The NBC Chimes Museum A Celebration Of Old–Time Radio’s Most Famous Signature
discussions about automatic chimes operation
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Date: February 15, 1938 To: Mr George McElrath From: H C Luttgens Subject: Late Chimes During most of the day's operations or Friday, February 4, we monitored some 90 separate sets of chimes in order to find out not whether they were being rung late but just how much. The attached report indicates that chimes were rung up to as much as 16 seconds late. The average for the day was 4.08 seconds late. The average lateness for Chicago rung chimes was 1.2 seconds. The average lateness for all other chimes originated in other NBC offices was 6.1 seconds. Chimes are invariably being rung late and, in some cases, cause complic- ations in our switching operations. I understand there are some programs originating on the west coast which start on a time basis and whenever the preceding show ends late, the stations joining the west coast show undoubtedly miss the start of the program as happened, for example, on the Packard Show at 9:30 PM EST, February 8. Due to our being in the center of operations and having so many facilities to switch and coordinate, the Chicago Office finds itself "on the spot" so to speak. It is noteworthy that of the only three sets of chimes that were rung "on the head" all originated in the Chicago studios. If we are still unable to overcome the stumbling block to the acceptance of clock-operated chimes, we can at least try to improve conditions by driving home to the program people in other offices the necessity for ringing chimes on or close to time. (sign.) H.C.L. HCL:LC cc- Mr Strotz Enc.
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LOG OF ACTUAL CHIMES TIME FOR FRIDAY - FEBRUARY 4, 1938 (1) Seconds (2) Actual Chimes Late Scheduled Chimes Program Title Network Origin 9:14:44 Plus 4 9:14:40 A. S. Boyle Company RED 9:14:41 " 1 9:14:40 Quaker Oats BLUE Chicago 9:29:46 " 6 9:29:40 Affiliated Products RED 9:29:43 " 3 " Quaker Oats BLUE Chicago 9:44:48 " 8 9:44:40 Bisodol Company RED 9:44:45 " 5 9:44:40 S. C. Johnson Co. BLUE Chicago 9:44:45 " 5 " Viennese Ensemble BLUE " 9:59:43 " 3 9:49:40 Pillsbury RED Chicago 9:59:45 " 5 " Mueller BLUE 10:14:46 " 6 10:14:40 B. T. Babbitt RED 10:14:44 " 4 " P & G Ivory BLUE Chicago 10:14:44 " 4 " Norm Sherr BLUE " 10:14:44 " 4 " Quaker Oats BLUE " 10:29:43 " 3 10:29:40 H. L. Watkins Co. RED " 10:29:43 " 3 " Quaker Oats Co. BLUE " 10:29:47 " 7 " P & G Camay BLUE 10:44:44 " 4 10:44:40 Phillips Chemical Co. RED 10:44:43 " 3 " P & G Crisco BLUE Chicago 10:44:43 " 3 " Originalities BLUE " 10:59:44 " 4 10:59:40 Drackett Company RED 10:59:44 " 4 " P & G Ivory BLUE 11:14:43 " 3 11:14:40 Kellogg RED Chicago 11:14:43 " 3 " Happy Jack RED " 11:14:51 " 11 " Time for Thought BLUE 11:29:49 " 9 11:29:40 P & G Ivory RED 11:29:49 " 9 " Edw. Gamage BLUE 11:44:47 " 7 11:44:40 Lotus Gardens Orchestra RED 11:29:43 " 3 11:29:40 Farm & Home Hour BLUE Chicago 11:59:46 " 6 11:59:40 Lotus Gardens Orchestra RED 12:14:48 " 8 12:14:40 Carlile & London RED 12:29:00 No Chimes 12:29:40 A. S. Boyle RED 12:29:43 Plus 3 " Escorts & Betty RED Chicago 12:44:48 " 8 12:44:40 Affiliated Products RED 12:44:48 " 8 " Sue Blake BLUE 12:59:45 " 5 12:59:40 Biscodol RED 12:59:45 " 5 " Swedish Sailor Songs BLUE 1:59:42 " 2 1:59:40 NBC Music Apprec. Hour RED & BLUE 2:14:45 " 5 2:14:40 P & G (Camay) RED 2:59:46 " 6 2:59:40 Radio Guild BLUE 2:29:41 " 1 2:29:40 P & G (Oxydol) RED Chicago 2:44:41 " 1 2:44:40 P & G (Crisco) RED " 2:59:40 None 2:59:40 P & G(Naphtha) RED " 3:14:47 Plus 7 3:14:40 Phillips Chemical Co. RED 3:14:43 " 3 3:14:40 Club Matinee BLUE Chicago 3:29:43 " 3 3:29:40 P & G Ivory RED " 3:29:43 " 3 " Club Matinee BLUE " 3:44:47 " 7 3:44:40 Borden Milk Co. RED 3:44:41 " 1 " Club Matinee BLUE Chicago 3:59:43 " 3 3:59:40 P & G Chipso RED 3:50:40 None " Club Matinee BLUE Chicago 4:09:44 Plus 4 4:09:40 Neighbor Nell BLUE 4:14:48 Plus 8 4:14:40 Quaker Oats RED 4:14:48 " 8 " Swift & Company BLUE Chicago 4:14:48 " 8 " Tea Time Varieties WMAQ " " " 