The main thing to find here is a podcast of old time radio programs. It’s powered by just one person.
I’ve been playing with web pages since 1999. For most of the time since then, I’ve have several web pages up and running, often several all at once. A few years back, I really don’t remember when, I heard about a technology called RSS. It sounded like a cool way to post things on the web.
Around 2005 I wondered what all the deal was with podcasts, and how to incorporate that into a web page. At first I thought it would be a pain. I understood the coding behind the xtml, but it just seemed that it would be too hard to sit around coding it by hand. Besides, what would I do with a podcast if I had one? What would I have to say to the world anyway?
Old Time Radio:
I suppose I knew about old time radio for a long time, but just didn’t know that I did. I mean, I knew that my parents used to tell me about how they didn’t have TV, and had to listen to radio. I knew that there were actual programs on it once upon a time, similar to TV. Now, I have to admit that since listening to these old shows, there have been many times I’ve heard a show that I’ve actually heard before, but I’ll explain that later.
I was actually born the month after the old programming was officially cut off in September 1962. Yes, that’s how old I am. But my story with old radio really starts in the Summer of 2006.
It was a Saturday mmorning, and I was up early. I sat down in my recliner, grabbed the TV remote, leaned back, and closed my eyes as I clicked on the TV. It was early, nothing was on so I just clicked through the channels. A program caught my ears as I relaxed. It was, what sounded like an old program of some kind. A story about a rocket travelling through space, and the people in it. The plot was interesting, although a little hoakey near the end. The acting was great, and the dialog painted the picture in my mind, better than if I had actually opened my eyes and started watching it. When this show was over another came on, then another.
When the last one was coming to an end, I already had my computer fired up. I did a couple searches, and had a couple web pages with a landslide of shows on them. Some titles I recognized immediately. How could anybody not have heard of the Lone Ranger, or Gunsmoke? I knew those were radio shows before making it big on the tube. Then I found more shows with familiar names, but had no idea they had radio counterparts. Father Knows Best, and Dragnet. Then I started looking for some familiar names of comedians I knew from the movies. Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello. They were all there. There were names of people and shows that were totally unfamiliar at first, but all it took was a brief listen, and I started hearing voices I recognized. Some from old cartoons from the 1960′s, and some I realized I had heard from my grandma’s kitchen radio while she would do the ironing, or the dishes.
Back in the 1960′s a radio station near her home in Indiana used to air transcriptions of old radio shows, and she would listen in on the weekends when they aired. Even then many of the shows had been off the air for ten years or more. A life time or three to a kid who wasn’t even 10 years old yet. I really didn’t care much about the shows back then, but when I hear some shows, even now, thoughts of grandma’s kitchen come back.
It was because of those die hard fans way back then, who collected, and replayed old shows that we still have it here today. Rather than being tossed out in the trash, as they often were, radio enthusiasts collected tapes, transcription disks, and electronic recordings. The recordings were shared as clubs were formed, and as in the case of my grandma’s town, sometimes still played over the air. Swapping tapes of shows was the thing of speciallized collectors for a long time.
Radio programming was consigned to the kinds of formats we have today. Although through the 1970′s, and into the 1980′s some attempts at bringing back radio shows lingered. It just never quite made it. Then the Internet came into existence.
The Internet and Old Time Radio:
At first the Internet only really made it easier for old time radio collectors to find each other, and swap addresses to send each other tapes of shows. The bandwidth was too slow for serious digital swapping. File sizes of audio files made it too hard to store very many online, or even upload and download.
When high bandwidth technology hit, the ability for people to store large quantities of audio files became possible. Better yet, it helped the explosion of the podcast. People could now download files in a fairly short amount of time whenever they wanted, and could listen to them on various portable devices.
One main difference between a podcast, and archive websites, is that you, the web surfer, have to go digging around on your own to find the old time radio shows. Sure, you may discover a treasure trove of the complete set of a favorite show, and be in digital heaven. Then you may search and search, and find only the smallest bits of what you’re looking for. Once you find it, you will need to sit there and download files individually, and sit and wait as you stay connected to your computer, and the Internet the whole time.
A podcast delivers the content directly to you. You don’t have to do anything. Well, if you listen to the shows by visiting the web page, and clicking the links you do. But if you have a podcatcher, you can point it to the RSS feed you want. Mine of course! and the podcatcher automatically checks for new shows, and can download them when you schedule it to do so. With the daily dose of shows waiting for you, all you do is play them. Simple.
Another advantage to podcasts, at least mine, over archive web sites. On a archive, all you get is a list of files. What are they? What is a given show about? If the title isn’t very descriptive, you just don’t know.
I’m not just a collector of shows, or a dispenser of shows, I’m also a fan of old time radio. I listen to all the shows that get pposted, and jot down the show notes that you read here. There are a few exceptions where a contributor has provided a show, and I try to make it plain which ones those are. They are posted by Tom, and even have their own Channel in my channel listing.
