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The History of Radio: Part I

Robin Williams and the AFRTS connection

I frequently exchange interesting websites with my old and new friends in radio and TV. Some sites might be broadcast related or a link to a great old video, while others might be a link to really cool new technology. This is installment #2 of Off the Beaten Path — “The History of Radio: Part I.”

This week’s passing of Robin Williams was bittersweet for those of us who served in the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. Most people probably only know AFRTS through his portrayal of real life AFRTS DJ Airman Adrian Cronauer in the 1987 movie, “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

Of course movies are movies but as a former AFRTSer, I can attest that being in the real AFRTS was far more colorful and full-of-character than the movie even began to portray. And on that note, I’d like to direct you to “AFRTS Archive.” Lovingly put together and tended by former AFRTSer Thom Whetston, it’s a fun link with a lot of great history about one of the “biggest broadcasters in the world” (or so they liked to tell us).

In a future blog post, I’ll elaborate more on AFRTS. There’s a huge history and many great stories behind the organization (including a lot of famous alumni such as Pat Sajak)

The Broadcasting Yearbook archive at the American Radio History site gets mentioned from time to time, and there’s a plethora of fun, interesting, and even useful history there. Included are all of the Broadcasting Yearbooks from the 1935 and on. Plus, if you follow the tabs, you can look at a lot of other old magazines. I can get lost for days browsing these magazines.

And if you haven’t bookmarked the American Radio History yet, shame on you. Do it right now.

If there ever truly was a “Mr. Microphone,” it’s retired professor Stan Coutant, formerly of Pasadena City College in California. I’ve communicated with him over the years and he truly is THE authority on old microphones, in my humble opinion. This Microphones link is to his nonprofit web site. There are pictures of old mics, spec sheets and even some audio samples of the mics in use. Great guy to talk with and a font of cool info. Don’t hesitate to contact Stan and share thoughts, ideas, pictures and history with him.

And finally … From the “I Hope It’s Not True” file … Bloomberg says Radio Shack may be in big trouble. For years it was the quick and convenient place to pick up a project box, part, or connector, and it truly has saved the day for more than one radio station. Let’s hope that “The Shack” can overcome this slump and be around another 50 years. Otherwise we all better start keeping better stock piles of parts.

If you stumble across a good or unusual web site that might be of interest, please don’t hesitate to send me the link and any info you might have about it. My email address is [email protected].