8 " Bike Races WENR " " " 8 " Dean Fossler BLUE " 4:29:47 " 7 4:29:40 Carlotta RED 4:29:42 " 2 " Don Winslow of the Navy BLUE Chicago 4:44:43 " 3 4:44:40 Harry Kogen & Orchestra RED " 4:44:50 " 10 " Rakov's Orchestra BLUE 4:59:42 " 2 4:59:40 Harry Kogen & Orchestra RED Chicago 4:59:42 " 2 " Wander Company RED " 4:59:42 " 2 " Three Romeos BLUE " 4:59:42 " 2 " Ralston Purina BLUE " 5:14:42 " 2 5:14:40 Education in the News RED 5:29:45 " 5 5:29:40 Maurice Spitalny & Orch. BLUE 5:29:45 " 5 " American Red Cross Pgm RED 5:44:48 " 8 5:44:40 Piano Time RED 5:44:42 " 2 " Jackie Heller BLUE Chicago 5:59:44 " 4 5:59:40 Hotel Edison RED 5:59:43 " 3 " Ralston Purina BLUE Chicago " " 3 " Sun Oil BLUE 6:14:43 " 3 6:14:40 Campbells Soup RED 6:14:44 " 4 " Mary Small BLUE 6:29:40 None 6:29:40 Dr. Miles Labor. RED Chicago 6:29:42 Plus"2 " Talk - Emanuel Celler BLUE 6:44:43 " 3 6:44:40 Hendrik Willem Van Loon RED 6:44:43 " 3 " Dinner Concert BLUE 6:44:42 " 2 " Horlick's BLUE Chicago 6:59:46 " 6 6:59:40 Bughouse Rhythm RED 6:59:47 " 7 " Tino Rossi BLUE 7:29:42 " 2 7:29:40 Lambert Company BLUE 7:59:56 " 16 7:59:40 Cities Service RED 7:59:56 " 16 " Pacific Coast Borax BLUE 8:14:40 None 8:14:40 Nola Day BLUE 8:29:40 " 8:29:40 Phillips Chemical Co. RED 8:29:40 " " Talk - Howard Marshall BLUE 8:59:39 Minus 1 8:59:40 MacFadden RED 8:59:43 Plus 3 8:59:40 Paul Martin & His Music BLUE 9:29:40 None 9:29:40 Campana RED Chicago 10:00:20 Minus 10 - 10:00:40 Apostoli vs Lee Fight BLUE 9:44:42 Plus 2 9:44:40 P & G Drene RED 9:59:38 Minus 2 9:59:40 American Cig. & Cigar Co. RED 10:14:40 None 10:14:40 Campbell Soup RED 10:14:40 " 10:14:40 Hotel Park Central BLUE 10:29:40 " 10:29:40 Rockefeller Center R.Rm. RED " " " Hotel Park Central BLUE 10:59:40 " 10:59:40 MacFadden " " " Hotel Biltmore BLUE 11:29:42 Plus 2 11:29:40 Hotel Ambassador 11:29:42 " 2 " Rockefeller Ctr.Rain.Rm. RED 11:59:49 " 9 11:59:40 Hotel Nocollet BLUE 11:59:52 " 12 11:59:40 Hotel Statler RED 12:29:41 " 1 12:29:40 Netherland Plaza Orch. RED (1) - Entries show time at first chime. (2) - Clock checked three seconds fast at 11:00 AM T.S.Handwritten note between the heading and the body: “Mr Fitch; Let us get a mutiny on this”
To: Mr. John Royal, Eastern From: Sidney N. Strotz, Central. Date: February 17, 1938
Dear John: In view of the importance of Chicago as a synchronization point and the difficulties we have been experiencing with both New York and Hollywood originated shows, I had the boys make up a log for February 4 showing the runovers on the various shows produced that day and I am attaching the report for your infor- mation. This report also has been sent to George McElrath. The memorandum is self-explanatory and it brings to mind the various discussions we have had in connection with the advisability, or lack of it, of establishing automatic chimes on a pre-set basis. I realize that you are somewhat against this because of the lack of flexibility but I do feel that if any producer knew chimes were going to ring 20 seconds before the close of the hour or half-hour, he would time his show to get it off the air on time and I am confident that after a few days we should have no further difficulty along these lines. Also, I would like to point out to you that evidently the Coast does not understand why they must wait for a 20 second break between shows regardless of when a given show ends. As for example on the Packard Show last Tuesday night, the preceding show ended at 9:29:52 EST and the West Coast started the Packard show at exactly 9:30:02 allowing for only a 10 second break instead of the normal 20 second break. This resulted in WMAQ (and I presume a number of other stations) missing a portion of the opening fanfare which, of course, is bad programming. If the Coast has not been instructed to wait for 20 seconds, I believe they should be. Part of the difficulty as far as the Coast is concerned, may be that they have no way of knowing that a preceding show has run over and, therefore, they must start their programs on the nose. As a result of this it behooves us in the East - particularly in New York - to get programs off on time. Sincerely yours, (sign.) Sid SIDNEY N. STROTZ.Note: the following three letters of December 5, 6, and 7, 1940 reference a letter from NBC West Coast Program Director John Swallow.
