Monday, November 17, 2014

Dinner Date at 2XAF

Back in the 1920s WGY-AM in Schenectady, NY also operated a shortwave station with the call sign
2XAF. The WGY broadcast facilities were nestled right at the big General Electric plant in town. But they were also doing interesting experiential short wave work was being done at a 52 acre "laboratory" in South Schenectady, NY. at that location multiple shortwave stations broadcast to the word... I'll list just a few.
2XAF - General Electric
2XAD - Ship Owners Radio Service
2XAW - Ship Owners Radio Service
2XAC - Ship Owners Radio Service
2XK   - L.M. Cockaday

While today shortwave is the kooky medium of elderly radio geeks, in the 1920s shortwave events could make the print news....and in that era short wave radio really made a go at it. They held numerous press events exploiting each for the maximum coverage possible. They were trying to find a foothold with some popular audience for the medium. Looking back we now know that in the U.S. this was an abject failure.

Notable among these was the first dinner party broadcast on the radio. As dinner parties go it sounds a bit choreographed and uptight.It was held on April 20th, 1927 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, NY. It was broadcast by WEAF, and picked up by 2XAF for re-broadcast around the world.  The toast master George Edgar Vincent President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and guest Dr. James Rowland Angell the president of Yale University spent much of the time trying to raise money for yale. Their goal was 20 million dollars. No contemporary references indicate if they reached that goal but it's doubtful. While WEAF had a big coverage area, the  program was heard from London to Tokyo to Honolulu courtesy of 2XAF.

 Only a month later 2XAF appeared in the news again. In April they broadcast congratulations to Admiral Byrd on his first visit to the North Pole. In September the Dempsy v. Tunney boxing match was broadcast and heard around the globe. In 1928 they also attempted a number of image broadcasts testing early TV standards. They appeared repeatedly in magazines like Boy's Life into at least 1930.