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Ratner at the March (Again)

ABC's correspondent on audio tools then and now  

Radio news folk are covering the events in the nation’s capital on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Below is a pic sent by ABC News Radio of Correspondent Vic Ratner working the mic and keyboard. Ratner covered the original March in 1963 as well.

Having done my share of on-air radio news work, I have a special affection for those veteran network news hounds whose voices are part of our lives and who have seen so much of our national history. Vic Ratner is one.

Seeing this pic, I emailed Ratner via the network to ask how his tools then differed from today. He replied from on-site:

“Before e-mail, before access codes, before ISDN — in 1963, we sent audio on phones by unscrewing the microphones and using alligator clips to attach the output of a tape recorder to the phone. Like every experienced radio reporter, I carried what was called a ‘strap wrench’ to unscrew the end of payphones, which were commonly glued shut by the phone company.

“Scoping out available pay phones at every news event was key,” he continued. “Where pay phones were unavailable, I would walk into a local pizza parlor or store and ask to use their phone briefly.

“Contrast that with 2013. The ABC Radio setup at the Lincoln Memorial feeds digital audio — my reports and interviews — on a digital Comrex Access codec, hooked to a DSL digital line. Away from the setup, on the road, I often use a Tieline Report-It app on my iPhone, to send live and recorded reports in digital broadcast quality, and edit and transmit audio on my laptop with Adobe Audition.”

Share your own memories of audio gear, then vs. now. Write me at [email protected].