laptop.

Yesterday, I was caught unprepared when the news on top of the hour ended a minute early; the nightmare had come to life. Quickly, I played the opening liner, selected and started the first song. Because everything was at my fingertips, by the time that song ended and I opened the microphone for the first time, I had everything under control again. Yes – I occasionally still have the nightmare, but it not as bad as it once was. Sometimes technology actually improves the situation. Oh MY!

Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley

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