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|City||College Station, Texas|
|Broadcast area||Brazos Valley|
|Slogan||News and Information for the Brazos Valley|
|First air date||October 1922|
|Format||News Talk Information|
|Power||10,000 watts day
1,000 watts night
|Callsign meaning||Watch The Aggies Win|
|Affiliations||CBS Radio, Premiere Radio Networks, Westwood One|
|Owner||Bryan Broadcasting Company
(Bryan Broadcasting License Corporation)
|Sister stations||KNDE, KZNE, KWBC, KAGC|
WTAW (1620 AM, Newstalk 1620) is an AM radio station licensed in the city of College Station, Texas. The station is currently owned by Bryan Broadcasting Company through its licensee Bryan Broadcasting License Corporation, and features programing from Premiere Radio Networks and Fox News.
It received its license to operate in October 1922 as one of the United States' first high-powered stations. Currently it operates as a talk radio station, airing a mixture of syndicated and locally originated news and talk programming.
WTAW is credited with being one of the first stations in the nation to cover a live football game in real time. Prior to the current News-Talk radio format, WTAW, then 1150 AM, was a Country and Western radio station, which was housed in Bryan, Texas close to the Triangle Bowling alley in the Old College area of the city. The station was assigned the call letters KAZW on January 9, 1998. On March 1, 2000, the station changed its call sign to KZNE, on May 3, 2000 to the current WTAW, On December 4, 2003 the station was sold to Bryan Broadcasting.
The corporate offices are now located in the Crystal Park Plaza just off of the General James Earl Rudder Highway (Texas State Highway 6) in College Station, Texas. WTAW is the home of the longest running radio show in the Brazos Valley; the Infomaniacs morning show was known as the Muck and Mire show, dating to at least the 1960s. Current host, K. Scott DeLucia, a well-known local personality, started his association with WTAW and the Muck and Mire show in the late 1960s after doing "color" for local A&M Consolidated sports. He is the longest serving media personality in the city and surrounding area, having not only been involved with WTAW, but also serving as the Sports Director for KBTX, the CBS affiliate in Bryan/College Station, as well as being an on-the-air sports anchor, in addition to also contributing to the Bryan/College Station Eagle, the daily newspaper which serves the twin cities and Brazos County.
5YA and 5XB
The broadcast was unusual—it was accomplished by licensed radio amateurs using telegraphic code operating on amateur radio frequencies. The names of participants with licensed station call signs and hometowns were as follows:
- Harry M. Saunders, 5NI - Greenville, Texas
- George E. Endress, 5JA/5ZAG - Austin, Texas
- W. Eugene Gray, 5QY - Austin, Texas
- J. Gordon Gray, 5QY - Austin, Texas
- Charles C. Clark, 5QA - Austin, Texas
- Franklin K. Matejka, 5RS - Caldwell, Texas
Shortly after the hostilities of World War I ended, amateur radio activities began anew; and the students who had radio operating licenses were permitted to operate school stations. It was only natural that these operators would get together on more or less regular schedules; and it was during one of these exchanges between W. A. Tolson (now deceased), Chief Operator at Texas A&M Experimental Station 5XB, and operators at University of Texas Experimental Station 5XU, that a decision was reached to undertake the transmission of the play-by-play activities of the forthcoming Thanksgiving football game from College Station.
At the time of the broadcast, the state of radio communications had not yet reached the point where vacuum tubes would be used in universal voice transmission; and instead, intelligence was commonly conveyed by dots and dashes using the International Morse radiotelegraph code. Transmissions by code are inherently much slower than by voice and its normal rate of speed is in the vicinity of 20 words or 100 characters per minute. This is too slow to keep up with gridiron activities and therefore, a system of abbreviations had to be devised. It so happened that Harry Saunders (now deceased) had previously worked as an operator with Western Union and was familiar with methods used by commercial telegraph companies in furnishing the play-by-play accounts of football and baseball games to newspapers, private sporting clubs, etc. When it was mentioned on the air to the operators at the University of Texas that such a list of abbreviations was being prepared, numerous requests for a copy of the list were received by radio and by mail from some of the 275 then licensed amateur radio operators in the state. Thus, what had started out to be a point-to-point broadcast, turned out to be one with many listeners.
