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My First Radio Remote

The device recorded sound on a strip of paper tape coated with black iron powder.

I was 11 years old in 1948. Thomas E. Dewey, governor of New York, was doing a whistle-stop campaign tour on the back end of a Long Island Railroad car that had pulled into the station in Rockville Centre. He was running for president against Harry Truman.

I had ridden my bicycle to the station just to hear what all the fuss was about. Parked there was a Chevy sedan with the trunk open. Lying on its back was a device like I had never seen: a tape recorder, operated by a guy working for a new station, WHLI 1100 AM, in nearby Hempstead.

I was familiar with the station. At the age of nine I had built a crystal set as a Cub Scout project, and WHLI was the strongest station on my dial, almost everywhere on the dial.

I chatted up the fellow and learned that the device recorded sound on a strip of paper tape coated with black iron powder. Amazing.

When the train pulled out, I thanked the WHLI guy and rode my bike home to tune in that evening’s newscast —where I heard, believe it or not, the voice of Tom Dewey as it had spoken only a few hours earlier. Amazing.

Almost a decade later, as the proud owner of my own Viking 75 recorder, I managed to preserve the beep-beep signals from Sputnik 1 as it circled over my college dorm at Purdue University, announcing the birth of a new world, a new industry and my new career.

Joe Buch
West Palm Beach, Fla.

Ed. Note: In our Sept. 8 issue we invited readers to share their first-person recollections about early or unusual radio remote broadcasting. E-mail yours to [email protected].