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Pieces of the Past: Frequency Modulation

June 7, 2023

It never failed! I’d be listening to WNAE while doing my homework and the announcer would come on and say, “This is WNAE Warren, Pennsylvania. We now conclude our broadcast day. We encourage you to tune in to our Frequency Modulation Station at 92.3 MHZ. for a full evening of listening pleasure!”

“ARRRRRG!” My little 7 transistor AM radio didn’t pick up anything but the Warren station until much later in the evening. WNAE was a “daytimer.” When it got dark, AM signals would travel much farther and to protect other stations that also used 1310 AM, Warren went off the air at sunset. A half-century later a “step-down” transmitter that automatically reduced power every half hour was installed.

This Piece of the Past is about to send you down a forked road! I’m about to tell you a little about WNAE and three engineers that changed electronics forever! And…And about the T.R.1.

In 1946 Dave and Jim Potter assembled a team to build a radio station. It was a toss-up about where to build it. Pasadena California, or Warren, Pennsylvania. After partners Leroy Schneck and Homer Haines looked over everything it was decided that California would face far more competition and Warren got the nod.

At nearly the same time. John Bardeen and Water Brittain had teamed up with William Shockley at Bell Labs to produce a device to reduce or eliminate the need for tubes. Since their creation would transfer resistance from one part of the circuit to another, they decided to call it the TRANSISTOR.

At the time, none of the men realized the impact the device would make. The Warren group got on the air at 1310 AM and began work on building a state-of-the-art FM station so they could broadcast night sports. Shockley and company were working for Uncle Sam so they were too busy to do any experimenting with transistors.

Regency Electronics was well known for the ham radios they made. They wanted to see what they could make with transistors. After purchasing transistors from Texas Instruments Regency unveiled the T.R.1 at Christmas 1954. The pocket-size radio came in red and had a 4-transistor circuit.

In the meantime, the broadcasters from Warren had to decide whether to put Pirates baseball on the air or Indians. Back then the joke was, “If you had a Pirate wind-up doll, you’d wind it up and it would head for the cellar!” So FM listeners got the Tribe and AM listeners heard the Bucs.

WNAE was going full blast with broadcast days filled with all kinds of programming that featured Mutual Broadcasts like Roy Rogers and local programs that featured Schneck, future channel 12 General Manager Bob Lundquist, and future Dallas Cowboy radio voice Frank Filesse. Joe Templeton would eventually leave Warren for a position doing news on the ABC Information radio network.

The T.R.1 made it possible to listen to radio anywhere. The flexibility of portability grew radio nationwide and Warren’s radio station too. In 1954 you might have lucked out at Turner’s next door to the Library Theatre and picked one up for the tidy sum of $40. In today’s money that would be more than $200!

The T.R.1 led us into an incredible age of electronics. WNAE stood head and shoulders above competitors in nearby towns With 5,000 watts it was more powerful than stations in Jamestown. WNAE pioneered local broadcasting at the same time companies like Sony and Panasonic were building the electronics industry from Japan. Sadly neither Sony nor Panasonic make AM radios anymore!

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