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WCBS newsmen report on the 1965 blackout as the staff looks on.

On Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003, many cities on the east coast and in the Midwest lost power due to a severe blackout. Although this was not the first time a blackout ever occurred, it was monumental in that so many cities were affected. For more than two business days, many companies could not function and people were stuck without air conditioning or electricity in the stifling heat. While the cause of this blackout is still being investigated, we can learn from past blackouts what to watch out for and take caution against.

In Nov. 9, 1965, a blackout affected the city of Ontario, Canada. It took six days for Federal Power Commission investigators to locate the cause. They found a single faulty relay at the Sir Adam Beck Station no. 2, which caused a key transmission line to disconnect (open). This small failure triggered a sequence of escalating line overloads that quickly raced down the main trunk lines of the grid, separating major generation sources from load centers and weakening the entire system with each subsequent separation. As town after town went dark throughout the northeast, power plants in the New York City area automatically shut themselves off to prevent the surging grid from overloading their turbines. Within a quarter of an hour the entire CANUSE area was down. Investigators referred to the 1965 blackout as a cascade effect—much like a row of dominoes falling one after another.

Twelve years later, another blackout took place in New York City on a hot and muggy night. Fortunately, this blackout did not have as severe an effect on radio stations and broadcasters.

That was then

Photo by Scott Horner, Salem Communications, national project manager.

In 1941, RCA designed the 76-B2 to provide "a flexible speech input system for maximum economy." It provided all the amplifying and control equipment required to successfully handle two studios, an announce booth microphone, a control-room announce microphone, two transcription turntables and six remote lines. Full facilities were provided for simultaneously auditioning and broadcasting from any combination of the studios, turntables or remote lines.

The amplifying and control equipment was mounted in a single metal console and the power supplies were located in a metal box designed for wall mounting. An override-record switch was provided, which permited the remote operator to call in on any of the six remote lines and override the program on the control room speaker. Key switches are interlocked to disconnect the studio loudspeakers and operate "On Air" light relays. A three-position key switch in the input of the fourth preamplifier permits it to operate from a microphone in the studio, announce booth or local control room. Additional push-key sets provide circuits for feeding cue to remote lines and for bringing in monitoring circuits such as transmitter or master control outputs. The console was constructed of metal with wooden style plates on each end.

Sample and Hold

The trends affecting radio

Time Spent with Various Media among Teenagers and Young Adults in the U.S.
Time in hours. Source:, July 2003.

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