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Tuesday
Jul182017

The Jingle Cart Machine

I've been looking for a 'cart machine' for quite a while now. These are the devices used by DJs for playing back jingles and other short pre-recorded audio segments from Fidelipac cartridges.

The occasional machines that end up on ebay are usually non-functional as the working models are still in demand by smaller radio stations, although I suspect in the 1990s (before the dawn of ebay) radio stations dumped these machines on mass when they moved to more modern solutions like Minidisc.

In this video I get to use a vintage cart machine to find out the contents of a number of of mysterious old carts...and in the process I unearth a little bit of radio history. 

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Reader Comments (7)

One of the Radio 1 Jingles, the "Music Scene" one, can be found on the Radio Rewind site, where it is attributed as being from the 1960s: http://www.radiorewind.co.uk/radio1/jingles_menu_page.htm

July 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJQW

Already in the mid-'80s, small radio stations in the U.S. were transitioning to Digicarts.

July 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDahFinstah

As to the many carts with songs on them, many communities in the U.S. had automated stations, run pretty much by a program director, an engineer-on-call and a sales force. The link shows an example of a playback 'studio' from one such station:

http://www.davidgleason.com/Archive%20PR%20Pueblo/PR-11-Q-Automation1.jpg

July 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDahFinstah

Here's another tape cartridge machine

1961 Orrtronic Tapette Loop Tape Player P-100A

July 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commentertj

Really enjoyed the you tube video on the spotmaster broadcast cart machin. Took me back half a century to when I started out in radio. Not only did I play carts on them ... I had to clean and reair the machine, plastic carts and the back lubricated tape since I had an FCC mandated Fiirst Class Radio Telephone Operators license. Let me get to additional info on carts and not dwell on my stuff.
A) There were many different kinds of cart machines. Different units had special head (track or erase) combinations.
1) The Spotmaster you showed on you tube had record and playback heads for audio and cuing. When you pressed the record button > The tape would start moving and a cue tone would be recorded on the right head. The audio would be recorded with the left head. When the tape looped around the left head/cue track would pick up the signal and stop the tape movement. What about audio playback? That would come from the RIGHT audio head. The slight difference in spacing would allow the tape to start Moving (hopefully up to 7.5 ips) before the audio track would hit the playback head. The specified interval was, as noted 1/10 of a second.
B) In a machine such as yours, both the audio record and playback heads would be active at the same time. That would enable DJs and engineers to create an audio echo effect. First you hear a sound, then 0.1 second later you could hear it again. Depending on the volme of the second signal you could alter the echo effect from between a simple one (low echo volume) to a repeated echo with louder volume.
B) In order to create an echo effect you needed a cart with significant erased tape in it. Cart machines such as the one you have did not have an erase head. So if the tape looped back to the start of the echo ... you would be recording all over your previous audio. That technical issue required cartridges ob be bulk erased over a separate magnetic transformer. Theoretically the cue tone recorded at the start would stop a cart before you could record over it. However you could defeat the cue tone recording by starting the cart playing and then hitting the record button once the tape was in motion.
C: The cue tone was only recorded in combination with the record button .. So you could either:
1) let the tape loop and stop at the beginning (in which case you would want a tape size as close to the length of the audio as possible so that the cart would cue up quick and be eligible to be swapped out for another cart.
2) You could press STOP after the first audio section was recorded. That way when you recorded the next section another cue tone would be put on the tape. PAUSE and repeat for as many times as you wished within the allotted time of the cart.
D; The cue tone not only stopped the cart from recording or playing past a specific spot. It could also be used to trigger other cart machines (perhaps a rack mounted carousel in automated stations or a rack mounted 14 inch tape transport at automated music or brokered time stations. There was a basic electronic "Brain" that controlled all the audio machines as to when and which input would be fed to the transmitter. If you worked the overnight at an AM station (say WRNL in Richmond, VA) when you logged in at midnight you would also get a log and a stack of carts for the automated FM staion (WRXL in Richmond, VA0. The traffic office would have already calculated which cart w2ould go in which of 24 slots, which up and down mechanical sliders on the brain you would have to change to maintain the proper order of audio. And, oh yes, for your own sanity, you would swap out the three 14 inch reels of syndicated audio so you wouldn't have to do it again befor you went off duty.
E: With the ability to synch cart machines one after the other ... If you weren't into all night radio perhaps because you had already done 5 hours on another station ... you could go into the production studio, record a few versions of the weather report on one cart, some community news updates on a second and two or three rounds of sports scores on a third. Then since there was a wall with some 100 or so "classic" songs on cart storewd on the wall, along with any required commercials, you then fed the carts into a row of six or seven machines and effectively automated your self for the night.

That's the basics of using broadcast carts.

