Tag Archives: 99% Invisible

The Shipping Forecast featured on 99% Invisible

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who notes that one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible, has featured The Shipping Forecast in their latest episode:

Four times every day, on radios all across the British Isles, a BBC announcer begins reading from a seemingly indecipherable script. “And now the Shipping Forecast issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency,” says the voice over the wire. “Viking, North Utsire; southwesterly five to seven; occasionally gale eight; rain or showers; moderate or good, occasionally poor.” Cryptic and mesmerizing, this is the UK’s nautical weather report.

The Shipping Forecast is “part of the culture here,” muses Charlie Connolly, author of Attention All Shipping: A Journey ‘Round the Shipping Forecast. “It’s a much loved institution. People regard it as poetry.” Connolly grew up listening to the forecast. Even now, as an adult, he sets his alarm so he can tune into the early morning forecast.

The story of this radio program starts (well before the BBC itself) in the 1850s with a man named Admiral Robert FitzRoy. He was the captain of the Beagle, the ship that brought Charles Darwin to the Galapagos.

FitzRoy had a long, sometimes controversial career, but later in his life he became fascinated with the study of weather prediction.[…]

Continue reading and listen to this episode at 99PI.

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of The Shipping Forecast and have featured it in past posts. Thanks for the tip, Eric!

History of the NBC Chimes

Original NBC Chimes. Photo taken at the NCRTV museum

Original NBC Chimes. Photo taken at the National Capital Radio and Television Museum

If you have thirteen minutes today, do yourself a favor and listen to this excellent radio documentary about the NBC chimes from the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz.  It’s fascinating!

(Source: Twenty Thousand Hertz via 99% Invisible)

NBC’s three little chimes didn’t just define a television network, they defined a generation. Where did they come from and what is the surprising impact they have had on current and future media? Featuring the last person to play the NBC chimes on the NBC radio network, broadcaster Rick Greenhut, and radio historian, John Schneider.


Click here to listen to the podcast via SoundCloud.

SIGSALY and the unlikely history of the Bell Labs Voder


One of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible, recently featured a story on the Bell Labs’ Voder and how its innovation lead to one of the best kept secrets in WWII high frequency communications: SIGSALY.

The episode is called Vox Ex Machina and, trust me, it’s a gem.

Stop whatever you’re doing today and listen to this brilliant little documentary.

I’ve embedded the SoundCloud audio of the episode above, but you can also listen via the 99 Percent Invisible website.

99% Invisible: “Voices on the Wire”


Many of you know that I’m a huge fan of 99% Invisible–a podcast and radio show about “design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.”

This past week, 99% Invisible’s episode, Voices on the Wire, featured Tony Schwartz, a recording pioneer, and Frank Conrad, a broadcasting pioneer. While not specifically about shortwave radio, you’ll hear how the ether weaved its way through both of their histories.

I should mention that Roman Mars, creator of 99% Invisible, is quite a fan of shortwave radio. Indeed, in the past, he’s featured our friend, David Goren, of Shortwaveology.net.

You can listen to Voices on the Wire and read the show notes on 99% Invisible’s website. Click here to download the episode as an MP3 file, or simply listen via the embedded SoundCloud player below:

Note that the Tony Swartz segment was originally produced by  The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson, from their series Lost and Found Sound; the segment on Frank Conrad was originally produced by Radio Diaries.

And, hey…if you happen to be chatting with Roman Mars anytime soon, ask him to do more shows on shortwave radio: a technology I consider to be the ultimate invisible medium!