Yet another difference that you’ll find here. When you download shows from archives, and sometimes from other podcasts, no care has been taken to improve the audio quality of the show. I suppose certain purists may disdain modifying the audio in anyway, claiming to preserve old radio including all the flaws.
I like to listen to the radio shows, not surface noise from the record, or tape hiss, or an extremely low audio signal. As much as I can help it, all the shows here get run through gain filters to boost the audio levels to a more enjoyable level. If not already, the sampling rates are converted to stereo at either 22k or 44k sampling rates. I do limit the bit rate to 32kbps for most shows, but go up to 64kbps for music shows. For the quality of old radio recordings these are more than enough, more would make the files needlessly large, and the smaller size means smaller files, and faster downloads. You’ll find that these are fairly common bit rates for old radio shows anyway. In rare cases, when it makes an improvement, I’ll adjust the speed and pitch when a recording seems to be dragging too slow, or is running too fast. I don’t mess with the speed though if I can help it. On a similar note, I only filter for that pesky tape hiss, or surface noise when it seems to improve quality. If i filter it, and it sounds bad, it gets undone before saving the file.
Me and Podcasting:
So, there I was, downloading old radio shows like crazy. It was all so good, I just couldn’t part with any of them. Soon my hard drive overflowed with radio shows. In the time frame of 2006, there was only a few podcasters out there doing old time radio shows. I knew I had to get the word out. The best thing for me was that the content was in the public domain, and it was worthwhile content for podcasting. Just what I was looking for in a podcast. I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel when it came to technology support. I just didn’t have time to build a web site from the ground up that could do a podcast.
With a few searches on how to podcast, I found a handful of podcast services. Most at nominal pricing, but my favorite price is free. Out of the ones I found, Podomatic was about the best, and their free account was better than some paid accounts, and nearly as good as most other paid accounts. I gave them a try. Hey, what if this podcasting thing just wasn’t for me? I wouldn’t be out any money.
So, near the end of April 2007 I started podcasting. I didn’t even have a microphone.
The Birth of the Retrobots:
Did I mention I didn’t even have a microphone? And here I am, planning to do an audio podcast. That’s me a glutton for punishment. With old time radio though, the main content is already done, but I still wanted to have some input. With dispensing all these old, and often unfamiliar shows to a new audience, it would be nice to at least say what the show title is, and when it first aired. Just for historical context. Fortunatley for me I already had access to synthetic voice technology. It was just a matter of how to attach it to the radio show.
I needed an audio editor anyway, and the one I invested in was capable of doint it’s own text to speech conversions, along with all the usual sound affects, and other tools. I liked it. All I had to do was type up a short script, convert the text in alternating computer voices, and I had two robot hosts to tell listeners about the show.
The quality of voices weren’t the best, and I was concerned how real people, you know… non-techies, would handle hearing the robot sounding voices. After a little time, and experimenting, I laid out some bucks and bought a nicer sounding voice. David. He’s been with me now since December 2007. That’s at least two life times in robot years. No wonder he gets a little sassy with me sometimes.
My latest Retrobots are Tom and Jill. They came along with some other software I acquired in October 2009. Tom first showed up the following November, and Jill made her appearance around January 2010. Since they came to me together, I consider them as brother and sister. Maybe someday I can bring in some more bots, but I’ll have to think about it. David was jealous for a while when I brought Tom onboard. Then there was that embarrassing incident that we don’t want to talk about, when Jill joined the podcast.
The Birth of a Web Page:
After podcasting on Podomatic for about 3 years, and having to deal with periodic set backs on the Podomatic servers, I decided it was time to build a web site where I had more control over things, and more flexibility to do what I wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy Podomatic, and highly recommend them to anybody who is interested in getting starte in podcasting. They update their servers, and software all the time in efforts to improve on what they do. Which for me is a mixed blessing.
I had been looking to expand my podcast, but had begun having trouble with overruns of my bandwidth. I revisited the page on Podomatic for the latest in pricing, and discovered that for less than the most minimal pro account, I could buy server space for a year, and still register a domain or two, I researched platforms that could help me automate things. I had already been running blog software on my personal site, and another one I’m involved with, so it was an easy step to build a web site from the ground up, install the open source software, toss in a theme, a few plugins, and away we go. Now I’m hosting my own podcast.
One disadvantage is that I’m missing out on some of Podomatic’s socicial networking ability, and outside ITunes, they’re one of the most well known directories for finding podcasts. But, that’s why I maintain my little Retro Original Podcast there. So people can find me through that source as well.
Well? Did I cover all the things that might let web surfers know all about the web page, and the podcast? It’s all about having fun. And in today’s landscape of entertainment, and the places on the Internet that aren’t so nice, old time radio still has a place in family friendly entertainment. It’s from a time gone by, when social standards were a little higher, and when a higher quality of programming was in place. I hope that folks of all ages will find something fun and enjoyable here.
Thanks for visiting, and taking the time to read all this.