Radio Glen Studio 1 Desk
So here we are with a fisheye lens view of the Radio Glen Studio 1 desk as it was in 1991, substantially similar I think to what it was like when first built as part of a final year electronics project in 1977, or so the story goes. Positioned in what used to be a drying room next to the F-block laundry, the room was in the basement with various heating pipes running through it. An extraction fan was above and behind the DJ which is the position from which this artist's impression is skillfully drawn from. Further ancillary equipment will be described later.
In this particular case Sennheiser HD450s. Perfectly adequate for the job, though they are "open ear" types, so if you have a jock that does club DJing and is deaf as a post, you will end up transmitting headphone-to mic feedback whenever he is on air, Steve Wright stylee.
The headphone foam pads get extremely execrable after a while and eventually dissolve and fall off. There's nothing quite so nasty as having to wear the damp sweaty headphones that someone has been steaming in for the past two hours. Nice stations will provide a jack socket for you to plug your own in. Regrettably we had no such luxury at that time. Needless to say, never ever have the station's own headphones on an easily unpluggable socket. We considered chaining them up but thought that the clanking might sound a bit odd on air. Instead, the foam pads were changed sufficiently infrequently to make theft extremely unlikely.
2) Under The Desk.
Yeuuuuurghh! Hazards; Dust, chewing gum, old crisp packets, happy shopper cola cans, herds of foul smelling fag ends, Newky brown and Stella empties, exposed mains transformer for desk power supply, cheap 4-way trailers with crap earth contacts, dangley wires which short out the desk if wiggled etc. etc...
Unboxed PSU regulator board which dangles from the mains transformer sitting on a kind of shelf bit at the back. The heatsinks on the regulators are too small so the 5V rail tends to shut down in hot weather. This is one feature that the Glen desk shared with a certain Revox desk which shall remain unmentioned at this stage. (But see "SUR-FM, Southapton!") Attaching a bit of old coke can to the regulator helped this, before the PSU was eventually put in a box.
Unshielded Mixer Backplane: Ideal for picking up the twin "Radio Glen Sound" confidence signals, i.e. the clearly audible mains hum and the reassuring regular heartbeat of the F-block laundry dryer thermostat. If you can hear both of those in the background you know you're locked in to the mighty tower of power. Or rather the forlorn looking scabby induction loop of power, whichever level of realism you prefer.
3) Roger Price's Triac Box.
If only this had contained some form of switching power supply I could have crowbarred in a crap electronics gag about the size of Roger's chopper. Oooh look, I have. This operated the autostarts for the record decks and the green and red "mic live" annunciator lights. Great box, though the green light triac had a habit of failing short circuit every month or so. I never quite figured out why that was.
4) Cassettes And CD Player.
Wow! A CD player! Two lessons to learn here.
a) Never, ever, ever, buy a logic controlled cassette deck for use in a student station. Somewhat academic advice nowadays, but trying to spool a cassette to the correct point using a logic deck is well nigh impossible at the best of times, never mind when you've just come back from a fag break and nothing else is cued up. The manual cassette eventually had to be started by pushing a pencil into the hole where the play key used to be, but it was still much easier.
b) Never, ever, ever, buy a Sony 6 CD player for use in a student station. Colin Disc, as he was called, tended to do disco remixes by skipping around randomly when left alone and was highly sensitive to vibration caused by Newcastle Brown bottles being placed on top of him.
This equipment was chained down to the desk which I would heartily recommend for any item, if only to stop the disco crew nicking it.
5) Fag Tray.
"No Smoking In The Studio!" the signs declared. Yeah, right. Definitely the foulest smelling item in the room, the piled up ash tray was an item of some terror to morning DJs and station managers alike, when encountered after being locked in the warm airless studio overnight. Extremely nasty, causing retching and dizziness, the only way to deal with this was to take a very deep breath, run inside, pick up the offending item then rush out and dump it in a bin somewhere. A second such dash was necessary to go back and turn on the extractor fan. This emptying technique usually worked, unless some evil vibe merchant went and spilled beer in it, in which case the combined emissions were even deadlier and some form of scraping device was required for the removal procedure. Cola and beer cans with dog ends in posed similar risks but were more manageable, being dealt with after the initial decontamination effort allowed easier access. Any kind of dropping or tripping over of the fag tray while in use is very bad form.
