At The Tone

Myke Dodge Weiskopf

Myke Weiskopf compiled “At The Tone” (2005) is the first volume in a series of historical sound portraits of shortwave radio broadcasters whose primary purpose is the dissemination of scientifically precise time and frequency. Time-signal stations were among the earliest radio broadcasters and remain in use in many countries (though ever fewer, as satellite-based alternatives proliferate). Weiskopf devoted the bulk of his studies to these stations, which he found hopelessly alluring in their mechanized, ultra-utilitarian wonder.

At the time still a teenager, he founded a short-lived organization for shortwave radio enthusiasts called the International Time-Signal DXers Association (ITDXA) and it was through ITDXA that he began publishing “The Tick-Tock Times” in the summer of 1991. Over the next two years, he put out another six issues of the “The Tick-Tock Times”—each in a print run slightly larger than the last, eventually reaching over 200 independent members in six or seven countries. Via this expanded network or shortwave enthusiasts, Weiskopf collected the recordings that comprise “At the Tone.”

Focusing on the American stations WWV and WWVH, the first edition of “At The Tone” was produced on cassette in 1992 under the auspices of the ITDXA. An updated version released in 2005 collects fifty years' worth of archival broadcast recordings (1955-2005) on a 74-minute CD. Accompanied by a 32-page illustrated booklet, the collection represents a huge cross-section of the stations' "life and times," including: recordings of obsolete formats, original voices and identifications, special announcements, format changes, "leap seconds," and other aural oddities. Considered the definitive historical work on the subject by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (which operates WWV and WWVH), “At The Tone” is alternately strange and mundane, monotonous and compelling, erudite and obscure.