KTRU

We have in the Woodson a significant collection of materials from KTRU, including some amazing tapes of broadcasts. (Go here to see what’s in it as well as a brief history of the station.) The other day while rambling through some other photo files I ran across something I hadn’t seen before, a fairly thick folder of pictures of the inner workings of KTRU. None of them are dated, of course, and none of the people are identified. I’m also hindered here by the fact that I know nothing about radio so although I would bet much of it is obsolete, the nature of the technology is a mystery to me. I suspect some of you might have some thoughts about this.

KTRU 1

If I had to guess I’d call these first two 1970’s.

KTRU 2

This next one looks to be somewhat later, maybe mid-1980s. Look at all those albums!

KTRU 3

Bonus: I’m on a long, rambling vacation right now. I’m currently in Spokane but last weekend we were in Santa Fe and had breakfast twice in this little cafe. If you like chiles I recommend it heartily. Both the green and the red here are outstanding. I won’t claim they have miraculous powers but I will note that a single bite of the carne adovado burrito cured my sinus problems.

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“Tecolote” means “owl” and I was amused to see this collection of silly little owl figures blocking my view of the kitchen.

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32 Responses to KTRU

  1. R Wile says:

    It appears that the link to the KTRU archives is broken.

  2. Richard A. Schafer says:

    Did you think to ask if the owner of Tecolote is a Rice graduate?

  3. Grungy says:

    Top picture appears to be in the original studio (which I never entered).
    I can only provide references to its location based on other places that are no longer there, in the basement of the RMC (it was roughly where the Pub’s office and the “alcove” (also in the Pub) were).

    Second picture is Mark Linimon reviewing a record playing on the Rollaround™ (I built the cabinet for this portable music production unit). He’s in the production room of the second KTRU studio, also in the basement of the RMC. This is roughly where the hallway is now, to the left of the stairs that go down to the Pub (now and then), from the lobby of the RMC.

    Third picture is Ray Shea, at the main board in the second studio, slip-queueing a record.

    • Grungy says:

      Phil Walters is the person in the window on the left.
      I recognize some of the hardware, because it moved to the next studio, but some is unfamiliar. We didn’t have any dial phones by the time that I started hanging around (’76).

      • The old studio is before 1975, when I arrived. Phil Walters could tell you when it was built, because he was obviously there before and after.

        The second photo has a Logitek board in the roll-around, which should help date it. Which record is he playing? It looks like an ECM cover, but I can’t read the artist.

        Ray Shea’s T-shirt is the clue to the date for the last photo. That is the cover to Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division. That was released in June 1979, so the photo must be after that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_Pleasures

        The photo might be datable as pre- or post-flood, because I remember the Belar monitors being racked in the back right corner up high when I DJ’ed in 79-81. Were they moved after the flood?You can see the Belars on the right side of the first photo. You can even read the label, but they are also the only non-homebrew boxes in the rack.

    • Mark Linimon says:

      Check out the dark head full of hair in the second picture. As for the facial hair, I no longer have any idea of what I look like without it.

      I can’t blow up the cover to tell which ECM album it is. My guess would also be 1977.

      Also, I have bits of KTRU memorabilia out in the garage. Maybe one of these years I will actually dig around in there before the 6 months of summer set in.

  4. The first photo is in the basement control studio that was torn out when the first Pub was built. It was next to the game room, and out of the photo frame to the left was a window that looked into the game room. Looking at equipment, this was after the output power had been raised to a whopping 250 watts. I would put this around 1974. When I have more time, I’ll talk about the equipment. That is me on the other side of the window at left in the production studio. On the right, through the other window is the news room, and I think that is James Aronovsky. I am drawing a blank on the name of the DJ in the foreground.

    The second photo is in the basement studios that were built to relocate KTRU during the Pub construction. That is in the news room, and that is Mark Linimon. The sound insulation on the walls indicates that this was taken after the flood of summer 1976, as the original insulation was covered with brightly colored burlap by hand, and after the flood, a commercial fabric covered product called “soundsoak” was applied to the walls. Date would be 1977-1980.

    The third photo is also in the “post pub, post flood” basement studios, in the control room. This is a 1977 or later photo.

