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October 25, 2022 5:29 pm  #1

Carts, Cuts & Cueing - Has The Computer Age Made Radio Less Fun To Do?

This linked article from Australia suggests that while having everything on computer and being able to run an entire radio station off of one is convenient, there's a subtle performance extra that has been lost to the technology. 

Not sure I agree but there is something to be said for the "old style," which is a bit of a lost art. 

“Playing carts and cueing records had something special about it. It was exciting, it was all in your hands. You could easily swap out one station ID for another to make your segues sound really slick.”

“You’d get to know the tempo of the 10 or so jingles or sweepers you played. You knew the labels on the carts. You could muck around with how you started the songs, and if you did it right it was a real thrill. Mind you, I was very young when I was doing it, so it was all new and exciting, arms flailing all over the place, hoping there was no jump or skip on the records, getting annoyed at the last jock that took a cart out of the machine before it fast forwarded to the start again.” 

Not to mention editing actual reel-to-reel tape with a blade and creating the perfect edit. That was a satisfying moment, especially if it seemed an impossible cut when you started. (And don't forget about keeping that piece of tape you just took out on your lap, in case you had to put it back in...) Now where did I put that grease pencil?

Radio Now & Then


October 25, 2022 6:10 pm  #2

Re: Carts, Cuts & Cueing - Has The Computer Age Made Radio Less Fun To Do?

You must execute a perfect cut.         

EDIT - This may be a bit more pertinent (and certainly catchier).

Last edited by Chrisphen (October 25, 2022 6:18 pm)


October 25, 2022 10:31 pm  #3

Re: Carts, Cuts & Cueing - Has The Computer Age Made Radio Less Fun To Do?

It's much better now.  I can produce much faster on Pro Tools than I could cutting tape and dubbing.
It like comparing a convection oven to rubbing two sticks together to start a fire for cooking.


October 25, 2022 11:14 pm  #4

Re: Carts, Cuts & Cueing - Has The Computer Age Made Radio Less Fun To Do?

You're not wrong about the ease of computer editing, but I think the point they're making is that there was a certain skill involved in the old way that made it more challenging - and just maybe more satisfying by being able to pull it off.

When I think back on some of the stuff I produced at CFTR in the 80s, I'm still amazed at what we did and how good it sounded, given we were working with two or four track reel-to-reel machines, cassette tapes for interviews, vinyl records, carts and a lot of razor blades!

     Thread Starter

October 26, 2022 12:08 am  #5

Re: Carts, Cuts & Cueing - Has The Computer Age Made Radio Less Fun To Do?

There's nothing quite like watching your stack of 16 carts tumble to the ground 7 seconds before the start of your newscast.   CBS was still using carts until about 2012.  We had a cluster of 6 machines in each studio and about 300 carts we'd been recycling since the 1980s.  The late Dave Barrett was a genius at mixing sound live on air.  Even harder than it sounds when you're also counting the seconds down to your hard out time.  Jim Cauchon was brilliant too.  He'd also roll a reel-to-reel during the talk shows at 640, then pull clips and produce a recap of the craziest moments heading into spots.  Who remembers sticking scraps of paper into the reel to mark what you wanna edit? 


October 26, 2022 12:18 am  #6

Re: Carts, Cuts & Cueing - Has The Computer Age Made Radio Less Fun To Do?

Yeah, we used to put those slips of paper there, hoping they wouldn't fly out as you were rewinding. Mostly, though, the Studers we had all came with a built in clock feature, so I'd just write the times down for something I wanted and go back to the different parts we needed that way. Better than paper, as long as no one reset that clock in the meantime!

     Thread Starter

October 26, 2022 6:18 am  #7

Re: Carts, Cuts & Cueing - Has The Computer Age Made Radio Less Fun To Do?

I admit that I like the older school equipment, largely because it was specialized to radio, especially cart machines.  Now when it comes to board consoles, I'm not speaking of the classic 60's era rotary boards, or mono consoles.  I prefer the mid to late 80s boards, which provide modern engineering, but still within an analog realm.  However, I do like 70s and early 80s Allied Harris and McCurdy boards too.

I do miss half-track open reel, but only because I thought the raw fidelity of the 15 IPS speed, even without noise reduction was exemplary.  However, computer editing is so much easier.  I do miss Revox PR-99 decks though.  Otari decks seem to be raved about, but they leave me cold.

Now I know NAB carts get a bad rap, and I know we've all experience tape spill, dropout, high-end rolloff, and chewed carts, but really ... we've exaggerated over the years how bad we remember them being.  Carts, for a large amount of time were VERY reliable, had good sonic quality, and low noise.  Only one time during the 80s could I hear excessive hiss on cart playback over the air, and that was on WBUF in Buffalo, where they carted up "The Finer Things" by Steve Winwood.  It was during the soft passages at the beginning, and I'll bet they had old machines.  But that was rare.  I was listening recently to airchecks I have of CHUM-FM from the mid to late 80s.  Bay Bloor Radio spots sound pretty much as good off cart,, as they do on a PC.

Plus, I find that automated elements sound less tight than manually run elements used to.  We've become accustomed to more gaps between spots and after jingles, where before, elements ran much tighter.

But that's just me.

Jody Thornton

October 26, 2022 9:43 am  #8

Re: Carts, Cuts & Cueing - Has The Computer Age Made Radio Less Fun To Do?

Reading this thread I had a flashback to me at 5:30 am., sleepily cueing up the next episode of Chickenman on the reel to reel machine for the morning show guy after a long night of doing the midnight show.

I left rock radio just as vinyl was being discarded, I really hated using CDs. The ritual of cueing up the song, the challenge of pulling off a cool mix, these were the things that kept being a disc jockey fun and interesting.

I've compared working in radio to flying a plane. Decades ago pilots flew the plane, now they're keeping an eye on the computers and to a certain extent, a part of radio is now on autopilot.