Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Nashville Beep

Sixty Six Year ago today, at 11:58 am on January 10th 1946, John DeWitt launched the US space program from Fort Monmouth New Jersey. Just before noon John finally heard the quarter-second pulses he had been trying to bounce off the moon with his jury-rigged world-war-two-surplus 3,000 watt bedspring dipole array transmitter. The 111.5 megahertz signal took 2.5 seconds to go to the moon, bounce off it, and travel back to the receiving antennae. The endeavor was called “Project Diana” after the Roman goddess of wild things and the moon.

The bouncing things off a distant object approach had philosophical similarities to the first big program John facilitated. About 22 years earlier, on March 18th 1924, John broadcast a message from the First Baptist Church of Nashville asking for anyone who heard it to write in. John had just successfully directed the design and installation of the station in a small room in the northwest corner of the First Baptist Church’s Sunday school annex. W.A. Marks (a member of First Baptist Church of Nashville) had been trying to get local Ward-Belmont College to allow his church to broadcast their outreach ministry message on their much smaller transmitter with no success. When the path to go it alone was completed station WCBQ (“We Can’t Be Quiet”) became the first licensed radio station in Nashville, and the second official church broadcasting station in the entire south.

Today there are MANY religious broadcasting stations in the USA, and the message has changed little from 1924.

The simple beeping sound bouncing off the moon, however, was an important milestone in the progress of human culture.

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