The Wonders Of Modern Technology

I have worked in professional radio (on and off) for about 29 years now (scary) and before that, I used to dabble with Hospital radio, which is where I got the bug for radio.

In those days (I’m sounding like a right old crock) we had records to play both 45’s and LPs and I used to love placing the needle on to the record and seeing it go round. OK, the quality wasn’t good and you heard every hiss and scratch, but there was something special about placing the stylus on the vinyl and watching it go round, almost sending you into a trance – until you realised you needed to cue up your next disc!

However, as much as I lament the passing of records, I still chuckle when I think about all times I had to search for a really long song in order that I could take a ‘comfort’ break during a request show when I was the only one in the building (it was a Sunday and on BBC local radio, it was like a one man band some days – I talked, played the music, did all the technical bits, answered the phones and tried to write down requests) and I used to pray that someone would write in for a Queen song, then I knew that if I played Bohemian Rhapsody all the way through, I was sure of a decent comfort break and still make it back before they started to sing Galileo Figaro!

This is fine until the record has a scratch and it sticks in one place, which is what my Queen comfort break record did one Sunday and the audience were treated to a loop of Mama Mia, Mama Mia, Mama Mia let me go, which continued for about 2 minutes! Oops.

Then came CDs. I hated them. The shiny little demons in their plastic cases with album notes you couldn’t read without the aid of a magnifying glass! Half the joy of owning an album and playing it was that you could pour over the programme notes in all their glorious detail and see who was playing what on what song and who wrote it etc etc.

CDs ruined all that and I’m afraid from then on, we went into a downward spiral.

Pre-programmed computers with a jukebox-like memory meant that shows that I used to do, eclectic request shows, were semi-redundant and if I wanted to play a record, I had to get a special dispensation from the Boss man!

Anything pre 1956 was a no-no and when you had an audience whose ages ranged from 55 to 105, they wanted the nice tunes of the movie musicals and people like Vic Damone,  Doris Day, Dick Haymes,  Deanna Durbin, Dorothy Squires,  Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy, Al Jolson, Solomon King and Howard Keel – to name but a few. Names that you don’t hear very often and you certainly don’t hear their songs any more.

I do mourn the loss of simplicity. I know technology has to move on and I have to move with the times, but I’m finding all the new equipment hard to grasp. I see a computer in the studio and it makes me panic and I want to run for the hills.

I miss turntables and needles. I miss the old style cartridge machines that you used to play the news sting with at 45 seconds up to the top of the hour. I miss the music bed, I miss the reel to reel tape recorder, I miss splicing and editing tapes with china graph pencils and cutting the tape with razor blades.

I know I have to move with the times and Radio X is one of the most modern stations I have worked on, but without the help of our wonderful technical team, you wouldn’t be able to hear me at the weekend because they press all the knobs and operate the faders and leave me to do what I feel happiest doing, just simply talking and sharing a joke or two.

Am I the only one that misses the humble record?

Oh well, it is a good job that my taste in music is wide-ranging and that I can continue to listen to the songs of old in the comfort of my own home and discover new music and classic tracks every weekend on Radio X.

I guess I’m going to have to move with the times and embrace technology and learn to love it and not loathe it.

Bye for now,


Ali B

2 comments on “The Wonders Of Modern Technology

  1. Dear Ali, I remember sharing that same studio with you, and sitting watching a cut-out of Zola spin around on one of those ‘record deck jobbies’ in-shot there. I believe at the time I was ‘blue microphone’! “Those were indeed the days”, however, I am sure that if you can’t embrace technology, the Radio X backroom team will continue to take care of you, although you’ll still have to orchestrate your own comfort breaks! Jerry K.

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