Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Transcription Mystery Disc #237

This is a metal core, Voice-O-Graph. It's clearly dated to August 17th 1949. It also notes that it was recorded in Washington D.C. The disc is the earliest I have seen for this make of Voice-O-Graph blank. All those others I've found are after 1951.  But as expected the earlier discs typically have the metal core.

Mother and child

The audio is quite serviceable for being 65 years old. The recording is of a mother and a child that is learning to speak. The child is hard to understand, but that's not the fidelity, the kid just doesn't have that talking thing down yet.  You can't glean much context from that kind of conversation. But I did catch that daddy went to Georgia on the train. No first names no last names... that's all there is.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Electrifying Mojo

The Electrifying Mojo did not invent techno. But if you feel you need to blame someone for techno, and are not satisfied blaming artists collectively or individually... the Electrifying Mojo is a completely appropriate proxy for that culpability. Charles Johnson knows what he did, and he feels no guilt. Detroit has never been the same. Techno is just part of his long radio legacy. More here.

Charles Johnson,  the Electrifying Mojo himself is alive today.  He was born and raised in in Little Rock, Arkansas. He has been coy about his date of birth but it's assumed to be about 1948. His first spin on the radio was as a teenager at a daytimer, 1440 KOKY-AM in Little Rock. The station shared both staff and alumni with Little Rock Central High School but was not owned by the school. It was owned by Ebony Radio of Arkansas, Inc. This was not a fully independent station but somehow connected to John M. McLendon and his radio group sometimes called "Mclendon-Ebony Stations", and also sometimes called "Mclendon-Kent Stations." At the time they also owned WOKJ and WLNA. The Radio Annual lists the station as "100% Negro" even in 1957. They later owned KOKA, WENN and WYOU.

But Johnson.. already being called Mojo was drafted two years later. He served in the Vietnam war mostly in the Philippines. In the book You Should've Heard Just What I Seen by Bill Brown, the author claims that Mojo even found his way onto an ARFN station while stationed there.  After returning stateside, Mojo made his way to Ann Arbor. There he may or may not have been on air at WCBN.. (then only a carrier current station) but by 1972 he was on air at WAAM, where he stayed until 1976. In 1977 he popped up at WGPR where he just killed it for 5 straight years. He launched careers for artists like Prince, The B-52′s, and even Kraftwerk. He played what he wanted and his ratings were untouchable.
In 1982 he popped up at 97.9 WJLB, then a FM disco station.  But FM radio was in it's ascension... the move was good for Mojo. The station advertised his show on billboards announcing the landing of the mother ship. But like many popular DJs he was uncontrollable. He broke format, he wandered on tangents, ranted, raved, read aloud and mixed audio. This mixing, which he increasingly did with electronic artists was possibly the sole outlet for techno music in the Detroit metro in that era. But management didn't care for it. More here.

By 1990 he'd been through WHYT, WTWR, WMXD. In the mid 1990s Mojo began purchasing his air-time from WGPR and bringing in his own sponsors. But even under that arrangement, his program was too unstructured for station management. Mojo was shown the door again.. and he was getting if anything.. more eccentric and less controllable. He  turned up at WCHB starting in 1998 where he began reading poetry and prose from his book A Mental Machine in between cuts of rap, techno, works by Phillip glass, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. He made some guest appearances on WDTR in 2004 but he's been underground ever since.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I Remember Fred Bennignus

Some characters are so obscure I have trouble nailing down even the most basic of details. Different sources spell his surname with either two or three Ns. In 1983 Lawrence J Flynn published a book about 91.7 WVXU-FM titled Evolution Of A Public Radio Station. It includes one key sentence about Bennigus.
"Fred Bennignus, after seven years with WGUC, brought CAMP MEETING to WVXU in mid- September, for the Thursday 7:30 p.m. slot. Uncle Fred still continues to entertain with old recordings and a personalized humor."
Later short references confirmed he was on the station as late as 1982. In the minutes of a 1976 Raymond Walters College Convocation Committee meeting minutes someone suggests Mr. Bennignus interview a faculty member on WGUC. The Oct 1978 issue of Cincinnati Magazine notes his move from WGUC to WVXU. His new slot on Thursdays at 7:30 PM playing "old records."

In a 1982 report the Cincinnati Historical Society wrote "...the Fred Bennignus "I Remember Radio" collection documents early radio locally and nationally."   So even 30 years ago his legacy held enough local recognition for an exhibit to bear his name.

So the sum of what we know about Fred Bennignus is that he was on 90.9 WGUC prior to 1976. If we believe Lawrence Flynn's math then he debuted there around 1971, then moved to WVXU in 1978, staying at least until 1982. Both stations are non-coms. WGUC was then owned by the University of Cincinnati, now by Cincinnati Public Radio. WVXU was owned by Xavier University at the time. Presently they too are property of Cincinnati Public Radio.Why Fred crossed the street we may never know.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ransomeware and Radio

I normally avoid news stories but this is so daft and so readily avoidable I feel I must comment. In the past the fear "hacks" in radio was largely limited to "broadcast intrusion" aka hijacking. I do note that last year USSOCOM posted on fbo.gov that they were seeking the ability to do that. [SOURCE] But these most recent attacks are more random, and more of a low-hanging-fruit target. Initial reports in Louisiana and Arkansas have been knocked off air by ransomware.  More here.

