WREK in the early 70’s

Editor’s note: Miles O’Neal worked at WREK during 1974-1975, when the studios were still located on the fifth floor of Georgia Tech’s Electrical Engineering building.

WREK’s history page says:

"In the early 70’s, WREK was granted a boost in power up to its current 40,000 Watts. However, the transmission equipment (and studios) were in need of improvement …"

Hoo, boy. That’s an understatement. In the early to mid-70s, the vast majority of the equipment was either donated by local radio stations (WSB and WQXI being the main ones I recall, including some Bose 901 series 1 speakers, and the transmitter antenna, which lightning had destroyed as far as their use went) or cobbled together by the various EEs running rabid around the station. The only really nice piece of equipment was a Scully two-track, 1 inch tape machine, which I recall everyone drooling over, stroking lovingly, but never actually using. Even the phone system was homebrew, because the engineers kept hacking the equipment, so Ma Bell finally refused to provide anything more than live cable ends, and the rest was up to us. It was all relays and essential components, with no schematics.

People were forever working on something besides the plugboard controller to handle the program sequencing, but the 4004 [the auto switching device -Ed.] wasn’t even around yet, and by the time anyone finished a schematic and getting all the ICs together (AND gates, inverters, flip flops, etc) they graduated or flunked out or got a job or moved to Sri Lanka, and of course their successor thought it was all garbage, junked it and started over. This may have been single-handedly responsible for using up all the digital hardware in the USA, thus handing our electronics industry to the Japanese on a 60/40 solder platter.

There was one main studio, the transmitter room, a tiny closet for the news studio, and the control room, which dodecatupled as everything else. The albums were kept in metal cabinets in the studio, or in George’s (Music Director) room in Techwood (some locos call it McDaniel) dorm.

This was all on the 5th floor of the EE building, back when ICS was in its proper place in closets of the CC. The studio had a small window or two, and when someone forgot to get the weather forecast, it wasn’t unusual for someone to look out the window, check the digital thermometer, and wing it live. The digital thermometer had humongous red LEDs giving the temp in XY.Z degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, we were engineers, so we had to convert to "Centigrade" or "Celsius", depending on who was in charge at the moment (no arguments were brooked). This was before the average schlep on campus could afford a calculator (> $1000 in today’s money), so we did it by hand, and just to get even, we kept all the precision we didn’t have, but which the math showed. We got a few phone calls from irate alumni in the area over this…

Miles O’Neal (meo@schoneal.com), June 1996

Edited by Chris Campbell, Feb. 1997