Secession

The Wonder of Wireless

The Silver Vixen finds a new window on the real world

Listening-in togetherHigh on my list of the world's beautiful but useless things would go wireless sets. At antique shops and fairs everywhere one sees the most delightful art-deco wireless sets. If one had to choose one the problem would be difficult, they are so many and so charming.

Unfortunately the choice does not arise. The sweet anguish of decision is one that we are spared, for these wireless sets have a fatal flaw. They no longer work as they were intended to - not merely in the case of those that have blown a valve or popped a diode, but in all cases. Splendidly real and up-to-date as they look, they do not transmit real and up-to-date programmes. The same bongo noise emerges from their beautiful sunburst speakers as from the ghastliest black plastic blob available.

It is all rather sad, because quite apart from the fact that one is busting to spend one's hard-inherited on a delicious-looking wireless machine one rather hankers after real wireless. It would be nice to click a switch in the morning and hear the crisp, friendly-but-formal tones of the B.B.C. (as opposed to its successor with the same initials - the Bongo Brainwashing Committee). It would be jolly to hear chats and panel-games that gave one the air-company of people whom one would not actually cross the road to avoid. It would be splendid to breathe, if only on-the-air, the air of a real world rather than merely more of the stale fug of the Pit, its tortured accents, sub-standard vocabulary and putrid presuppositions.

Of course there have always been partial solutions to this problem. One plays charming popular music at will from bendies, windies and shinies. One can even get delightful up-to-date programmes ranging from Sherlock Holmes to Toytown on windies if one knows where to go for them (go to O.R.C.A. - the Old-Time Radio Collectors Association). But these solutions are only partial, for compared to wireless they have a certain artificiality. One lacks the ability merely to switch on the set and enter in media res into whatever happens to be being broadcast at that particular moment. It is the aliveness of broadcasting that constitutes a considerable part of its magic. Like music, broadcasting is an art-form that is enacted in time.

Any readers who have shared these feelings will be delighted to know that a solution is at hand. Not a complete solution, it is true, but a solution far less partial than anything hitherto. How would you like to press a button and tune in to a living stream of wireless broadcasting? If you would like it you can do it. Not tomorrow, not after you have bought some gizmo or doohickey, but right now, this very moment, without further delay.

All you actually need is an ordinator plumbed up to elektraspace, and, since you are reading this I take the liberty of presuming you are in possession of these desiderata at this very mome. You may be aware that there are many wireless stations that broadcast on the electronic ether as well as (or instead of) the airwaves. Most of these are no more enticing than the ones you can pick up on an ordinary wireless set that happens to be sitting in the wrong place in time. However I have discovered an exception. It emanates from the American Council for the Blind and is appropriately named Treasure Trove. It broadcasts 24 hours a day - a constant, uninterrupted stream of real wireless programmes, British and American, comedy and drama, unblemished by any bongo commentary, introductions or anything else.

There are some two or three seconds of bongo noise at the beginning of each session. This is quite indecipherable and, fortunately, American (one could hardly allow those awful Yeekay-bongo tones into the house even for a few seconds - broadcasting bongos always seem so much worse than any others - presumably they represent the Next Step). You may regard this as the screechy tuning-in noises which real wireless sets tend to make - it is certainly no more intelligible. After this the programmes flow smoothly. They are interrupted, it is true by advertising messages from the programmes' sponsors, but these are as up-to-date as the programmes themselves. Sherlock Holmes, for example (the best series with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce) is sponsored by the Petrie Wine Company and some one tries to sell one a bottle of Chablis or sherry in between acts. It is all rather charming really.

It is not quite real wireless, of course. One has not the "direct contact" of a live announcer, nor are there chats and panel games. For these we must perhaps wait until the New Sensibility creates its own wireless. This is all drama and comedy. It is also rather American. Most of the programmes are American, and those that aren't are such British fare as makes its way to America. Sherlock Holmes, of course, and the ubiquitous (though in my view not very admirable) Goon Show. One misses such deeply British delights as Toytown or Paul Temple. One does tend to feel a little overwhelmed by tough detectives from 1940s Los Angeles.

However, I have not been listening-in for long, so my findings may not be wholly representative. Whether they are or not, it is certain that one has found a real wireless station that one may tune in to at any time of night or day and find something happening in the real world, whether one is being sold wine, annoyed by Goons or whisked off into a world of mystery and adventure with Sherlock Holmes, the Shadow or the Green Hornet. And whatever is being broadcast it cannot help but stock one's image sphere with more of the atmosphere of the real world. Another blow against the Pit's battle for your mind.

You will not even have to install quaint and curious devices like Real Player on your ordinator. These broadcasts will stream happily through standard players like Winamp which you will almost certainly find that you already possess as part of your installed system. Broadcasting is good, with little interference, provided you have a reasonably fast connexion - though you may find a certain amount of "stalling" at the most popular hours.

One other thing you may require, if you find yourself hooked and intend to listen-in more than occasionally, is unmetered access. Paying telephone rates for listening to the wireless is a thing to be avoided if possible, but the new unmetered services make this perfectly possible.

I for one am fascinated to find what else I shall discover on my new wireless set - are there science fiction series such as the rivetting X Minus One? Or Superman, perhaps, or even Paul Temple? And are there other Stations waiting to be discovered? Have you, dear reader, even discovered them already? Do let me know if you have, so that the Secession Site can broadcast the broadcasts.

Speaking of which, I had better tell you how to receive this one, hadn't I? Just pop along to this address. You will be able to play the broadcasts directly from this page. But if you like them I recommend you pop along to the tuners page whence you can load down a small tuner which will allow you in future to invoke the station directly from your Winamp or Real Player.

Happy listening.

Twenty-First Century Vixen


Read a letter in response to this piece