How the Municipal Receiving Station in Dundee, Michigan, Relays Radio Entertainment to Private Subscribers Over Land Wires
By GRAYSON L. KIRK
RECEIVING conditions in Dundee, Michigan, are unusually good. You don't need any aerial or ground. You don't even have to have a radio set. In fact, you can hear programmes from stations all over the country on nothing but $1.50 a month and a loudspeaker.
Municipal radio is the answer; and Dundee, a little farming village of less than a thousand inhabitants, proudly boasts the first working system of its kind in the United States. This village, named after the Scottish community renowned for its marmalade, is located in the rich farming district of Monroe County, Michigan, along the banks of the River Raisin. There the tired farmer goes in from work, closes a switch, and without any tinkering with instruments may listen to a perfectly tuned concert from almost anywhere in the country. In the pool room on "Main Street," an eager crowd gathers on summer afternoons to listen to Big League scores or Grand Circuit results. In the lobby of the little hotel across the street the college student, agenting for the summer among the farmer folk, may sit of an evening and listen to the radio concerts.
All this is now possible because more than a year ago, Frank W. Gradolph, President of the Farmers' Telephone Company of Dundee, had a vision--a vision whereby his company might render greater service to the town and community. He saw that one of the greatest handicaps to radio receiving was the even slight technical knowledge and expensive instruments necessary for satisfactory operation. And he saw still further the tremendous possibilities that would be opened if these difficulties could be eliminated.
The project at first seemed foolhardy, if not actually impossible. Obviously a central station and receiving apparatus were a necessity. But how could the sound be distributed from such a station without losing any of its tonal quality? What sort of wire would be required? Would telephonic interference demand special poles?
These were a few of the problems that beset the originator of the project. He was undaunted, however, and after a stormy session the consent of the board of directors was secured and the work was begun.
First, a powerful receiving set was purchased and installed in the office of the telephone company. Batteries of a special design and extra strength were purchased. Then came the problem of a suitable aerial. The company erected a tall well-braced mast on the roof of their own three-story building and secured permission from the owner of a neighboring building to erect on its roof a similar mast. A customary four-wire antenna was stretched between them and connections were made. It gave splendid results in the little telephone office. Could the sound be distributed all over town satisfactorily?
This problem of distribution proved to be the greatest obstacle the company had to face. At first a few loud speakers were installed in various homes about town and were connected to the central station by means of uninsulated telephone wire strung along on the telephone poles.
The result was discouraging. The sound seemed to have sufficient volume but the tonal quality was ruined. The music was changed into a blaring static-charged discord. The officials decided that the trouble was caused by the interference of the telephone currents and they set about to remedy the difficulty. They tore down the transmission wire and in its place substituted a medium grade of light insulated wire, such as is often used in house wiring.
The results this time were better, but by no means satisfactory. So, profiting by their experience, the wires were once again torn down, and replaced with a very heavily insulated wire. More than six months had now elapsed since their first experiments, and the directors of the company were beginning to grow impatient. Would it be a success this time or were they again destined to fail?
Giving orders to the operator to open the circuit at a certain time, the officials hurried down to one of the homes that had a Magnavox installation. They waited in suspense; and suddenly there burst from the horn the sound of a voice singing. The tone was full and clear. The reproduction was almost perfect. The experiment was an unqualified success!
News of the success of the venture spread, and within a few days the office was besieged with townspeople clamoring for an installation. The troubles of the company, though, were not yet over, for difficulty in distribution arose almost immediately. As the number of phones or horns was increased the volume of sound steadily decreased, until the results were as unsatisfactory as before.
Various schemes of overcoming the trouble were tried and finally the electricians hit upon the idea of dividing the town into four distribution districts and effecting a quadruple distribution from these four main conduits. As a further aid, more powerful batteries were installed in the central station. Once again the results were satisfactory.
The entire mechanical force of the telephone company was placed on the work of installing and soon practically every home in the village was able to enjoy, without any technical knowledge or expensive receiving outfit, radio concerts and programmes picked up from many parts of the United States by the powerful central station.
F. W. Gradolph, the man who was credited earlier in this story with the original idea and subsequent realization of the project, is a quiet electrician and business man of early middle age, who takes a naïve and pardonable pride in being able to provide this broadcast service at a charge of one dollar and a half a month to each subscriber.
It is the opinion of everyone who has witnessed the successful operation of the Dundee experiment that this community really "has something." Who will say how many Dundees, all over the country, will be adopting this system of municipal radio within the next few years?