    • Ooops, I was not looking carefully, the second photo is the PRODUCTION studio, not news room. I was thinking about one thing and typing about another.

    • Deborah Gronke Bennett (BSEE Hanszen '82) says:

      The third photo is much later than 1977. I DJ’d at KTRU from 1977-1981. During that time, the rack of equipment with the transmitter control and the EBS monitor was in the corner directly behind Ray, the turntables were not on separate concrete plinths, the counter was orange formica, not wood-grain, and the patch panel was underneath the window behind Ray. There was a studio reconstruction around 1981 I think, and the third photo is after that time. (I have the old patch panel in my garage somewhere).

    • The archive has a tape of the 250W sign on, but no date.

      The 650W sign on tape is from 10/28/80.

  5. Grungy says:

    Just read through the Woodson’s contents list – wow!
    Have any of the tapes been digitized (I know that some of the tapes in the Woodson collection have been sent to a lab for digitizing, but not which tapes)?
    This is the ride-by-ride broadcast of the bicycle race in the steam tunnels: “Tunnel Rally #2 2/14/1981”. I may have to drag my reel-to-reel over there…

    • I also noticed that there is a recording of my wedding in Box 7

    • almadenmike says:

      I may have done the 1972 Democratic Convention wrapup (box 1) — I attended it and wrote two articles for the Thresher about it. I also did science reports from NASA HQ on Apollo missions 14, 15 & 16 … I wonder what the Apollo 16 tapes (Boxes 22 & 25) might contain.

  6. Ray Shea says:

    The third photo of me is probably my senior year, 1985-86, based on my haircut and the fact that there’s a full beer from Willy’s Pub in my usual spot next to the board. My shift and the pub’s hours coincided during my junior and senior year, but junior year I was all mohawked out most of the time. Also the “joke” picture of Muammar Gaddafi in upper left was put up that year (I remember because somebody gave me shit about it being there). Can’t tell from the record but chances are this would have been during the early days of the Mutant Hardcore show.

    • I graduated in ’85, so this was after my time, but that sounds right. The ’85-86 school year coincides with Gaddafi’s peak as angel investor to all the top terrorist groups of the day and the US bombing of Libya in April. Also, Front 242 had released their EP “Politics of Pressure,” featuring the excellent Funkahdafi (which had someone reading their idea of a Gaddafi speech over a medium dance beat – I dusted that one off when Libya went up 2 years ago). The S&M show (1979-1990) was on then too, so that picture ending up there was inevitable.

      Fall of ’81 I’d gone down to KTRU to borrow a turntable for the Sid Richardson College Tower Party (I DJ’ed the sparsely-attended new wave floor). Shawn from the S&M Show threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t bring it back. Being fresh from the suburbs I had an impression of Tweety Bird after a dose of Hyde Formula, but she was pretty cool later.

      Which reminds me, I should try to contact Marilyn or Scott (from S&M) to see whether they have tapes they could copy or digitize and mail to Woodson.

  7. Ray Shea says:

    In the archives, the undated Einsturzende Neubauten interview was June 1, 1986. I did that interview and as far as I know it’s the only time they ever played in Houston.

  8. Syd Polk says:

    The third picture is Ray Shea.

  9. Tecolote Cafe — yum! I’ve never worked at KTRU, but I have been to Tecolote Cafe. For what it’s worth the parking lot of Tecolote was the first place I ever saw a gray-market Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen and a Land Rover Defender 90. There’s a shop in Santa Fe that specialized in making those US-legal back in the day.

  10. Deborah Gronke Bennett (BSEE Hanszen '82) says:

    Some other trivia:
    In the first picture, the array of papers (they are pink) above the window are the 3rd class radiotelephone licenses of all the DJs. Used to be you had to go downtown to the FCC and take a simple test to get this license to legally operate the station.
    Also in the first picture, I suspect the record organizer to the left of the left-hand turntable contains the regular playlist albums, to be featured on a regular basis during the broadcast day. The same box was used in the second studio, and moved to underneath the right-hand turntable (it would be behind Ray in the third photo if it’s still in the same place).
    In the second photo, Mark is facing through the window which is behind Ray in the third photo.
    In the obsolete (or advancing) technology department, note that in the first photo, reel-to-reel tapes are still being used in regular broadcast. In the second photo, a replacement technology (the audio cartridge or “cart”) is seen – there is a audio cart on top of the audio board, in the middle. Finally, in the third picture, I think there is no cart machine in the studio any more, and there is probably a CD player in that rack of equipment between the right-hand turntable and the audio board.
    I spent a lot of hours in that second station – it was my home away from home for much of my time at Rice.