For transmission, wires were run from the press box at Kyle Field to the station in the Electrical Engineering building a half-mile or so away. For reception, other wires were run to the home of a radio amateur who lived near the playing field. This arrangement enabled the operator to hear his own transmissions as well as those from amateur stations should their operators wish to interrupt for clarification or other information. The only radio equipment at the press box was a key for transmitting and a pair of headphones from receiving.
Although the reporting of play-by-play action in 1921 was simpler than that of today due to the absence of the two-platoon system and the lesser frequency of substitutions, it still required the help of spotters from each team to make it possible. The activity on the gridiron had to be put into abbreviations and then into radio signals. Actually, there was little delay in conveying the information to others and it is estimated that this delay rarely amounted to more than one play behind. Only one incident threatened the success of this broadcast. Near the end of the first half of the game a fuse blew out on the equipment, but this was hurriedly replaced by Tolson who went to the Electrical Engineering building after having been excused temporarily from his duty in the Aggie band. It is doubtful that Saunders, the sole operator in the press box, ever envisioned the magnitude of the chore that he had agreed to accept.
The situation at the University of Texas was relatively simple; and with the exception of more persons in the room and the addition of an audio amplifier and horn speaker, it could well have been the location of another radio amateur listener. The Gray brothers (now deceased), Clark and Endress manned the transmitter and receiver positions, copying the abbreviations sent from Kyle Field and on occasion, communicating with Saunders. Slips of paper with received abbreviations were passed over a long table to Matejka, who relayed the decoding over a horn speaker through an open window to the many interested University students who had gathered outside to keep up with the progress of the game.
Equipment at 5XB - Texas A&M
The equipment was constructed for the most part in the Electrical Engineering laboratory by the radio amateur students interested in the station and with the help and guidance of the head of the Electrical Engineering Department, Dean F. C. Bolton who later became President of the College. The main power transformer had been constructed for oil testing purposes and was capable of providing the power limit of two kilowatts allowable under the special experimental license of 5XB.
The transmitting condenser consisted of about 100 clear glass photographic plates interlaced with tinfoil from damaged paper condensers from the laboratory. The entire "sandwich" of glass plates and tinfoil was immersed in an oil-filled copper-lined box. Its performance was unusually good considering the voltage involved.
The oscillation transformer was "loaned" by the Signal Corps Radio Laboratory which had been established on the campus during World War I for training of military personnel. It was a real beauty consisting of heavy aluminum wire wound on separators made from genuine mahogany.
A number of rotary spark gaps were tried from time to time and the one used on the date of the broadcast was a modified commercial unit bought by Saunders on radio row in New York City in the summer of 1921 while he was attending an R.O.T.C. summer training camp at Red Bank, New Jersey. The modification consisted of mounting the motor behind the control panel with its rotating shaft extended through the panel. The electrodes, both fixed and rotary, were then re-mounted on the front of the panel. A circular wooden cover with a glass front inclosed the gap forming an almost airtight unit. After a few characters were transmitted, the...oxygen would be exhausted and the note of the signal neared that of a quenched gap. Near the end of each transmission, the operator would remove the power from the motor and its flywheel effect as the speed decreased provided a unique and distinctive signature.
The antenna was suspended from a steel tower on the Electrical Engineering Building in which the station was located on the third floor to another tower atop the dormitory next door. Details of its construction are not available. The main station receiver was an early model Coast Guard tuner consisting of multi-tapped coils with both coarse and fine tuning taps supplemented by a variable air condenser. This tuning unit was connected to a World War I Signal Corps VT-1 vacuum tube detector unit and a two-tube audio amplifier. Filament voltage was obtained from Signal Corps alkaline storage batteries and the high voltage was provided by conventional "B" batteries. By today's standards such a receiver would be useless with crowded signals, but at that time it worked out fairly well.
WTAW's news department is made up of three broadcast journalists. WTAW has nine newscasts that primarily focus on local news with relevant national and international stories included.
- "WTAW Facility Record". United States Federal Communications Commission, audio division. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
- "Station Information Profile". Arbitron. Summer 2009. Archived from the original on September 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
- "WTAW Call Sign History". United States Federal Communications Commission, audio division. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
- "FCC Application". Federal Communications Commission.