One additional note: the extra large cart you showed could also be used in a three heat cart machine. If there is a third head cutout on the large cart it was for an erase head to be inserted in the middle position. The secquence would then be (L to R) playback, erase, record. The card would then be loaded with whatever loength of time the station wished to delay the studio audio from reaching the transmitter and providing the ability to cut the studio audio off air. This is popularly known as the seven second delay though the exact delay was determined by how long the tape was in the cart. The short length of tape was a bitch to load and frequently the length varied and te loop was a little loose. You could tell that because the tape would circle but not move the plastic wheel on the floor of the cart.

August 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNorm Van Anden

Really enjoyed the you tube video on the spotmaster broadcast cart machin. Took me back half a century to when I started out in radio. Not only did I play carts on them ... I had to clean and reair the machine, plastic carts and the back lubricated tape since I had an FCC mandated Fiirst Class Radio Telephone Operators license. Let me get to additional info on carts and not dwell on my stuff.

A) There were many different kinds of cart machines. Different units had special head (track or erase) combinations.

1) The Spotmaster you showed on you tube had record and playback heads for audio and cuing. When you pressed the record button > The tape would start moving and a cue tone would be recorded on the right head. The audio would be recorded with the left head. When the tape looped around the left head/cue track would pick up the signal and stop the tape movement.
2) What about audio playback? That would come from the RIGHT audio head. The slight difference in spacing would allow the tape to start Moving (hopefully up to 7.5 ips) before the audio track would hit the playback head. The specified interval was, as noted 1/10 of a second.

B) In a machine such as yours, both the audio record and playback heads would be active at the same time. That would enable DJ's and engineers to create an audio echo effect. First you hear a sound, then 0.1 second later you could hear it again. Depending on the volme of the second signal you could alter the echo effect from between a simple one (low echo volume) to a repeated echo with louder volume. In order to create an echo effect you needed a cart with significant erased tape in it. Cart machines such as the one you have did not have an erase head. So if the tape looped back to the start of the echo ... you would be recording all over your previous audio. That technical issue required cartridges ob be bulk erased over a separate magnetic transformer. Theoretically the cue tone recorded at the start would stop a cart before you could record over it. However you could defeat the cue tone recording by starting the cart playing and then hitting the record button once the tape was in motion.

C): The cue tone was only recorded in combination with the record button .. So you could either:
1) let the tape loop and stop at the beginning (in which case you would want a tape size as close to the length of the audio as possible so that the cart would cue up quick and be eligible to be swapped out for another cart.
2) You could press STOP after the first audio section was recorded. That way when you recorded the next section another cue tone would be put on the tape. PAUSE and repeat for as many times as you wished within the allotted time of the cart.

D); The cue tone not only stopped the cart from recording or playing past a specific spot. It could also be used to trigger other cart machines (perhaps a rack mounted carousel in automated stations or a rack mounted 14 inch tape transport at automated music or brokered time stations. There was a basic electronic "Brain" that controlled all the audio machines as to when and which input would be fed to the transmitter. If you worked the overnight at an AM station (say WRNL in Richmond, VA) when you logged in at midnight you would also get a log and a stack of carts for the automated FM station (WRXL in Richmond, VA0. The traffic office would have already calculated which cart w2ould go in which of 24 slots, which up and down mechanical sliders on the brain you would have to change to maintain the proper order of audio. And, oh yes, for your own sanity, you would swap out the three 14 inch reels of syndicated audio so you wouldn't have to do it again befor you went off duty.

E): With the ability to sync cart machines one after the other ... If you weren't into all night radio perhaps because you had already done 5 hours on another station ... you could go into the production studio, record a few versions of the weather report on one cart, some community news updates on a second and two or three rounds of sports scores on a third. Then since there was a wall with some 100 or so "classic" songs on cart storewd on the wall, along with any required commercials, you then fed the carts into a row of six or seven machines and effectively automated your self for the night.

That's the basics of using broadcast carts.

One additional note: the extra large cart you showed could also be used in a three heat cart machine. If there is a third head cutout on the large cart it was for an erase head to be inserted in the middle position. The secquence would then be (L to R) playback, erase, record. The card would then be loaded with whatever loength of time the station wished to delay the studio audio from reaching the transmitter and providing the ability to cut the studio audio off air. This is popularly known as the seven second delay though the exact delay was determined by how long the tape was in the cart. The short length of tape was a bitch to load and frequently the length varied and te loop was a little loose. You could tell that because the tape would circle but not move the plastic wheel on the floor of the cart.

copyright 2017 Quadrant 4 Inc. All rights reserved

August 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNorm Van Anden

Surely the mystery cartridge once belonged to Kenny Lynch?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenny_Lynch

September 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob White

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