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1923 __ « Radio Vagabonding » — Road music and radio
Comment : The Part that a Broadcasting Receiver Played During the First Leg of a Motor Trip Around the World.« On the running board of our car is a rectangular box, riding underneath its muddy rough-looking waterproof cover. A passer-by might think it a supply or tool box such as many tourist might carry. However, when I remove the cover in an auto camp or in some city street, and let the front side drop to form a narrow desk, a black apnel with dials is disclosed, which leads the way to music and to speech -- a trip from cap far out into space. Adjoining the panel in a second compartment is a square, screen-covered opening -- a loud speaker. A top lid lifts, under which are tubes and brown bakelite variometers on the rear of the panel. Sponge rubber carefully cradles the apparatus attached to the panel which is held in place at either end by rubber-covered grips. In a compartment around the throat of the horn are packed extra bulbs, a set of head-phones and a small flexible coil of antenna wire. Shelved on the end in the third section rides the 90-volt battery, also protected by sponge rubber cushion. It takes only a moment to put the equipment in operation : a small plug, hanging on a nickeled chain at the end of the panel, is pushed into a jack, lighting the tubes from the storage a battery of the car and connecting the loud speakeer to the set. The end of a wire running around three sides of the top, underneath the padding, is dropped and connected to the antenna post on the panel, or a twenty-foot wire is stretched up arm’s-length to a nearby tree or other object. Now one has merely to turn the dials. The ground connection needs no attention ordinarily, since the frame of the car, being connected to the storage battery, acts as a counterpoise of series capacity to earth. This set has never failed to please me. Always it seems that the running board of a car is a very unusual place for a radio. I like the equipment not only for its beautiful construction, but because it has given me more than six thousand miles of perfect service on our zig-zag trail across the United States. It has satisfied a great many personal “radio desires”. The first tests and first impressions seem a long time ago. I smile to think how carefully I drove away from the factory after the set had been installed the day before we headed west. Every little eighth-inch bump drew my foot to the brake ! Later the same evening we drove uptown in New York to find a store where I might get a leather coat. On the return along Riverside Drive my fingers itched to turn the dials of the new receiving set. Last moment preparations had left no time for previous tests. We pulled up by the curb, opened the case, and in a moment, we had music rolling out clear and loud. I thought, “All this and with so little effort !”. It had seemed useless to try the outfit when driving, because of ignition interference. However, I felt sure that the motor spark could not affect such strong signals, so I started the motor to make the test. One had to stand very close to the loud speaker to hear the click, click, click of the motor spark. Nothing could have pleased me more. It meant a radio ride now and then, provided that the lighted filaments would stand the vibration. We continued down Broadway and serenaded the floks crowding from the theatres and cafes. There was not the slightest irregularity due to changes in tuning or tube vibration. The first radio ride is an experience that I shall not soon forget. [...] On the way up the the Hudson, I was anticipated a first night test in camp. High over the river, across from Poughkeepsie, we drove in the shiny new stakes and erected a brand new out-of-door house -- our balloon-silk tent. It was difficult to stick to the task of camp-making whith my mind on radio. [...] What a contrast to this “miles from nowhere” stillness ! I took my time when opening and connecting the set. Every move was a pleasure, from unlocking the outer box to lighting the tubes. I clipped a wire on the tent rod, driven two feet into the earth. An antenna wire attached to a nearby limb brought in Schenectady immediately. I raised the volume with a little turning of the dials. It was astonished strong. Immediately I wondered how far I could hear it. Up the river along the high bank I went. Every announcement was still coming clear after I had been walking for five minutes or more. The small loud speaker did not look equal to such volume, but it was handling it splendidly. Later, many Western and Southern broadcasting stations and messages of enthusiastic, far-away amateurs bibrated the surrounding atmosphere. [...] Next morning, when I paid a sisit to an adjoining estate to get some water, the people told me that they had opened their windows and listened-in -- five hundred feet away. Until I told them of our radio, they had thought the concert was coming from across the river at Poughkeepsie. [...] At Cleveland, a local station and also one from Detroit could be heard while driving up every street and boulevard. It was interesting to watch the surprised folks in trolleys, passing autos and on on the street. On these rides, bridges and viaducts showed what they do with radio waves. As we passed through a viaduct, signals stopped. Bridges had a similar effect. Our camp was on the lake at Edgewater Beach. The music from Detroit and from the local station was a perfect as I have ever heard by radio. When one stood far away from the set, the Hawaiian singers with their guitars seemed to come from some pleasure boats far out