To: Mr John F Royal From: O B Hanson Date: April 28 1938 Subject: A Time Control for Automatic Chime Cues For the past four or five years we have discussed the desirability from a switching standpoint of making the chimes ring automatically by an ac- curately timed control clock, making it necessary for programs to be properly timed to meet the dead line on the chimes. In the last year or so it has become more and more essential from a switching standpoint that this be done. At the present the time system that we use is controlled by the local power company's 60 cycle generators and while, over a period of 24 hours' time, it is accurate it may vary several seconds slow or fast during several hours in the day. Of course, the power systems in New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Hollywood are not synchronized so that conditions may arise where New York may be four seconds ahead of the accurate time and, let us say, San Francisco or Hollywood might be four seconds behind, making a difference of eight seconds and at times more between various points on our network. There- fore, automatically timed chimes rung in New York might be eight seconds ahead of the program in San Francisco or Hollywood, and at some other time during the day the reverse situation might exist. This situation has seriously complicated the switching of network legs and the starting of programs in our various switching centers and places the switch man in such a position where he has to hold up everything until the last late leg is free to make the switch. In addition to the variations in time between switching points, programs are apt to run several additional seconds late thus further complicating the situation. The latter, of course, can be controlled by having time control chimes which force the producer of a program to have his program properly timed. The former variation of time can be overcome by a system which we have studied and consider practical. That is, to install in each of our plants an accurately controlled 60 cycle system originating in a temperature controlled tuning fork which has a variation of only one part of one million. With such accuracy between the various systems there could not exist variations in time of more than a fraction of a second and from our standpoint we feel quite capable of supplying the necessary technical equipment to accomplish the purpose. Our friend, Sid Strotz, has talked to me on several occasions about time control chimes and is in favor of it. Mr Morton, when he was with the Program Department, also felt that this should be done and I think you will find that any one in your department having to do with operations and production would favor the accurately time controlled chimes. I urge that you give this your favorable consideration as from an operating standpoint it is becoming more and more obvious that it is desirable. O B Hanson cc: Messrs Fitch Strotz McElrath Milne Luttgens
To: Mr John Royal, Eastern From: Sidney N Strotz, Central Date: May 3, 1938 Dear John: I have a copy of O. B. Hanson's letter to you of April 28th in connection with pre-set chimes, and as you know, I have been heartily in accord with the procedure as outlined by Hanson, for the last number of years. In my opinion this would eliminate the runovers of various shows which at the present time are exceeding their time limit unnecessarily. If a production director knew he had a definite time in which to produce his show, there is no question in my mind that he could accomplish this and in no way effect the quality of the show itself. As I understand the situation, it is possible to eliminate the automatic chimes in cases where we know this is necessary -- such as when the President of the United States is speaking. Because of our switching situation here in Chicago and the fact that we are at the present time switching some 12 to 14 different legs of the network which necessitates synchronization either with the Blue or the Red, it is advis- able that accuracy be maintained at the various divisional points and origination points of programs. I hope you will give this matter serious considera- tion and a favorable decision. Sincerely yours, SIDNEY N STROTZ cc - Messrs. Trammell, Luttgens