  11. Deborah Gronke Bennett (BSEE Hanszen '82) says:

    Some notes on the archives:
    1) A telescope tape is a recording of a radio show, but only the parts where the mike is open. These were mostly used to train DJ’s, who could listen to all their on-air speech quickly.
    2) “Cart” archives would be collections of audio from those audio carts I mentioned above. For news, they would be what we called “actualities”, recordings of quotes from a newsmaker that would be played along with reading the text of the news story.
    3) I had heard that those two “Kennedy at Rice” recordings were of his famous speech where he sets the goal of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely.

    • There is some neat stuff in the archives!

      I bet those two “47x its own weight” tapes are from shows in the pub. That was the best music I ever heard there. And a concert by The Judys! Is the Rory Erickson and The Ressurectionists tape really “Roky”, and is that an interview or a concert?

      An interview with Sissy Farenthold (last name misspelled in the finding aid) and one with Marion Hicks and Joyce Rubash. I remember a bit about that. Did they take calls?

      The election night telescope might include the EBS test that I ran after the networks declared Reagan the winner. I figured we might need that, given how he was provoking the USSR. Later, I found out you weren’t supposed to run those after dark.

      I recommend against listening to the Joan Jett interview. That was when I figured out that I was not cut out for that career. Painful.

  12. Some more detail on the first and oldest photo.
    One thing you will notice, is different glassware. There was no Pub then, so the bartenders did not have to come retrieve all of their glassware from the studios. But, note that there is an ashtray on every windowsill. The ashtray on top of the playlist cabinet also happens to be weighing down a copy of the ktru folio. Another copy of the folio can be see propped up in the window between the control room and the newsroom (right window)

    Under the turntable to the left of the DJ, there is a rack with a couple of panels. The lowest one is an International Tapetronics Corp (ITC) cart machine, that played broadcast cartridges. Carts were sort of the professional version of the old 8-track tape cartridge. We were very proud of the ITC cart machines, as we had bought them NEW and they had replaced some really old hand-me-down Gates cart machines that I believe KHOU gave us. Above the ITC cart machine is a panel with a telephone dial in it. This was not a phone rig, it was the remote control for the Seeburg LP automation, a sort of jukebox for LPs. The Seeburg was located in the music library and office which was across the basement on the other side of the TV room. The Seeburg provided 24 hour audio (when there was no live DJ) for the old KOWL 580AM transmitter that used to cover campus by carrier current. The AM rig could be run unattended; the FM could not.

    To the right of the lefthand turntable is a rack with a Magnecord(?) reel to reel tape deck on top. This was the “Telescope” deck, that automatically started recording when the DJs mike in the control room was turned on. DJs usually would hit the mike key a few seconds before the end of a song, which started the tape, muted the control room monitors and turned on the “On Air” warning lights. They would do their backsell, other announcements, etc, and then go into next song, then switch off the mike, which stopped the tape. The telescope tape then would allow them to listen to themselves alter with only the tag ends of the music recorded. Below the tape deck are the main patch panel and punch panel, which were effectively cord and button switch boards that allowed different sources to be connected to the inputs of the main mixing console, which is in front of the DJ, under the Newsroom window to the right.

    This main mixing board is mostly hidden by the DJ, but you can see the Vu meter at the right end of the console by the telephone dial. This board was a “Gates Yard”, so named because it was 36″ long.

    The rack to the right of the newsroom window has a number of panels. The uppermost one was a Compressor-Limiter-Expander that was built from parts by KTRU engineers by copying the circuitry and PCB layouts from a manual borrowed from a radio station that could afford to buy one. The next panel down with the round speaker grille in it was the Emergency Broadcast System Receiver made by Ball-Miratell. It was notoriously unreliable, and the big red light frequently came on for no good reason. This was the device that was supposed to let us know the end was near and we should pass on the word to our listeners, and then kiss our *ss goodbye. The third panel with all the displays and white pushbuttons was a KTRU designed and built digital control link that allowed remote control of the FM transmitter on top of Sid Rich. The two panels below that were the Belar carrier and subcarrier monitors, which allowed us to confirm the transmitter was on frequency, and modulating properly.

