(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘radio

“Music is like a river or stream”*…

“Deejays” at Shyvers Multiphone studio

The estimable Ted Gioia on an early music streaming success…

Streaming music was a dream long before it became reality. Back in 1627, Francis Bacon imagined a futuristic kind of music streaming technology in his utopian story The New Atlantis—where the inhabitants “have means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, this dream started to turn into reality. An electric utility in Cleveland even offered a service to residents in Lakeland—three channels piped into their homes from the power substation for $1.50 per month. The Muzak company, originally launched as Wired Radio, Inc. in 1922, initially built its business model on the same concept: Music would be provided to homes as a kind of utility, and paid for as part of the monthly electricity bill.

The company eventually changed its name to Muzak, and shifted its emphasis to businesses. The much larger home market continued to rely on recordings and physical media. Even radios, which started showing up in almost every household during the 1920s, never became an actual utility with consumers paying for the service. Instead, radio broadcasts were embraced by station owners as a way to sell advertising and supported by music companies in order to promote recordings and tickets to live events.

At the end of the 1930s, Seattle inventor Ken Shyvers launched a bizarre business out of a kind of studio bunker in the Pacific Northwest. Here a team of women worked late into the night with odd-looking machines combining the capabilities of a turntable, jukebox, and phone line.

The price was five cents per song. The input device looked like a small art deco cylinder, only 18 inches tall and easily fitting on a restaurant tabletop or bar counter. Many customers must have assumed these were some kind of mini-jukebox—except they offered a much wider range of song choices than any other competing technology.

The Multiphones (as they were called) allowed a selection of up to 300 tracks—and typically came with a list of around 170 options. The song choices were relayed to the female disk jockeys [pictured at the top], who worked out of an available room in a drugstore at Fourth Street and Pacific Avenue in Bremerton. They would play the chosen track, which was broadcast back to the customer via a telephone line.

Bars and restaurants were the target market, but there was no reason why the concept couldn’t have spread to homes. The technology never gained national distribution, but thrived in Washington state, where it found a user base in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and Bremerton. From 1939 to 1959, the Multiphone was not only a viable business, but anticipated many key aspects of the music distribution model of our own time…

From @tedgioia‘s wonderful newsletter, The Honest Broker, the instructive tale of a Seattle entrepreneur who created a successful analog streaming platform—and ran it out of a drugstore: “The First Music Streaming Service.”

* Ali Akbar Khan

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As we tap our toes, we might might send tuneful birthday greetings to Herbert Butros Khaury; he was born on this date in 1932. Better known by his stage name, Tiny Tim, he was a ukulele-playing, falsetto-singing performer. He achieved tremendous celebrity in the late 1960s, appearing on Laugh-In and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (among others). His 1969 wedding (to “Miss Vicki”) on Tonight Show was watched by over 40 million viewers, a gargantuan audience for the time slot.

“Technology makes everyone feel old”*…

Cassette tapes, the fax machine, overhead projectors… Adrian Willings catalogues some transitional technologies that, he suggests, are headed for the dust bin of history…

… we’re… looking at some of the biggest, best and most memorable gadgets from the last century that have been outdated, outmoded or just forced into irrelevance by better, modern technologies.

You might remember many of these, but there are plenty of the younger generation that don’t…

… and won’t? “39 obsolete technologies that will baffle modern generations,” from @Age_Dub in @Pocketlint.

* Jennifer Egan

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As we mosey down memory lane, we might send electronic birthday greetings to David Sarnoff; he was born on this date in 1891. An early employee of Marconi Wireless Telegraph, he befriended its owner, and began a a long career in broadcasting.

Unlike many who were involved with early radio communications, who often viewed radio as a point-to-point medium, Sarnoff saw the potential of radio as point-to-mass. One person (the broadcaster) could speak to– inform, entertain, sell to– many. When Owen D. Young of General Electric arranged the purchase of American Marconi and turned it into the Radio Corporation of America, a radio patent monopoly, Sarnoff got his chance.

His colleagues were wary, but in 1921, Sarnoff arranged a broadcast of a heavyweight boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. An estimated 300,000 people heard the fight, and demand for home radio equipment bloomed that winter. As head of radio broadcasting for RCA, Sarnoff was instrumental in building and establishing the AM broadcasting radio business that became the preeminent public radio standard for the majority of the 20th century.

In that late 1920s and early 30s Sarnoff (who had become RCA’s President) drove the company’s push to develop television. In April, 1939, regularly scheduled television in America was initiated by RCA under the name of their broadcasting division at the time, The National Broadcasting Company (NBC). The first television broadcast aired was the dedication of the RCA pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fairgrounds and was introduced by Sarnoff himself.

Along the way, Sarnoff led the formation of RKO (in which the “R” stood for RCA) and bought Victor Talking Machine Company, the nation’s largest manufacturer of records and phonographs, assuring RCA a piece of the content business.

Sarnoff in 1922

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“Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed”*…

The economy is in a very confusing place. Happily, the good folks at Full Stack Economics weigh in with data in the form of illuminating charts….

It’s a turbulent time for the US economy. The economy largely shut down in March 2020 only to come roaring back a year later with the highest inflation in almost 40 years. No one is sure what’s going to happen next.