To: Mr O B Hanson From: H C Luttgens Date: May 11, 1938 I have noted with interest your memo of April 28 on the subject of clock-operated chimes and for your information attached is a copy of a memo to Mr Royal by Sidney Strotz, copies of which were sent to Mr Trammell and me. Incidentally, Mr McClancy was in town several days ago and during our conversation the subject of clock-operated chimes was discussed and he mentioned the various objections brought up by Messrs. Witmer, Rainey and Royal. It seems that each of us has his problem but Mr McClancy did admit that Traffic was getting somewhat concerned over the ever increasing number of switches and split program operations, all of which tend to complicate the transmission problem as a whole. I fully appreciate that if it were not for the client or customer there would be no NBC or broadcasting industry and that we must do everything within our means to maintain good- will and cordial relations with our clients and agencies, as well as the public at large. However, it seems to me that there should be some way of getting across to the client and agency the value of such a move as clock-operated chimes and I am of the opinion that if properly approached by our people, and the advantages made known to the clients and agencies, they might even go so far as to sponsor the move. It would probably take some time, but I believe if it were handled in the right manner, it could be done with the whole-hearted support of all concerned. (sign.) H.C. Luttgens HCL:LC cc- Mr Trammell Mr McElrath Mr Strotz
To: H C Luttgens From: O B Hanson Date: May 13, 1938 This will acknowledge your memorandum of May 11th on the subject of clock controlled chimes. As you know Mr Royal has not yet returned to the United States although he is expected some time this week-end, and therefore some time may elapse before this subject comes to his attention. I have had some conversation with Mr Fitch on the subject and, while he appreciates the desirability from an operating standpoint of adopting the system, he feels that there would be some difficulty in getting the clients and agencies to agree. I feel that they are over timid in the matter and that the clients and agencies would have nothing to lose in the change and something to gain by not objecting to the system. Mr Fitch felt that perhaps we should put in the accurately controlled clocks so that there will not be any variations in time between the various offices, and at some later date put through the connection to control the chimes. If we cannot get the whole works now but can get the support of the Program Department on Mr Fitch's suggestion, I am in favor of it as it will only require a switch to be thrown in each office connecting the chimes. Sid Strotz is, of course, in favor of the clock con- trolled chimes and I think he might help the situation along by getting his confreres in the other divisions to add their weight to putting the thing over with Mr Royal. O B Hanson cc: Mr McElrath Mr Strotz
To: Mr O B Hanson From: C W Fitch Date: June 6, 1938 Subject: Clock Controlled Chimes I am returning Mr Luttgens' memoranda of May 17 and 25. As I told you in our recent conversation on this subject, we do not agree with the recommendation to operate automatic clock control of chimes. We agree that it is an excellent idea to equip our various offices with accurately controlled clocks and thus eliminate one cause of time variation in switching network legs. This of course is only a question of dollars and we hope it can be done. But it seems highly impractical and unwise to operate the switches by automatic control in a show business as complex in operation as ours. This applies to sustaining as well as commercial programs. Any show may be spoiled by bad timing and twenty seconds could make or break it, but think of the headaches when a speaker, and he need not be the president, or a musical number, and it need not be Toscanini, is cut on the nose. C W Fitch
