In the NBC Microphone Storage Room
a long-time collector of early microphones, I’ve always been intrigued by this
image. It shows the microphone storage room at NBC in
New York in 1929.
engineer George McElrath is checking out the microphones that will be used for
the live broadcast of President Herber Hoover’s inaugural. The one-hour broadcast required hundreds of
hours of advance preparation.
recordings were allowed at NBC during these years, which meant that all audio
originated from microphones. That fact would
have made this an important and frequently used room in the RCA broadcast center
at 711 Fifth Ave.
the years before the development of the ribbon and dynamic microphone
technologies, the only useful options were carbon or condenser microphones. Both systems required external DC power,
typically provided by batteries. While offering better fidelity, condenser microphones were too fragile
to be used outside the studio. So, the older carbon microphone technology was typically used for remote
this storage room, we see dozens of Western Electric 600-A double button carbon
microphones stored in the wooden box labeled “Mikes.” McElrath is mounting them with suspension
springs in both floor stands and the ubiquitous 1-B desktop enclosures.
parts storage boxes on the shelves behind him are artfully labeled as “Rheostats
and Potentiometers,” “Sockets,” “Signal Lights,” “Screws,” “Washers,” “Mike
Fittings” and various other categories.
original print of this early NBC publicity photo comes from the collection of
John Schneider is a lifelong radio history researcher. Write
him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is one in a series of photo
features from his collection. See past images under Columns/Roots
of Radio at radioworld.com.