    There is a rack below the righthand turntable that had the amplifier for the control room monitors, and a power supply that ran most of the control relay logic. Dropping the telephone such that it hit the power switch on this rack was a good way to accidentally shut down the entire station. This is getting to be a long post, so I’ll break here.

    • I skipped over one thing-in a cutout under the lefthand turntable in the face of the counter is a little panel which had the on-off buttons for the AM and FM transmitters.

  13. You can see a few items through the windows as well. As noted earlier, the lefthand window looks into the production room. I am sitting at the first “Rollaround” which was painted bright yellow, and had a couple of turntables, a mixing board and an amplifier to drive speaker cabinets. It also had some odds and ends useful for remote work. The flood did it in, hence Grungy’s version that is in the second photo. Behind me and to the right is the top of a rack with an Ampex reel to reel 2 track recorder. We had two as I recall, and they were our best production quality machines. We got them from Space Science when they no longer needed them for recording telemetry. You will see the same rack and machine behind Mark in the second photo, so they managed to survive the flood in some fashion. At the right end of the production room, you will see another patch panel on the wall, and at the edge of the window, a wire rack for carts.

    You can just barely see at the left end of the newsroom window the rack of equipment in the corner of the newsroom. There were more reel to reel tape decks and cart machines located there and the newsperson would build up his newscast and deliver it from that desk. The bulletin board behind the news desk usually had notes about ongoing assignments-Note the heading “Telephone Activities”, We had an audio feed to the newsroom from the Mutual Radio Network. “Mutual, you news and sports radio network” (although we had our own version of the tagline which was not flattering). You can see a door standing open in the new room that leads to a closet to the left and out of sight. That was the Engineering Room, where all the wiring of the studios came together on hundreds of barrier terminals. We also had a small workbench in there were we could work on electronics. It was pretty tiny space.

    What can’t be seen in the photo is how little room for albums we had in the control room. There was a small set of shelves that would have been to the right of the photographer. But most of the LPs were in the Music Library across the TV room, so a DJ needed to plan a show in advance to make sure they had the LPs they needed. The admin office was also in that separate space. (The second basement studio newsroom and office are about where the original music library, office and AM transmitter were;) There was a small reception room that was behind where the photographer was standing with a beat up desk and a beat up couch. I remember meeting Sissy Farenthold when she was campaigning in that little reception room.

    Those first studios were very tiny, but a lot of great things happened there.

  14. williamwatson says:

    In the first photo (or in that era but not in the photo):
    The old remote control was the DIMARC (DIgital Metering And Remote Control).
    The Magnecord Reel-to-reel machine stayed in the control room until the 1983 remodel. If I recall correctly, it had discrete germanium transistor amplifiers.
    The Ampex 354 reel-to-reel machines did indeed survive the flood. Luckily the vacuum tube amps were above the water line. We donated them the A&M student station at some point.
    The photo shows the old Gates CB-77 turntables.
    The “punch patch” at the bottom of the stack allegedly came from R1.
    I never saw this vintage studio.

    In the second photo:
    The Roll-around had the newer CB-1200 turntables. Behind Mark you can just see the “new” ITC reel-to-reel tape deck. It actually had ICs in its control circuits, and was much easier to use for editing tape (with razor blades and sticky tape!), as it had much less “stuff” below the tape path.
    The roll-around also had the “little board” (Logitek serial #1).

    In the third photo:
    Behind Ray you can see the main record stacks, 12 feet long, 8 feet high. The music library actually had fewer records at that point than the control room.
    The control board in this photo is the “new” Logitek board, which replaced the original “big board” (serial #2).

    • Thanks William, I did not notice that the reel-to-reel in the second photo was an ITC replacement of the old warhorse Ampexes. And yes, editing on the Ampexes was frustrating, as was cleaning grease pencil off the heads where someone marked their edit point sloppily. I recall the Ampexes as requiring frequent alignment and tweaking, mostly because too many of the adjustments were easily accessed.

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