The letter is not found in the Chimes papers and may very well be lost to us today.
To: Mr Roy Witmer From: Sidney N Strotz Date: December 5, 1940 The attached letter from John Swallow is self- explanatory and is something which I feel should be checked in each case with the agency involved. Personally, I have always strongly advocated pre- set chimes and I am not so sure that it isn't the thing to do. By pre-set chimes I mean that chimes would ring into the program twenty seconds before the end of the broadcast period and it would be just too bad if the producer of the show let it get out of hand. Will you please do two things. Kindly determine what should be done in the instances Swallow brings to our attention so that we may know how to act in the future and also give me your reaction to the pre-set chime idea. [Signed] Sid SIDNEY N STROTZ SNS:krNote: The following is not an internal correspondence but a letter sent to a private correspondent.
To: Mr Sidney Strotz From: Roy C Witmer Date: Dec 6, 1940 Subject: Pre-set Chimes Referring to the attached note of the 2nd from John Swallow to you. First, I will have to tell you that I have always been opposed to pre-set chimes because I am so sure that there would be many times when they would be very embarrassing. For instance, I don't like the idea of chimes crashing through the last few moments of a commercial announcement; or still more appropriately, what would chimes have done in the two cases that Swallow just mentioned? I don't believe that automatic chimes would have cured these run-overs at all. There is something about the idea of the necessity of a thing like pre-set chimes that infers some sort of weakness on our part. In effect, we say to ourselves we cannot or do not dare to cut a program ourselves, so we hide behind a set of automatic chimes. I think if you will get out some tabulations that we made a couple of years ago on this subject, you will find that the flexibility of handling this with the human touch instead of the mechanical one is very desirable. There are many, many shows that run both under and over a few seconds, and the compensating flexibility of human handling takes care of it where pre-set chimes would not. After all, if there is a great difference of opinion on this subject, why not try it sometime for a few days and see what happens. Such things are always only a matter of opinion until they are actually tried. However, if you do decide to try it, please above all else look out for last minute commercial announcements because if you don't it can cost us some good dough. [signed] RCW IH
To: Mr. Roy Witmer From: Sidney N. Strotz. Date: December 7, 1940 Subject: Pre-set Chimes With further reference to the subject of Pre-set Chimes and your memorandum of the 6th, it is all very nice to sit back and theorize on things and make statements to the effect that we should have better control over the production picture. As a matter of fact, the records will indicate that any show produced by NBC usually has an excellent record from the standpoint of getting off on time. The difficulty we always have is with independent or agency producers who seem to think radio was created for their particular benefit. Each one feels his is the most important show on the air. I am still a strong believer in the Pre-set chime idea. I think it will work and that after a comparatively short period of time we would have no difficulty of serious reaction from any of our clients or agencies. I am perfectly willing to recognize that there is a weakness on our part. I hope someday to be able to correct this but miracles can't be performed over night. I do not concur with your thinking that it should be tried out for two or three days. If we decide to do it, it should be done on all shows. [Signed] Sid SIDNEY N. STROTZ.
