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85 Years of Wireless Information


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The photo of KSL's initial broadcast tells part of the story. A few people gathered outside what amounts to a shack on top of the old Deseret News building.

It's one of hundreds of photo's I sorted through as part of a project to put together a DVD on KSL's 85th birthday.

There were scenes of downtown Salt Lake in the 1920's, of downtown buildings with huge KSL antennas reaching into the sky, of remote broadcast vans at the Bonneville Salt Flats, The KSL Players who performed radio dramas, orchestras, symphonies, religious and civic leaders and dozens of former and current hosts and personalities in dozens of settings in the community.

The first broadcast, by itself, wasn't easy. Historians say the LDS Church supported the idea of a radio station, but didn't want to put up the money to buy a transmitter. So a few radio supporters at the Deseret News bought the components and built it themselves.

It's hardly the image I have now when I think of KSL and the huge transmitters near the shore of the Great Salt Lake that puts out enough energy at its base to light up a florescent tube, kind of like a light saber.

I have some very fond radio memories in Salt Lake. Growing up, everyone my age would tune in to Skinny Johnny Mitchell to listen to the "Battle of the Bands." We loved it when a song would survive for weeks, because it would start going up against some all-time favorites like "D.O.A., "The Night Chicago Died" and "Cherokee Nation." It was what we talked about at school the next day.

When we were in the car, though, the radio was most often on KSL. That was cool too, especially at night when the CBS Radio Mystery Theater came on the air. I loved using my imagination to create images of the scenes that were being acted out.

Later on, when I was driving a truck for a local nursery, I loved pulling into a new city or town early in the morning, reaching over to tune in a local station, and listening to the town "wake up". Whether big or small, the station introduced me to the community.

I also remember, many times, tuning into KSL to get information on a big story. In fact, it was a big story on the island of Guam that convinced me I wanted to do what I do. I happened to be in a local radio station as a reporter moved around the island, telling people about the storm, the damage etc. I loved the idea of being able to tell people something they *needed* to hear. That part of it has not left me.

Thats' one of the best parts about working in radio, being able to tell a story that allows a listener to create an image in his or her own mind. Every individual image is maybe just a bit different. Hopefully, though, the overall message is clear.

In 1922, some scoffed at radio as a passing fad. When TV came to be, some predicted a fast death for radio. Now with the internet, I-pods, blogs, satellite and the like some again are predicting the end. But I think it's far from dead. Uninterrupted music on an I-pod or satellite radio is fine, so's the idea of being able to tune in national news and talk programming. But I think people, in some form, will always crave a local link to their community. It's something KSL has provided for 85 years, and I imagine it will continue to do so long after we're all gone.

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Marc Giauque

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