... rand's web page
the obligatory personal stuff
|An odd little bit of audio between a couple of songs on one of the wires.|
MP3, 92 kb
|One of the wires included a few tunes by someone practicing on the accordian.|
|A typical snippet of the kids; the wires also includes some Christmas audio and a birthday party when these kids were younger.|
MP3, 124 kb
|The wire recorder must have been passed along to a teenager in the 1960's or early 70's. This is an excerpt from a twenty minute segment of some type of garage band rehearsing. Anyone know who it might be?|
MP3, 1.3 Mb
|Most of the wires consist of songs recorded off of the radio. The eccentric range is quite amazing -- this sampler is drawn from four wires and gives you an idea of the range of material on the wires. The file starts out with a Tetley tea commercial jingle and ends with a station ID from WOOD. (And, yes, one does hear rock n' roll mixed in with pop, classical, jazz and polkas just like this on the wires.) You can also hear how these fifties and early sixties tunes originally on the radio before they were remastered and remixed (some say ruined) when released on CD.|
MP3, 112 kb
|One of the wires contained Christmas music recorded off of the radio. Nowadays, there's a kind of standard set of holiday songs that are played each year on the radio. You hear some on the wire (such as Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song", the year it first was released), but there are many more that were unfamiliar to me. This is a clip of one of these unknown holiday songs, "Uncle Mistletoe". It was made popular by Chicago kids show host Johnny Coons in the 1950s (see http://www.chicagotelevision.com/johnnycoons.htm)|
MP3, 296 kb
|One of the more unusal items on the wires was a fifteen minute 10th anniversary show for WLAV in Grand Rapids. This was probably recorded from a tape or acetate of the show. It was likely never broadcast, since it seems to poke fun at the station owner and different people who worked behind the scenes at the station.|
MP3, 100 kb
|From the end of a religious broadcast on one of the wires, a period station ID for WLAV, Grand Rapids.|
MP3, 956 kb
|One of the wires contained over a half hour of a morning show, "Smile Awhile", broadcast on WLS Chicago probably in the early 1950's. The show featured a country band performing live in the studio. These are two excerpts of the show edited together in one file.|
Handling the Wires
I dubbed all of the wires to CD through a jack on the front of the unit. (Luckily, this jack provided a line level output that worked well with my equipment.) Actually playing the wires, however, presented some unique problems.
Some of the wires were covered with dust and probably some corrosion that had built up over the years. The heads of the unit needed to be cleaned with a length of cotton thread dipped in rubbing alcohol after each spool was played.
The wire itself is quite small -- finer than human hair -- and has a tendency to kink and tangle if it breaks. The only way to splice the wire is to cut off the excess tangles and piece the ends together with a slip-knot. The patched section isn't audible when it passes through the playback head and since the wire moves at 15 inches per second only a small part of the audio will be missing.
The recorder really zips along during rewind, the heads again moving up and down to evenly distribute the wire on the spool. You want to stay out of way in case the wire breaks -- it can rewind a 1500 foot spool of wire in just a minute and a half.
A couple of the spools had become bent over time, the bottom of the metal spool scrapping on the machine and producing distorted sound. When this happened, I flipped the spool upside down so that the wire unspooled in the opposite direction -- this didn't seem to have any negative impact on the sound since the heads wrap around the wire as it plays.
I always made sure to listen to the wire through to the end. In a couple of cases, a considerable length of blank audio was recorded at the end of a program and something unusual that was previously recorded on the wire would be revealed.
The wires were in wonderful condition, considering their age. As the audio samples on this page indicate, the quality was quite good. Only on a couple of wires was print through noticeable, where adjoining lengths of wire magnetized other sections, producing a kind of echo effect. There would be only one or two breaks during playback on about every other spool.
on Wire Recorders
of wire recorders
to Storage and Handling of Wire Recordings by Gretchen King, Univ of Washington
page on European wire recorders
of wire recorders
page on Webster Chicago wires
from the "Lansing State Journal" on a wire collector
from the "Detroit Free Press" on wire collector