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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan N275, June 1, 2014

Historic Note: The Voice of America on the Air in Australia! Part 1: American Radio Stations in Australia

Beginning in December 1941, American military forces began to flood into Australia, until ultimately one million personnel passed through Australia on their way for active duty "up north". During this era, Australia's wide spread continent became a broad staging ground in preparation for American involvement in General Douglas MacArthur's island hopping campaigns in the South Pacific.

A large number of temporary American encampments were established near the cities across the nation, and these served as training locations, active service facilities, hospitals for wounded and sick service personnel, or lodging locations for those enjoying R&R (Rest and Refreshment) time while on temporary leave.

Back then Radio Australia was on the air under the British style slogan, Australia Calling. There were so many Americans in Australia in early 1942, that "Australia Calling" introduced a new radio program in which American personnel could broadcast messages to loved ones back home. This program was transmitted from the new 10 kW shortwave transmitter VLG located at Lyndhurst in Victoria and it was on the air on 9540 kHz under the specific callsign VLG2.

Likewise, Australian and New Zealand armed forces personnel in the United States were granted a similar privilege in a "calling home" program that was on the air over the 100 kW KWID located near San Francisco in California.

In previous editions of Wavescan, we have presented the intriguing story of American radio stations in Australia, and the stations that have been presented thus far are:

In addition, American forces also operated two shortwave decoy transmitters in Australia that carried spurious dummy traffic in order to mislead Japanese radio monitors. These stations were located at Darwin in the Northern Territory and Perth in Western Australia. Although no details about these transmitters are known, it would be presumed that they were:

In addition, American radio programming was on the air in Australia on just about every mediumwave station throughout the country at some time or another; via all 29 ABC stations and all 99 commercial stations, a total of 128 radio broadcasting stations all told. Originally, this programming was presented for the benefit of locally billeted American personnel, though subsequently, this relayed programming was more for the benefit of Australians rather than the visiting Americans.

The government mediumwave station 4QR in Brisbane, so close to General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters, was made available to the AFRS, Armed Forces Radio Service, for the production, broadcast and nationwide distribution of locally produced programing for American personnel. At the time, 4QR was operating with .5 kW on 940 kHz from the ABC-PMG transmitter site at Bald Hills, a little north of Brisbane. The AFRS-4QR link-up began in late 1943 and lasted for a few months into the earlier part of the following year 1944.

To a lesser extent, station 2FC in Sydney was made available to AFRS in the same way; for the production, broadcast and nationwide distribution of locally produced programing for American personnel. Back then, 2FC was operating from studios in Market Street Sydney and could be heard with 10 kW on 610 kHz from the ABC-PMG transmitter site at Liverpool, south of Sydney.

On the home service shortwave scene during the war years, there were five shortwave stations on the air in Australia, four of which were owned and operated by the government PMG Post Master General's Dept. with programming provided by the ABC. One shortwave station was owned by the commercial radio organization AWA, though the programming was also provided by the ABC-DOI for Australia Calling.

With each broadcast of American programming from the parent mediumwave station during World War 2, then the tandem shortwave transmitter also relayed this same programming. These shortwave transmitters were:

Melbourne, Lyndhurst, Victoria VLR 2 kW and VLG 10 kW
Sydney, Liverpool, NSW VLI 2 kW
Brisbane, Bald Hills, Queensland VLQ 10kW
Perth, Wanneroo, Western Australia VLW 2kW
Sydney, Pennant Hills, NSW VLQ VLN VLI each at 10 kW, Australia Calling

World's Oldest Sound Recording

Up until quite recently, the oldest known recording of the human voice was listed as Thomas Edison in the year 1877. At the time, Edison was making experiments in the reproduction of sound in his laboratory at Menlo Park in New Jersey.

The Edison apparatus consisted of a metal cylinder wrapped in tin foil and mounted so that it could revolve. A vibrating needle attached to a long horn made indentations in the tin foil, and when in play back mode, the recorded sound could be heard, though quite rough and distorted. However, after just a few playings, the etched recording in the tin foil was damaged beyond usefulness.

The first recording of the human voice on a cylindrical Edison phonograph was the children's poem, Mary Had a Little Lamb, recited by Edison himself. That was back in the year 1877, when Thomas Alva Edison was just 30 years old.

However, as a result of digital experimentation just a few years ago, the earliest known reproduction of the human voice now goes back 20 years earlier, to the year 1857. This is what happened, and we are grateful to radio historian Jerome Berg in suburban Boston for drawing our attention to this interesting information.

Over in Paris, France in that year (1857), printer and book seller Edouard Leon Scott de Martinville experimented with the study of sound by utilizing a stylus attached to a vibrating diaphragm that made tracings on smoked paper and smoked glass. However, these tracings were intended for use as a study in the mechanics of sound, rather than for the purpose of playback. This apparatus was known as the phonautograph, and the sooted tracings were known as phonautograms.