To: Mr G O Milne From: Wilfred S Roberts Date: April 26th, 1941 In a number of recent instances, the announcers' log has shown that chimes came up late, and the shows of course were debited with runovers. In checking with my producers on the shows in question, their stories have been that the chime button was pushed at the proper time or a second or two later than the proper time, but that chimes did not actually come up until in some cases ten seconds beyond that point. Can this have any basis in fact? I am not referring to synchronization - - of course it is necessary for both networks to get together before chimes will ring - - but what I am curious to know from you is whether there is any possible mechanical or electrical error that could account for this situation. Wilfred S Roberts WSR:AK
To: Mr W S Roberts From: G O Milne Date: April 29, 1941 Subject: Chimes The chimes machine will normally operate within one second after the chimes button is pushed. This is assuming that the machine is not set up for synchronization with more than one Studio. The only case where any longer period of time might be required would be one in which two or more Studios were on the air in New York at the same time but not synchronized. In such a case, the first studio to push the chimes button would set the machine into operation. Should the chimes button be pushed in the second studio immediately following, chimes would [not] go through that Studio until the cycle already in operation had been completed. The maximum time of one cycle is seven seconds so that even under these conditions, there should at no time be a delay of more than six or seven seconds. We have occasionally had delays caused by the announcer not pushing the chimes button all the way down and thereby not setting the relay mechanism completely into operation. In such a case, the chimes machine would not operate until the button was pushed a second time. It is hard to make an analysis on such a general question as yours, but if you will give me two or more of the specific instances, I will look further into them and attempted to get a more detailed answer. [Signed over the printed name] G O Milne
Rec'd Files: Sept 15, 1941 Miss Jeanne E Ritzen 45 Prospect Place Tudor City New York New York Dear Miss Ritzen: This will acknowledge your letter of August 21, relative to our three-tone chimes. Your suggestion is a very interesting one and I will pass your letter on to our Promotion Department, and undoubtedly you will hear from them. However, it is not too easy to adopt your suggestion with the present equipment. The chimes that you hear are not hand struck, but orginate with a piece of electronic equipment located in the main control room. There is one of these devices at each of our offices throughout the country, and thus to adopt your suggestion would require the scrapping of these instruments and a re-design to permit the insertion of the additional chime tones. Further, these chimes are not clock operated, but are used as a signal through the various stations on the network as a cue for switching purposes. They do not always occur exactly on the hour or on the 15 minute periods, but may vary from the hour as much as 15 seconds, depending upon the timing of the programs. For timing purposes, we at the present use telechron clocks, operated from the local power supply and these power supplies may be as much as 7 seconds slow or fast and vary from hour to hour. Also, the power company in Chicago and the power company in San Francisco may not coordinate one with the other or with the New York power supply; and the time variation may thus be out as much as 15 seconds. This, in itself, has become a problem to us in handling and switching and we are about to consider a more accurate method of coordinating our various offices. If our Promotion Department thinks well of your suggestion it may be possible to incorporate it in the plan which we are now contemplating to obtain more accurate time sources. Thanking you for your suggestion and I am sure you will hear further from our Promotion Department. Very truly yours, O B Hanson
December 23, 1953 The NBC Radio Station Managers: We have finally completed necessary arrangments to set the network chimes for a three second dura- tion instead of the five as heretofore. This will bring our network identification system in exact parallel with the present television practice. We hope the addition of two seconds will be useful to you in your station break business. Very truly yours, [Signed] Ted Cott P.S. This new practice will begin with the start of service on January 6th.