6) Unfinished Cola/Beer Can With Dog Ends In.
This deadly item is almost always accompanied by its relatively benign alter-ego, the unemptied Cola/Beer can without dog ends in it. And there indeed lies the danger, for they appear to be very similar at first sight and even more so when nearly comatose from alcohol consumption. Tell- tale signs to watch for are...
* A smoking cigarette perched precariously over the rim
* Ash around the rim
* Smoke or steam from inside
* Unpleasant, acrid taste
* Sudden choking sensation after swigging
Should a drink be accidentally taken from such a can, an urgent move towards the bushes outside is recommended, with the laundry sink being a marginally closer alternative, though only to be used in the direst emergency. See also "Amusing laundry sink blockage incidents that I have known."
7) Anglepoise Mic Stand
Rather more angle than poise. Do these things ever stay where they are put after more than about two weeks use? My experience says not. Creator of the famous student radio springy squeak noise as it is moved around in an attempt to get it to stay in front of your mouth. When removing from the mount for any reason, be extremely careful not to get your fingers trapped between the sections. Those weedy looking springs that let the thing sag all over the place in normal use are ferocious beasts when the force of gravity is no longer keeping the parallelogram sections open. A finger trapped under such circumstances hurts a great deal and it's very difficult to open the sections to get the finger out. Several completely new swear words had to be invented for this most painful incident.
8) Fitch T101 Mono Aristocart Jingle Players
Front and rear views of what I think used to be Cart 2, now a retired resident of my shed.
I have to give Mr Fitch some credit for creating the cheapest cart machine then in existance. With sufficient care and attention these could be kept going for about a week before cleaning and readjustment. This was very rarely the case though, and many an amusing cart failure gave endless hours of DJ fun. Not shown here are the remote control sockets on the back which were wired to control panels in studio 2. Al these features combine to provide possibly the most fruitful area of on-air practical jokes, viz...
* Starting of the carts from studio 2 when the DJ has left the cart faders open (Oh-ho-ho)
* Stopping the carts from studio 2. (He he heee.)
* Stopping the entire cartridge collection halfway through so that the jingle starts in the middle when played, thus destroying certain DJs carefully timed cues. (After all, 2 seconds is a long time in radio,...Nick Hawkins:)
* Re-recording the cart with some farty noises or alternative jingle lyrics. (Well, split my sides)
See also the auxiliary equipment page and "How to make a cart eraser for absolutely no money whatsoever"
9) Main Desk
Ah,... classic 1970s "bent bits of aluminium" styling, analogue technology, bits of string holding it together. This desk had many foibles but in some ways was better even than some of todays broadcast offerings. Let's review some of the main features. (Oooh yes, let's!)
Shown here as another slightly mournful resident of my shed, the main pre-amp modules are in the unit on top with the fader modules dangling below. The motherboard is inside the box with the meters on which was a later adaptation done in 1993 when we gutted the old studio and made it rather more user friendly. Phono I/O box on the left, this was originally a solder tag array. PSU in box on top of that old 'scope. Ah yes, I realise now that the AUX input (far right in the rack) had tone controls too:)
The 1993 version of F block studio 1, complete with excellent carpet over 10mm hole-drilled chipboard acoustics separated from the brick wall by firmly attached 2"X2" and with wadding behind taken from SUR FM in payment for wiring their studio, and desk where you can look your co-presenter squarely in the eye to allow for millisecond timing of crap jokes.
Adds new meaning to 'crap link' I suppose. I was always quite pleased with that arrangement. Shown here during a charity radio marathon hence the telly and more piled up equipment than was usual. And the OB box I made - I'd forgotten about that.
* Maplin 100mm faders. Adding completely new meaning to the phrase "scratching," these were like niobium-nickel supermagnets for fagash, beer and bits of crisps even more than your average student DJ. Ideally you would change them every few months to avoid the "scrrrruuuuuuunch" noise being broadcast every time you opened them. Due to financial restraints though, this was never a practical option. However, Mr Tight-Arsed Northern Git repairman comes to the rescue with the classic alternative, that of prising back the soft metal clips holding the faders together and wiping the track clean with meths. This works just fine, and is as good as buying new faders until the clips break or the track really does wear out. Maplin stopped stocking these about 1992 and so it became the only sensible option, after buying the remainder of their stock. Caution: Meths is flammable and along with glue and Xylene markers should be kept away from station managers.
