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Surfin’: Looking for Channel 1, But Finding WNBC


By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ discovers that call letters can have an interesting -- and unexpected -- history.

I have something leftover from last year: an error in the “Where's Channel 1?” story from two columns ago. It turns out that the call letters WNBT were not used by the TV station in New Britain, Connecticut, which is now WVIT Channel 30.

ARRL Test Engineer, Bob Allison, WB1GCM, worked at Channel 30 for 28 years and was the station’s unofficial historian. Bob assured me that the station never used WNBT, rather it started as WKNB on Friday the 13th in February 1953, switched to WNBC in 1956, WHNB in 1960 and WVIT in 1978. Wikipedia has an informative history about the station.

I was surprised that the station used the call letters WNBC (initialism for New Britain, Connecticut), since today those call letters are so engrained in my mind as the call letters of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) television network’s flagship station -- channel 4 in Rockefeller Center, New York City. But then again, I can recall when channel 4 was WRCA (initialism for the Radio Corporation of America).

Poking around the net, I was also surprised to learn that my favorite AM radio station during my teenager era, WPOP, also used the WNBC call letters in the past -- from 1934 to 1944 to be exact. (WPOP’s transmitter and former studios are just up and around the bend from W1AW, by the way.)

Wikipedia documents other uses of the WNBC call sign, that is, by New York City’s AM radio station WFAN and New York City’s FM radio station WQHT. Pre-WFAN, WNBC-AM was the flagship station of the NBC radio network.

One more by the way -- Dave Kaplan, WA1OUI, alerted me about John Ramsey’s, W1JNR, Connecticut Broadcast History Web site, which is “Preserving the History of Connecticut Radio and TV.” I know some of you are thinking that this Connecticut-centric Web site would be of little interest beyond the borders of the Nutmeg State, but remember that Connecticut was a hotbed of radio pioneering and experimentation, and the histories of the stations covered on W1JNR’s Web site reflect this.

Until next time, keep on surfin'!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, has old call letters, too (WN1LOU). To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.




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