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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
"In judgment of the Harvard Radio Network origin, I would award; a sharp rap of the knuckles to University Hall for its lack of encouragement and faith in the possibilities of a new idea a large decanter of radioactive vinegar to the Maintenance Department for its exorbitant bille, elasped hands over an empty chair to the CRIMSON for its skill at artificial insemination, and four buckets of high grade admiration to past and present members of the Network."
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the Radio Network. These words were written as a tribute to the occasion by Charles W. Oliphant '41, a successful Tulsa, Oklahoma, businessman and one of the founders of the station. This afternoon and evening 55 present staff members and many former Network men will gather in the WHRB studio in the basement of Dudley Hall to celebrate the anniversary with speeches by Associate Dean Watson, founders Gordon P. McCouch '41 and Lawrence Lader '41, and Marcus White 2d '51, president of the organization.
The anniversary will also mark the opening of the large and modern Studio B, built entirely by members and will feature a 4 p.m. broadcast of the history of the station.
WHRB has come through ten long, and often uncomfortable, years of struggles with the Dean's office, financial matters, equipment problems, and countless minor faux pas over the airwaves that have made young program directors grow gray. Despite all the difficulties the station today proudly flaunts its position as "the only organization devoted to service to the College student with no financial obligation on his part."
New Equipment from Old
WHRB does not exactly posses the most modern and desirable in technical equipment, but countless man-hours of labor by undergraduate technicians have turned some new, and a large quantity of old war surplus, equipment into a setup amazingly close to that of a commercial station. On a small budget theoretical technicians, mostly Physics and E.S.A.P concentrators, have designed and maintained the intricate circuits and studio layouts to enable their program brethren, the control men, to go to Dudley six days a week and operate the equipment.
Six top announcers handle evening shows, special features, and on-location broadcasts from House common rooms, the Indoor Athletic Building, or Sanders Theatre, while six more apprentices take care of recorded music programs, principally in the afternoon. Other departments include: copy-writing and continuity, scheduling of classical music programs, scheduling of popular music, and advertising. The program, or operations, director is responsible for making the entire organization function as a unit, with the sole objective of putting programs on the air and getting them as near-perfect as possible.
Business vs. Pleasure
This objective has instigated a minor dispute of late: whether the Network should be partially a social organization or entirely a business one. The latter camp is in power at present, with the result that no potent beverages are allowed on the premises; a tacit ruling points out that beer and announcing do not mix.
The heart of the station is the Master Control Room, housing the transmitter, much of the equipment, and the main turntables. This control room is the outlet for the small Studio A. Studio B is used for large live shows, and the B Control Booth is also used for programs in which one man must do a solo on announcing and controls.
The villains of the station are the large and expensive Western Union clocks on every wall which give accurate Naval Observatory time. Timing is the god of radio, making scheduling and programming a split-second technical affair.
But the Network is not without its human side. A favorite story of the station tells of the consternation caused during a discussion of coeducation by a Harvard and a Radcliffe student. The young man, declaring himself a mysoganist, was complaining that women were troublesome and a waste of time. Whereupon his companion cooed sweetly into the microphone, "Then why are you holding my knee?"
On another occasion the broadcast of a Harvard-Yale swimming meet was accidentally scheduled far too early. Finding himself on the air, the announcer talked for five minutes about the Harvard team. Then he gave a six-minute oration about the Yale swimmers. Then for four minutes he talked about the ladies in the audience. After 17 minutes, on the verge of losing both his voice and his mind, he was stating for the fourth time that the water in the pool was indeed a bluish green when the relays finally started.
But these were only temporary trials. Last year's brief shutdown by the F.C.C., when the station's radiation output was too high, was only one of a long series of radiation problems.
A Freshman Inspiration
Back in 1939 the idea of a College radio station was first suggested to Oliphant by an eager freshman, Kenneth I. Richter '43. Richter assisted with preliminary tests in tracing the distance a signal could be heard by shock excitation of the steam pipes under the University grounds. Later Richter dropped out and Oliphant continued tests with the help of McCouch and an interested CRIMSON editor, William W. Tyng '41.
A small transmitter in the basement of Winthrop reached that House, Lowell; Eliot, and Adams. As enthusiasm among other students built up, Tyng succeeded in interesting the CRIMSON in the project. Seeking an additional source of news and not wanting an advertising competitor, the CRIMSON consented, and, with Dean's office permission, assumed responsibility for the station. Under the agreement a loan of $500 was contracted and the station was not permitted to solicit advertising.
The "Crimson Radio Network" moved into the now defunct Shepard Hall, which then stood near the Indoor Athletic Building. At this time it was broadcasting through the steam pipes, and listeners had to tap their radios to a radiator. Illegal outside radiation through the air--the Network was non-commercial--seemed slight.
But in the first week of operation a studio technician, driving home from a Wellesley date, listened to the station on his car radio all the way to Cambridge. Broadcasts were temporarily discontinued that night.
The old water pipes were tried next, and the station soon had regular listeners in Watertown.
The next by became known as "Oliphant's Folly." Under his direction, a single copper wire conductor was run around the base of the gutter of the main courtyard in Lowell House. Tests showed that Lowell obtained wonderful reception. So did Worcester.
Wire Was Abandoned
The wire (installed for $300 by the Maintenance Department) is probably still lying there today, rusty and obsolete. If so, it belongs to the CRIMSON.
The Network was able to resume regularly scheduled programs only after permission had been obtained to use the University's electrical wires--the system now in operation. Coaxial cables now run to tuning units in the Houses, Wigglesworth, Straus, University Hall, the Graduate Center, and through the Weeks Bridge to the Business School.
The Network gradually took on individual existence. It broke away from the CRIMSON in 1943 and payed off its indebtedness to the newspaper and the Maintenance Department by 1945. During this period Radio Radcliffe was born and a wire for exchange programs was set up between Dudley, where the station had moved when Shepard was torn down, and the 'Clffe's Field House station.
In 1946 the advertising agreement was dissolved and the station stood free and alone to brave the world, the F.C.C., the intricacies of an independent business organization, and the ever-present watchfulness of the Western Union time clock.
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