* Maplin Level Meters. Or, more accurately, ordinary 100uA meters pressed into service as PPMs. Driving an ordinary meter with a homebrew PPM circuit means that after a brief peak, the needle spends the next ten minutes pinned at the far end of the scale. The most amusing results are seen when driving a steady tone through the desk for calibration. When the peak limit LEDs activate on the main output meter, the PFL meter drops by about 10% and vice versa.
* Plastic fader knobs. Come off and fly across the studio when you get a bit enthusiastic whacking the record deck fader open with a grand flourish. Pretty colours though.
* Dangley wires connecting the fader modules to the main bus. The power and logic wires were done with single core wire which continually breaks and shorts out causing that "Oh Bugger" type massive hum from the monitor speakers followed by an urgent dash to the main power off switch.
* PFL select push switches on faders and station and studio feeds. This was in truth the crowning glory of this design. PFL could be selected to come from an individual channel, the studio output or the station output, and the relevant LED would light. The PFL could be toggled on and off by pressing the relevant button again, or pressing a different one would automatically cancel the original one pressed and select the other. This was a system much admired by users of other contemporary commercially produced desks. The debouncing used to fail when the switches got old, but otherwise this was an inspirational bit of design for a 1977 student project.
I am reminded at this time of an additional feature that John used at Watford Hospital Radio that would be lovely to add to a commercial desk. A SPLIT PFL button could be used to feed two selected PFL signals, one to each ear of the headphones. This could be useful when waiting to cut to a news feed while listening to the current studio output , for example. This could be done normally by listening to the monitor speakers with one ear and the PFL in the other ear of the headphones. But this isn't possible while also talking with the mic open, as so often happens while waiting for a live feed from outside.
* Talkback circuit. Used a single screened cable for both transmit and receive signal directions just like a telephone, using a mix minus to remove the TX signal from the talkers headphones. This was cool and you could have full duplex wideband conversations with someone in studio 2 using the main microphone and DJ headphones. Then again, opening the studio door and speaking a bit louder could achieve the same goal, but it was still a nice idea. The same circuit was present on the (missing) outside broadcast box, so the same thing could happen from any of the plug-in OB feed points around campus, in theory.
* Telephone bus. A cunning extra bus which did away with the need for a mix-minus on the telephone feed. This was only used later on, after the construction of the Prisoner-Matic £5 telebalance unit, of which more later.
If anyone knows where the identical Studio 2 mixer went after the F-block studio was abandoned and would like this unit to be re-united then get in touch, 'cos otherwise this will eventually go in the skip and I just think the original creator may fancy getting them back rather than seeing it becoming part of a landfill. In fact, the studio 2 mixer had red leds in it, and this one had green - a daft touch I always rather liked in case you suddenly woke up in the dark and didn't know where you were.
10) Newcastle Brown Bottle
Here shown with the path taken by the beer when said bottle is knocked over, that being directly into the faders and down onto the DJs legs beneath, there to mix with the fags ends and general detritus. You know who you are, heavy metal rocksters Bill and Ben.
11) Simon Bennet's Fag
Always carefully positioned to create maximum damage to the manual deck start thermoplastic surround. As the jingles used to go, "crunch it, chew it, Simon Bennet."
12) Shite Turntable(s)
Featuring the very latest in non quick-start elastic band driven wet fart motor technology. Drawn here in cut-away view to show the usual tension level in the drive belt. Master-mixer DJ "Johnnie John" pioneered the only available quickstart cueing method, that of stopping the slipmat with one hand while providing manual turntable rotational assistance with the other, with a final push to overcome the slipmat inertia at the moment of starting. It even worked.
13) 1970s Style Vinyl "Things"
Excellent sound reflectors, foam filled and probably completely lethal when ignited, though this was never demonstrated.
14) Main Monitor Speakers Amplifier
Or a 15W module from Maplin in a bent aluminium box to be more precise. Luckily, the studio speakers were truly monstrous old studio monitors from the 1950s when most valve amps had similar power outputs. So despite the meagre power level, the acoustic output was still sufficient to create many a complaint from the residential room above. They probably found their way into a skip when the station moved.