Calling back the past

During the last week I have been on a major nostalgia trip with the discovery that Springbok Radio is alive and well and broadcasting on the Internet.

My childhood was defined, probably above all else, by the radio station which broadcast drama, comedy, chat and music, between 1 May 1950 and 31 December 1985. Whether it was listening to the plays through a discreet earphone under the bed clothes when I should have been sleeping, enjoying Squad Cars, Taxi or the Navy Lark with the family, or grooving along with Gruesome Gresh to the Top Twenty hits of the week, I was a Springbok radio fan.

The station, at, is a project of the Springbok Radio Preservation society and it began broadcasting a six-hour block of programs, repeated four times each day, from 1 July, 2007. I was obviously not the only one wallowing in nostalgia because the station’s servers in the USA were speedily overwhelmed. At the time of writing, the station was only hosting a two-hour broadcast, changing each day, and the hope was to get the full service back up and running by July 10. [Added July 13. All seems in order with the broadcast except that the Play button didn’t work on the on-screen media player. Clicking Optional Link, next to Help, worked just fine.]

In addition to the daily broadcasts, there is a growing archive of adverts and programming available to listen to any time you want to. Included is Percy Sieff’s Call Back The Past series, which I followed avidly when broadcast, and Jan Cronje and Esme Euvrard’s program, So Maak Mens.

It seems that a lot of radio shows from those days were taped by the production houses onto reel to reel tape, played over the radio and then sent back to have other shows taped onto it, thus erasing the tape’s original contents. Fortunately for us, many people recorded their favourite programmes when broadcast, and these recordings find their way into the hands of the preservation society.

The person responsible for saving the most amount of material was called Neil Gesson and he apparently recorded programmes between 1955 and 1985, with the intention of having something to listen to in his retirement. Material received by the society is restored with the help of computer software and copies are lodged in the archive of the society, a reserve archive in the USA, and in the SABC archives. [More details on how the programs are preserved.]

In addition to the material broadcast back in the days of yore, I saw in an interview on E-News, that the station is also going to be commissioning new programmes with the proviso that they conform to Springbok’s vintage image.

I found it very easy to listen to the broadcasts and anyone with Windows Media installed on their computers is not going to have a problem. The fly in the ointment is, as usual, our nice high bandwidth prices imposed on us by the lovely Telkom.

It would cost too much, both in bandwidth and computer hardware, to host the station in South Africa so listening to Springbok Radio is going to cost us a fair bit as the signal has to travel from the USA. It’s grossly unfair, of course, but it means that most of us will have to limit our time spent listening.

I’m looking forward to the day when we will be able to leave Internet radio playing in the background and not worry what our bill is going to be like. Our current situatiion is a far cry from a recent report that users in some areas in the USA are whining because they are being limited to 250Gb of bandwidth a month.

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