I remember my adoptive father and I were driving to Newport, Vermont one winter day. His girlfriend had passed, and his widow was selling the full radio station to her husband’s husband, including a sixty-meter tower. The man’s name was Noble Craft and he had a truck company. His hobby on Ham radio has always fascinated my father. The call sign “Crafts” was W1SAT “Sour Apple Tree”, as he called it. As far back as I can remember, we loaded some of the smaller equipment in the car, and a few weeks later a truck with a few boys was sent to Newport to pick up a kilowatt Collins transmitter and the tower.
Piece by piece, the disassembled sixty-foot galvanized steel tower was tucked away in our basement, and the giant one-kilowatt Collins transmitter sat upstairs in the furnace room. We hooked up the beautifully designed Collins receiver to a desktop and spent hours listening to Ham radio operators around the world. At this time, my father began to experience severe hearing loss. I went to school and he lost interest in radio equipment. I have no idea what happened to all this, but I remember he gave an oscilloscope to Ron Gadway, the local doctor, the ham operator. I can only guess that the tower was sold for scrap.
In later years, when I had a few extra dollars, I bought a good shortwave radio. I happened from time to time and had a few shows that I listened to as BBC Story Hour. Unfortunately, a friend saw the radio at a meeting in my house and pulled it out on the deck to listen to a Red Sox game, turned on the adjustable power transformer, turned it on in some crazy setting, and burned it. I tried to fix it, but then it was never the same.
My career in the broadcasting industry has never directly involved the technical side. Of course, I found it interesting and I can easily get involved in the whole attraction to the facility, but not in the in-depth science of it. Nearly 30 years ago, I was forced to do all my commercial production on commercials at home. I didn’t have the thousands of dollars needed to build a studio. One day I asked broadcast engineer Ira Wilner if it was possible to mix recordings and produce a computer. At the time, no one in the field was doing anything like this, but Ira gave me a list of the hardware and software I needed. It took a while, but I gathered all the necessary elements, Ira made everything work on my computer and suddenly I had a studio for quality broadcasting in my home office. I still have one today and I use it all the time. Although radio has been a part of my career since the beginning, I have never tired of just listening to it in its many forms.
The industry has gone through the same changes that almost every industry has in the computer age. When I started, I edited the sound with a razor and tape. Now I do it on a computer screen and I’ve been for almost a quarter of a century. However, radio has always happened on the radio. I recently discovered that you can plug a dongle attached to an antenna to a USB port on your computer. It’s called SDR or Software Defined Radio.
I bought one of these things recently and made it work with YouTube and the internet. The frequencies and types of radio you can listen to are limited only by your antenna and your software. The software I downloaded was free, and the key and antenna were $ 29. The antenna is a joke, but I can fix that soon. The exciting thing is that I made him work. I’m currently on a steep learning curve with this thing, but it’s fun. Listening to the world is still interesting and now with SDR it’s more economical than ever.
“The Morning Almanac with Arlo Mudget” is heard Monday through Saturday mornings on Oldies KOOL FM 106.7, 96.3 and 106.5 radio stations and over Peak-FM 101.9 and 100.7.