John Holton (john_holton) wrote,
John Holton

As some of you know, I'm a bit of a broadcasting buff. I'm interested in anything having to do with history of television and radio. One particular area of interest is the Emergency Broadcast System, which (as it is explained here) was instituted by President Kennedy in 1963 so that the President would have a way of talking to the country in the event of an emergency (e.g. the onset of thermnuclear war). As it turned out, about the only contact that most of us had with it was the weekly test. If you say "This is a test" to nearly anyone over the age of thirty, they'll be able to recite the whole script, complete with the attention signal (which I have recreated here for the benefit of those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, or those of you who are suddenly hit with a certain binge of nostalgia).

After a while, the whole thing started to be a bit of a joke. I can remember hearing this version one afternoon, and found this version for WHEN in Syracuse, NY (wonder if the Independent Rainbow Community knows about it?) in a couple of places. (Both of these clips come from My link takes you to the page that the clip is on; all you have to do is click on the appropriate hypertext. Visit their site when you have a lot of time. It's a riot.) None of these versions were legal, of course, but after a while, most people treated it as a joke anyway.

Now, why am I boring you with all of this right now? Well, because today is a significant date in history.

The responsibility for testing the AP and UPI Teletypes (which was how most radio stations got their news feeds) fell to the National Warning Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Every Saturday at 9:30 AM ET they would send a test message across the wires. Thirty four years ago today, they sent the WRONG MESSAGE, and scared the hell out of people, especially those at radio and TV stations. (You can see the message here, although this site reports it as having happened on February 21, 1971). What's even scarier in retrospect was that most stations figured, "ah, it's just the weekly test. Let's not worry about it." It kind of sounded like that old Robert Klein bit about the air raid sirens ("Let's attack at noon, Ivan, the Americans will think it's lunch!").

Hope you found this interesting.

Hmmm...what branch of the service was in charge of NORAD, anyway? :)

Later Edit: Lots of cool EBS stuff here.

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