The first phonautograph experiments with the tracing of sound on smoked paper and smoked glass involved tones and noises and the sound of a tuning fork, but not the human voice. However, three years later on April 9, 1860, the sound of someone singing Claire de Lune in French without accompaniment was etched into the smoked soot on a sheet of paper, and it remained that way, un-reproduced for more than 1-1/2 centuries.

Over in Paris, instrument maker Rudolf Koening subsequently made phonautograph machines for sale and several were procured by interested buyers in the United States. Over the years, others have experimented with the usage of a phonautograph, including Edison himself, as well as Alexander Graham Bell.

Then quite recently, in December 2007, retired Maryland radio broadcaster David Giovannoni and a research assistant traveled to Paris in an endeavor to obtain top quality copies of the original phonautograms made by Leon Scott. These were located at two different historic institutions in Paris, the Academy of Sciences and the Patent Office.

Originals and copies of several of the early soot recordings were found, including a sheet of paper that contained the Claire de Lune tracings, dated April 9, 1860. This sooty tracing was made upon a sheet of paper measuring 9 inches by 25 inches that was made from recycled rag. Giovannoni obtained immaculate copies of many different early sooty tracings.

Recently, good quality copies of the original French phonoautograms were sent to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California where scientists Carl Haber and Earl Cornell utilized a previously developed digital procedure for turning ancient sooty tracings into viable sound. The sooty tracings turned into sound revealed many different reproductions, including the 10 second long, 11-note tracing of Claire de Lune. It is thought that the voice singing Claire de Lune is the voice of Edouard Leon Scott himself.

Seventeen years after the recording by Leon Scott of Claire de Lune in Paris, Thomas Edison in New Jersey recited Mary Had a Little Lamb into his tin foil covered metal cylinder in New Jersey. That was in 1877. Eight years later (1885), Chichester Bell and Charles Tainter developed a wax covered cardboard cylinder for recording and playing back sound in the Volta Laboratory in Washington, DC, and this one was called the graphophone.

Then two years later again (1887), German migrant Emile Berliner invented the gramophone, a flat disc for use in the recording and playback of sound, particularly music. Originally these gramophone records were 5 inch celluloid discs and they were first made in Germany. When the technological procedure was transferred to the United States, the first American gramophone records were made from hard rubber, though soon afterwards a mixture of clay and shellac was used.

Initially, there was no standard speed for the new gramophone records and the earliest discs were spun at speeds anywhere from 60 to 130 revolutions per minute. Then in 1925, a standard speed of 78 rpm was adopted though there is no known logical reason for this exact figure.

In actual fact, the exact speed of the old 78 recordings varies from 77.92 to 78.26 rpms, depending upon the electrical values of the equipment, its country of manufacture, and the standard measurements of electricity in the playback country. After the 78s, came the 33-1/3 recordings, wire recorders, CDs, and you name it.

While we are talking about the long and interesting history of the recording of sound, we should also mention the information about the earliest known recording of a wireless transmission. The original tin foil covered cylinder containing the off-air recording of a wireless transmission in Morse Code is housed in the San Francisco State University. The Morse message was recorded at a speed of 125 revolutions per minute.

The tin foil wireless message seems to be the introductory comment just before a boxing match with information about the boxer Jack Johnson and his boxing opponent, Jim Jeffries. This message was sent by wireless in the original Morse Code that was developed by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail in 1844.

In this message, it is stated that Jack Johnson insisted on a fight with the retired Jim Jeffries, and boxing records do show that Johnson did meet Jeffries in a match of 15 rounds in Reno, Nevada on July 4, 1910. This match was considered to be a fight of major significance in the boxing world and progressive news of the event was flashed nationwide by Morse Code just as quickly as the communications of the day would permit.

A short article in the American magazine, Modern Electrics for August 1910, states that the details of the Johnson-Jeffries match were transmitted progressively by wireless station TG which was owned at the time by the Western Wireless Equipment Company in San Francisco. The station was located in the city offices of the company and it was on the air with the news broadcast in Morse Code for the benefit of ships at sea and for local amateur wireless operators along the west coast of the United States.

A careful listening to the recorded message indicates that it was made by playing the sound from a wireless receiver directly into the recording horn of a cylinder phonograph. The available information would suggest that the Morse Code wireless message from station TG in San Francisco was made shortly before 3 pm on Monday, July 4, in the year 1910. It was apparently recorded by an amateur wireless operator somewhere in the San Francisco area.

By courtesy of Glen Sage in Portland, Oregon and his website www.tinfoil.com you can listen now to a portion of what is believed to be the oldest off air recording from any wireless transmission.