is one in a series of photo features from the author’s collection.
radio folks have it easy when it comes to remote broadcasts. Just
grab a wireless codec and microphone and head out the door. But it
wasn’t always so.
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the early years of radio, line amplifiers weighed hundreds of pounds
and ran from external storage batteries. Even the microphones
themselves needed their own power supplies. Also, broadcast phone
lines had to be ordered days or weeks in advance. To accomplish a
remote broadcast, many hours of planning and equipment installation
by several people were required.
in the 1960s, studio equipment was still bulky, and few specialized
remote products were available. In this undated photo, Jim Boynton,
the production manager of WILZ(AM) in St. Petersburg, has his hands
full as he heads out the door. But the items of particular interest
to our eyes in this photo today are the two iconic pieces of
broadcast equipment Jim is carrying.
Ampex 600 “portable” reel-to-reel tape recorder was a mainstay in
the radio industry for two decades. It was reasonably priced, fit
easily into a crowded control room and at “only” 28 pounds could
be hauled out of the station for on-the-scene recordings.
model 600 was introduced in 1954. It ran at a single speed of 7-1/2
inches per second, full-track mono, and played 7-inch tape reels. Its
audio quality was excellent — 40 to 15,000 Hz — and it was
ruggedly built and easy to use. Over the years, 80,000
Ampex 600s were manufactured in several configurations, including the
stereo model 602 and the 620 portable amplifier/speaker.
Its main drawback
was its difficulty of editing because of limited head access. By
comparison, it was a lot easier to cue and splice tape on a Magnecord
PT-6 — the other widely used radio tape recorder of its day.
second beloved item in Jim’s hands is the 77-DX ribbon microphone,
which was manufactured in various versions by RCA from the late ’40s
today, 40 years after production ceased, the 77 series is still the
stereotypical image of a professional microphone. Its smooth sound
quality, adjustable pickup patterns and stylish appearance made it
the perfect studio microphone. Today, original specimens are sought
after and highly prized by both collectors and recording engineers,
and often sell for even more than the best modern microphones. AEA
and a few other companies are again producing new ribbon mics based
on the original RCA designs.
ribbon microphone derives its name from the corrugated metallic
ribbon, which is suspended between two poles of a permanent magnet.
When sound air currents flow past the ribbon, it causes an electrical
current to flow through the ribbon. This is sometimes also referred
to as a velocity microphone because it relies on the velocity of the
airflow across the ribbon, instead of the generation of sound
pressure against a diaphragm.
today is known as WRXB(AM) Praise 1590. Jim Boynton is now the
program director of KGUD(FM) in Longmont, Colo.
Schneider is a lifelong radio history researcher. Write him at