At Full Stack Economics, we believe that charts are an essential way to understand the complexities of the modern economy. So in recent weeks, I’ve been looking far and wide for the most surprising and illuminating charts about the US economy. I’ve compiled 18 of my favorites here. I hope you enjoy it…

Speaking for myself, I did enjoy (and appreciate) it. I’m still confused, but I’m confused at a much higher level.

Take a look for yourself: “18 charts that explain the American economy,” from @fullstackecon (@AlanMCole and @binarybits)

* Chinese proverb (often mis-attributed to Lao Tzu)

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As we ponder the portents, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937, on NBC Radio, that The Guiding Light premiered. A soap opera created by Irna Phillips, who helped develop the template for the day-time serial drama targeted to women, it ran for a decade before shifting to CBS Radio, where it ran until 1956. But in 1952, CBS transplanted the series to television, where it ran as a daily (weekday afternoon) staple until 2009.

Irna went on to create other soaps (e.g., Another World) and in the process to introduce and mentor the giants of the form (including  William J. BellJames Lipton, and the great Agnes Nixon). With 72 years of radio and television runs, Guiding Light is the longest running soap opera, ahead of General Hospital, and is the fifth-longest running program in all of broadcast history– behind only the country music radio program Grand Ole Opry (first broadcast in 1925), the BBC religious program The Daily Service (1928), the CBS religious program Music and the Spoken Word (1929), and the Norwegian children’s radio program Lørdagsbarnetimen (1924–2010).

Show creator Irna Phillips (far right) talks with show cast members

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“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read”*…

Blackwell’s on Broad Street in Oxford

FT writers nominate awe-inspiring places to get your literary fix, from Mumbai to Buenos Aires…

El Ateneo is housed in a former theater in Buenos Aires
Pianist Duro Ikujeno in the Jazzhole in Lagos

And so many more: “The most brilliant bookshops in the world.”

* Terry Pratchett

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As we browse, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that the Mercury Theater broadcast the Halloween episode of their weekly series on the WABC Radio Network, Orson Welle’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  The first two-thirds of the show (which was uninterrupted by ads) was composed of simulated news bulletins… which suggested to many listeners that a real Martian invasion was underway.  (While headlines like the one below suggest that there was widespread panic, research reveals that the fright was more subdued.  Still there was an out-cry against the “phoney-news” format…  and Welles was launched into the notoriety that would characterize his career ever after.)

Coverage of the broadcast

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 30, 2021 at 1:00 am

“It isn’t easy, coming up with book titles. A lot of the really good ones are taken. Thin Thighs in 30 Days, for example. Also The Bible.”*…

“What’s in a name?” mused Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet (first published in print in 1597 as An Excellent Conceited Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet). Would he have said the same, one wonders, if he’d been around to hear that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was at one point titled Trimalchio in West Egg; or that for Dracula, Bram Stoker considered The Dead Un-Dead? There is certainly an art to the great title, as demonstrated by the late English humourist Alan Coren, who when choosing a name for a collection of essays in 1975 noticed that the most popular books in Britain at that time were about cats, golf and Nazis. So he called his book Golfing for Cats and slapped a swastika on the front cover.

We also learn that care should be taken to avoid tempting an ironic fate. Bill Hillman, the American author of the 2014 guide Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, was gored by the bulls of Pamplona that same year—and again the next year. And in the 2017 British national election, the Conservative politician Gavin Barwell, author of How to Win a Marginal Seat, lost his marginal seat.

The humorous literary award known as the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year has been running since 1978, with past winners including Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality (1986) by Glenn C. Ellenbogen, The Joy of Waterboiling (2018) by Achse Verlag and The Dirt Hole and its Variations by Charles L. Dobbins (2019). But we can go back centuries earlier to find their ancestors…

For example…

An Essay upon Windwith Curious Anecdotes of Eminent Peteurs (1787) by Charles James Fox

Sun-beams May Be Extracted From Cucumbers, But the Process is Tedious (1799) by David Daggett

How to Cook Husbands (1898) by Elizabeth Strong Worthington

Fishes I Have Known (1905) by Arthur A. Henry Bevan

Does the Earth Rotate? No! (1919) by William Westfield

Thought Transference (Or What?) in Birds (1931) by Edmund Selous

The Boring Sponges Which Attack South Carolina Oysters (1956) by Bears Bluff Laboratories

A Weasel in My Meatsafe (1957) by Phil Drabble

Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (1977) edited by Tatsuji Nomura et al.

Just a taste of the delights at: “77 Strange, Funny, and Magnificent Book Titles You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.” From @foxtosser.

* Dave Barry

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As we nominate, we might send bright birthday greetings to Greg Sherwood Cohelan; he was born 70 years ago today. An accomplished marketing consultant, he is best known for his decades on the radio and television (as Greg Sherwood) in the San Francisco Bay area.

The son of Don Sherwood, “The World’s Greatest Disc Jockey” (who ruled the Bay Area airwaves in the 1950s and 60s), Greg began his on-air career while in high school as a correspondent for his father, doing a call-in show as he drove across country, “Young Man on the Road”; he followed that with a stint as a morning traffic reporter, flying around in a helicopter doing traffic reports for his dad.

After college he joined KQED, the local public television and radio organization, first as a volunteer, then as an employee. Over the years, he’s become the face of KQED-TV and the voice of KQED radio, hosting interviews, anchoring award-winning documentaries, and especially during pledge periods.

“Call right now, 1 (800) 937-8850.”

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 1, 2021 at 1:01 am

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