in the lake rather than by radio from Detroit. [...] The effects of buildings, trees and mountains began to interest me, much more than when I had read of them in books. It is contrary to natural belief, but I have driven many times from densely wooded parks to open spaces and found litle changes on signals. However, a turn into a narrow alley may make a considerable cut in the energy received, even with only a one-story building intervening. [...] In Chicago, we camped for two weeks at Jackson Park. Groups of people from the artists’ colony came each night for concerts and radio srides. They were somewhat mystified at first by the short antenna and the excellent quality of music. Most of them seemed to have thought that radio sets at best are nerve racking boxes of noise. Before we had broken camp, many of them were prepared to make sets of their own. A reporter from the “Tribune” came to see us while there. He seemed greatly interested in radio, and I decided to have a little fun. At my request he held the bare end of a six-foot antenna wire to his ear. I tuned in a local station. He took the wire away and then touched it to his ear again. The concert stopped and started correspondingly. “Say boy,” he said, “I think I would make a better antenna than a newpaper reporter”. Another night I tuned in Davenport for the artists. The sun was just going down. I was using a very short wire, and the signals were only fair. As the sun dropped below the horizon the volume of the incoming concert seemed to treble in a quarter of an hour. This was much more rapid than I had thought possible. [...] While waiting for the brakes of the car to be adjusted, I tried the radio in a second story of a Chicago garage. Men were busy on all sides. The steel beams looked impregnable as far as radio was concerned. I clipped on the car antenna; and market reports from a local station came in with tremendous volume, temporarly putting an end to the work of every mechanic in the place. Some one asked how radio came through steel buildings. One of the mechanics pointed to an open window. The serious experession on the questioner’s face brought a laugh from every one. My sister gave a talk by radio at the request on one of the Chicago stations -- a story of our trip by auto around the world. I remained outside and heard it from the car. It surely did seem weird to hear one’s own sister talking from the black case, and later to se her walk from the station. This is, of course, all very ordinary, but the element of wonder in it never diminishes with me. [...] At St. Louis the tourist camp was nothing less than a small city. Every one was waiting patiently for the roads ahead to clear, there having been daily rainfall for weeks past. One night the “Post Dispatch” braddcasted the opera “Wang”. The little tourist city soon gathered around our radio, enjoying the entertainment. A strange thing about the incident is that the tourist camp and the open air theatre, where the opera was produced, were only a few hundred yards apart, in the same park. If one had stood halfway between he could have heard the concert from two directions. It would seem that the country in the region of the Mississippi has considerable effect on radio transmision. As we approached St. Louis, everything to the east coast came in with heavy volume, slightly decreasing as we neared the river. With each following evening that we went farther west, Eastern stations gradually came in stronger, for more than a week, after which time they diminished again. I could think of nothing but the valley to account on it. What else ? Weather conditions apparently were the same. [...] I continued to look through the cafe window at the car, and at the farmers in blue overalls, walking past. What would they think of a concert from this automobile ? I hurried out, truned on an orchestra from Kansas City, and came back to listen, to watch, and to finish my dessert. I watched them crowd around the car, each one trying to get nearer. They looked at one another with expressions of surprise. We sought the road again after the concert ended. All of them seemed disappointed that the radio had stopped, even though it had been going for a long time. That night we had to set up camp and cook supper in the rain. No one seemed to be interested in anything but sleep; but music is always good ofr tired bones. I draped a poncho over the open set, tuned in a flute-piano-violin concert, tied a long string to the filament plug and rolled up in a blanket, still keeping hold on the end of the string. It was surely real comfort, lying there listening to the music and the pouring rain, knowing at the same time that I did not have to get up to shut off the set. Later on, when I was nearly asleep, the concert stopped. I pulled on the string, the lights went out -- and so did I. [...] From our Kansas City camp we received daily reports of road conditions by radio -- an excellent service for tourists. When the report came that our route was passable, we moved on. [...] I regret that we are coming to the end, temporarly, of our radio rides. We shall nevertheless still have concerts from the States on our ship to Japan, at least until some Oriental stations -- in Peking or Calcutta -- turns our dials to uncustomed marks. ». (Peter Taylor)
Source : Taylor, Peter (1923), “Radio Vagabonding”, In“RADIO BROADCAST”, Vol. IV, NOVEMBER, 1923, to APRIL, 1924, Garden City, N. Y., DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY, 1924, pp. 128-29.
Urls : http://www.archive.org/stream/radiobroadcast04gardrich/%23page/128/mode/2up (last visited )

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