My First Radio Remote

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


You Knocked Me Off My Chair

In your column, "Mike" overwhelmingly agrees with Mark Mays at Clear Channel that caps should be eliminated for station ownership and that a single company should be allowed to own all the stations in a single market.