In Louisiana the target was Stannard Broadcasting in Leesville including the three station in their cluster: 105.7  KVVP-FM, 95.7 KROK-FM and 106.7 KUMX-FM. In Arkansas another yet-unnamed station was been hit as well. More here.
Stannard Broadcasting in Leesville that was attacked. Not one but all three of its stations were affected; they are KVVP(FM) “Today’s Country 105.7” as well as KROK(FM) and KUMX(FM). - See more at: http://www.radioworld.com/article/%E2%80%9Cransomware%E2%80%9D-demanded--from-broadcaster/272950#sthash.yK56IFz3.dpuf
Stannard Broadcasting in Leesville that was attacked. Not one but all three of its stations were affected; they are KVVP(FM) “Today’s Country 105.7” as well as KROK(FM) and KUMX(FM). - See more at: http://www.radioworld.com/article/%E2%80%9Cransomware%E2%80%9D-demanded--from-broadcaster/272950#sthash.yK56IFz3.dpuf

nnard Broadcasting in Leesville that was attacked. Not one but all three of its stations were affected; they are KVVP(FM) “Today’s Country 105.7” as well as KROK(FM) and KUMX(FM). - See more at: http://www.radioworld.com/article/%E2%80%9Cransomware%E2%80%9D-demanded--from-broadcaster/272950#sthash.yK56IFz3.dpuf
The stations were still running Windows XP despite years of EOL announcements (End Of Life) from Microsoft. This is of course supremely stupid. Of course it also turns out that 95% of banks are equally stupid. By using a known explot hackers gained control of a PC with an internet connection (LAN) that was still on that archaic OS (operating system). froim there they shut down the stations OMT iMediaTouch Radio Automation System and compromised their digital music library. Game over. the hackers demanded just $500 in bitcoins to unlock the computer.  (Radio Ink and Radio World have covered this extensively.)

Let's review the mistakes that Stannard made and see if we can learn anything.
  1. A PC with  access to core systems was on the LAN.
  2. Using a PC with EOL operating system. 
  3. Using Windows in general
  4. Lack of archived back up files for disaster recovery
  5. Lack of fail over systems
My recommendations are as follows: 
  1. If you must run windows (ANY VERSION OF WINDOWS) to run it in a VM on a Linux server. 
  2. Furthermore... it is not necessary to run windows. At this point, you can readily find applications that run in Linux for free, that will generally be less exposed to these problems.
  3. You no longer need to run local versions of essentially anything. You can remotely host or run your infrastructure from an instance in the cloud and make redundancy and archiving their problem. 
  4. If you feel you must run things locally do not connect devices running core services to the internet
  5. If for some reason to feel compelled to make all of the above mistakes... build an offline back up system you can switch over to readily.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Digital AM Tests

For years now we have been hearing about how digital AM will revitalize AM radio. Personally I think it's about as likely as Paul Rubens being elected to the Senate. AM radio station has a maximum bandwidth of 20 kHz, it is patently and inherently inferior to an FM station with 200 kHz of bandwidth—end of story. The estimated throughput of any all-digital AM schema is just 20 to 40 kilobits per second. This is not to say that I don't listen or that it's noise and affect isn't without it's charm. I listen to acetate recordings which we all know sound awful. The point is that anyone promising you "High Definition" or "High Fidelity" Digital AM radio is selling snake oil.

This service has been promised to us before. In fact in 2010 FCC approved IBOC (In-Band On-Channel) digital radio operation for both day and night  AM broadcasts. You can see a list of the 300+ stations using this service that no one cares about here. You will notice that over half of the list is are distributed across just three media owners: Disney, Cumulus and Clear Channel. [Damn you Little John.] The important note here is that they have permission from the FCC. None of them actually broadcast in HD so far as I know.
  • 18 - CBS
  • 17 - Radio Disney (but not for long)
  • 86 - Clear Channel
  • 24 - Cumulus
This month two radio stations in the Seattle metro are performed a series of digital tests.  Those brave test monkeys are 1380 KRKO-AM and 1520 KKXA-AM.  The two stations share studio space in Everette, WA and are owned by Andy Skotdal. KKXA only signed on in 2004 airing classic country KRKO airs Fox Sports and is a genuine heritage station dating back to 1922. They will partner together with NAB Labs for the tests. Real world test results will be submitted to the FCC in 2015. Andy claims that analog listeners will hear nothing but silence during the fun. Listeners with HD radios in the Seattle metro might be able to hear science happening.