As I was researching a specific tidbit of radio history a few weeks back, I happened upon some intriguing stories about the early days of student radio at Georgia Tech. Today Georgia Tech is home to the 100,000 watt college radio station WREK at 91.1 FM; but back in the 1940s, plans were underway for its campus-only predecessor WTYJ.
Georgia Tech was home to an amateur radio station and Radio Club long before it ever had its own student radio station. By 1949, preliminary talks were underway about expanding their activities into broadcasting. According to a June 1949 article in the campus publication, The Technique, “Some time ago a plan was presented for the installation of a campus radio station. The plan originated from two-sources — the YMCA and Marshall Painter, who graduated in March… It was decided that a studio having good microphones, turntables, and other broadcasting equipment would be a far better investment than one built in a shipshod manner. Because of an Intercollegiate Broadcasting Co. ruling that the waves of the station cannot go more than 200 feet from their source, it is expected that use will be made of the common power of heating systems to ‘pipe’ the programs to dormitories and fraternities.”
After years of planning, the campus-only station, WTYJ finally launched with test broadcasts between May 5 and May 9, 1952. Coincidentally, as I write this it’s the 60th anniversary of these initial broadcasts. When the station first launched, recorded music was transmitted from a dorm basement to students in several Georgia Tech dorms. Tests continued for several weeks in May, 1952.
Campus-only radio was thriving around this time, with The Technique reporting that there were around 100 campus-only radio stations across the United States in 1952. As the test broadcasts continued, students were being actively recruited to help out at the station. A Technique article in 1952 stated, “The future of the campus station will be determined partially by the interest of students and the number of persons who desire to take active part in the stations [sic] operations.”
By fall of 1952, test broadcasts were sporadic, for a few hours in the evening, and plans were underway for hoped-for full-time broadcasting by December 1952. A series of challenges prevented this from happening and a January 1953 Technique article explained that since spring 1952, “the station has operated intermittently and broadcasted to different locations and dormitories, but lack of funds brought the program to a close.”
Students were still actively trying to make the station a reality and fundraising was an important goal. The Technique article continued, “In an effort to resume operation students interested in WTYJ approached several organizations and as a result were granted $150 by the Student Council and $50 by Tau Beta Pi on a temporary loan basis. The money will be used for the expansion of the present transmitting facilities and also in the preparation of a brochure concerning the station.” It was hoped that by publicizing the station, more funds could be secured in order to “build standard broadcast studios. If the plans are successful and aid is received, programs will resume some time this quarter.”
The 1953 Georgia Tech yearbook, “The Blueprint” includes an entry for WTYJ, which states,
“WTYJ, the Student Voice of Georgia Tech, is a limited radiation standard type broadcast station, operated by Tech students for Tech students. The station presents music, news and sports on a nightly 4-hour schedule, plus programs from the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. Future plans for the station include permanent studios in Glenn Hall and a remote studio on the main campus.”
Despite these plans, I saw no mention of WTYJ in the Technique or in the yearbook after 1953, so my assumption is that the station never began full-time operations. From what I can gather, student broadcasting did not resume at Georgia Tech until March 1968, when WREK launched on campus.