Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Devin, who writes:
I am a game historian conducting research on early computer games. There is one radio program of particular historical significance called The Famous Computer Cafe that interviewed all the early movers and shakers of early computing, including Philip Estridge, Bill Gates, Bill Atkinson, Gene Rodenberry, and Stewart Brand. The show ran from 1983-1986 primarily in the Los Angeles area, but was distributed nationally over NPR starting in 1985. Only one recording is known to exist, along with a few transcripts, as the original tapes were lost years ago.
Here are more details on the show:
“There were several versions of the show, which aired on several radio stations, primarily in California. A live, daily half-hour version allowed phone calls from listeners. Taped versions (running a half-hour and up to two hours) also aired daily. The show started in 1983 on two stations in the Los Angeles area: KFOX 93.5 FM and KIEV 870 AM. In 1985 it began airing in the California Bay Area: on KXLR 1260 AM in San Francisco and KCSM 91.1 FM in San Matro, and KSDO 1130 AM in San Diego. [Note: KIEV ran 3:30-4pm M-F and KFOX 7:30am-8:00am and 6:00pm-6:30pm. I do not have information on the times for the 1 hour show.]
Also in 1985 a nationally syndicated, half-hour non-commercial version of The Famous Computer Cafe was available via satellite to National Public Radio stations around the United States, though it’s not clear today which stations ran it.”
I was hoping the Spectrum Archive might have some recordings within some of your files, particularly from the LA area. What additional information would I need to provide you in order to better locate some recordings?
Thank you for your help,
Thank you for your inquiry, Devin. I’m a huge fan of early personal computing and game broadcasts, but never heard the The Famous Computer Cafe. Unfortunately–as I mentioned via email–the Spectrum Archive nor the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive have any recordings of the program.
I’m willing to bet an SWLing Post reader may be familiar with the show, however.
Post Readers: If you have any information that could help Devin, please comment on this post. It would be brilliant if someone actually made an off-air recording of the show back int he day.
Radio Waves: Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio
Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers. To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Kim Elliott and Dennis Dura for the following tips:
A quantum sensor could give Soldiers a way to detect communication signals over the entire radio frequency spectrum, from 0 to 100 GHz, said researchers from the Army.
Such wide spectral coverage by a single antenna is impossible with a traditional receiver system, and would require multiple systems of individual antennas, amplifiers and other components.
In 2018, Army scientists were the first in the world to create a quantum receiver that uses highly excited, super-sensitive atoms—known as Rydberg atoms—to detect communications signals, said David Meyer, a scientist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. The researchers calculated the receiver’s channel capacity, or rate of data transmission, based on fundamental principles, and then achieved that performance experimentally in their lab—improving on other groups’ results by orders of magnitude, Meyer said.
“These new sensors can be very small and virtually undetectable, giving Soldiers a disruptive advantage,” Meyer said. “Rydberg-atom based sensors have only recently been considered for general electric field sensing applications, including as a communications receiver. While Rydberg atoms are known to be broadly sensitive, a quantitative description of the sensitivity over the entire operational range has never been done.”[…]
Communicating with covert fleets during WWII required some special equipment.
What do you do when you need to communicate with a crew of 50 sailors submerged in a submarine in an undisclosed location across the world’s oceans? That was a difficult question to answer for Navy leaders in WWII.
Radio waves don’t easily travel through saltwater, which meant that getting active communication with a submarine crew meant making the submarine surface an antenna. This was the obvious solution, but it made a previously covert submarine now a visible target.
[…]Engineers tasked with finding a more covert solution soon discovered that radio waves with low frequencies, around 10 kHz, could penetrate saltwater to depths up to around 20 meters. They realized that if the transponders on submarines were switched to these frequency ranges, then they communicate with leadership on land.
The problem with this idea was that creating and broadcasting these low-frequency radio waves required massive antennas. Essentially, the lower the frequency of a radio wave, the longer and larger the antenna is required to be.[…]
Certain radio programs broadcast the raw data to video games for viewers to download.
[…]In 1977, the world’s first microprocessor-driven PCs were released. These were the Apple II, the Commodore PET, and the TRS-80. All these machines had one thing in common – they used audio cassettes for storage.
Hard drives at the time were still quite expensive, and everyone at the time had access to cheap audio cassettes. Early computer designers actually flaunted cassette storage as it aided in the early adoption of personal computers. As PCs became more common, so to did the emergence of their use as video game machines.
As the 1980s rolled around, engineers at the Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, NOS, a Dutch broadcasting organization, realized something incredible. Since computer programs and video games were stored on audio cassettes, it meant that their data could be transmitted with ease over the radio. They started taking programs and video games and setting up broadcasts where people could “download” games onto their own personal computers.
The audio that was transmitted would’ve sounded reminiscent of a dial-up modem booting up.
[…]NOS started a radio program specifically for transmitting gaming data called “Hobbyscoop,” and it became incredibly popular. The company even created a standard cassette format called BASICODE to ensure computer compatibility.
Eventually, transmitting games through computers became so popular that radio shows popped up all around the world. A Yugoslovik station called “Ventilator 202” broadcasted 150 programs between 1983 and 1986. As the practice evolved, it became less of a novelty and rather a practical way for people to share calculation programs, educational tools, encyclopedias, and even flight simulators.[…]
My trusty Gateway tower PC here at SWLing Post HQ is finally showing signs of wear–the boot drive is getting noisy, the cooling fans are being taxed and Win 10 can’t even complete the latest update. I purchased the Gateway in 2012 as a “shack” PC and loaded it with SDR applications, logging programs and very little else. It has an Intel core i5 processor 2320 which has handled running multiple SDR applications simultaneously with little problem.
I could tear apart this PC, try to find the issues and replace parts, but I think I might do better simply upgrading the whole system.
I no longer feel like I need a tower PC configuration–I’d rather have something with a smaller footprint–though I do appreciate the accessibility inside to swap parts and make incremental upgrades. I also like having a built-in optical drive and SD card reader which are typical features on tower PCs.
Since I connect no less than three or four SDRs and an external hard drive all at once, USB ports are a necessity.
I’m out of touch with current PC models, but here are a list of my needs and wants.
Recent generation Intel i5 or i7 processor
Minimum of four USB 3.0 ports
Quiet power supply (to minimize RFI, of course)
Affordable: $500-600 budget
Windows 10 operating system
Potential for longevity (6 years+)
12+ GB of RAM (or the ability to add)
Solid state boot drive (or the ability to add later)