VOLUME 16 JUNE 1999 NUMBER 6
Antique Radio Classified:BY DOROTHY SCHECTER
The First 15 Years
Though 15 years is a short time in radio history, a 15th anniversary seems an appropriate time to look at a magazine's history. In fact, 15 years is a venerable age for a specialized publication like A.R.C., and we take justifiable pride in our growth in size and quality over the years.
Many of you longterm subscribers may do what we do on such an occasion -- look back at early issues and realize how far A.R.C. has come since its 1984 beginnings. At that time, Gary Schneider, A.R.C.'s founder, had developed a mailing list from his own buying and selling activities and collector contacts. In June 1984, he sent out 1,000 16-page sample copies as a trial balloon to prospective subscribers, and little did he realize how rapidly his daring enterprise would take off.
The premier issue in September 1984 went to 440 subscribers. By August 1986, shortly before John Terrey took over the then 28-page publication, the number had grown to 1,800. A check of the fifth anniversary issue statistics shows that 4,500 subscribers were then in the fold, and in recent years, we have boasted of over 8,000.
What has accounted for this growth? Three factors come to mind: 1) More widespread advertising of A.R.C. in over a dozen collector publications; 2) Free samples to interested collectors and even to some who own only one radio, which, as a result, often ends up in the hands of a serious collector. Since 1986, we have sent out over 60,000 free samples; 3) A.R.C. booths at radio meets and ham gatherings from coast-to-coast -- from the big states like California and Texas to the smallest, Rhode Island. We have even set up at the meet in Birmingham, England. As our subscriber list, ads and articles indicate, A.R.C. is known internationally.
In addition, we have tuned in to the "Information Age" and for three years have had a well designed Web site on the Internet -- another way to widen the communication among collectors. In fact, one-third of our new subscribers each month can be attributed to the Internet. However, putting the classified ads on the Net has been a controversial issue, as many of you have come to realize through the pro and con letters in Radio Miscellanea. Perhaps we have been overly cautious about taking this final step, in deference to those not yet computer-oriented.
But, the reality is that unless we find our niche in this new electronic world, we will not be able to continue to do what we do best -- serve as the link between radio collectors. As we move toward the millennium, we hope to bring about a collaboration between those who want to use modern technology in their radio search and those who prefer the hard copy. We also want to continue to provide information not available anywhere else to the widest number of collectors.
The Human Side of A.R.C. History
Growth and meeting the technical challenges of the modern world are not the only topics of a historical perspective. What is really interesting and meaningful is the human side of the story. Who and what twists of fate have made A.R.C. what is today?
Gary Schneider's idea that there was a need for a way to connect "collectors of old radios and related items for purposes of buying and selling" points directly to today's Internet exchanges for the same purposes. In those early days, collectors had few options. They searched out antique shops or other collectors, or perhaps found ads in a club publication. Then came A.R.C -- the first national marketplace for collectors
By 1986, A.R.C. had grown so that Gary realized he could not give it the necessary full time, and he began to return renewal subscription money. Luckily, that process was stopped by a chance meeting with John Terrey at the 1986 Radiofest in Elgin, Illinois. A deal was finalized late one evening at the bar. Encouraged by many people at the meet, John announced at the banquet that he had agreed to purchase A.R.C.
Now why would a seemingly sane electrical engineer, who had worked for over 20 years for an aerospace company, make such a choice? Well, first the radiobug had bitten with a vengeance long ago in his teenage years. The disease has proved incurable. In addition, John had been considering a more technical publication and even had drafts of articles ready. His interest in early technological history had evolved into a plan for an antiquarian technical book business. But, the lure of a publication already established with a potential for growth was too compelling.
The purchase was the easy part. Then came the nuts and bolts of producing a monthly magazine out of the editor's house in the woods of rural Carlisle. The early staff was made up of townfolk who had "mother's hours." The first were Mary Annavedder and Betsy Dumka, both "stolen" from that well-known local newspaper, the Carlisle Mosquito. Others like Shirley Sauer and later, Jean Meldonian followed. Many of you will remember Chris Frederickson, our Radio Events Editor, who stayed for ten years before moving to California. Laura Katz, who has also moved on, took up Chris' tasks, among others.
John's next-door neighbor, Bobby Lyman, is still with us, and is a reminder of the days when Hurricane Bob struck in August 1991. A.R.C.'s "office" in the woods was one of the last to have power restored, and we were forced to transfer the operation, computers and all, to Bobby's basement. Other storms and dilemmas have stranded us at home or work, but we haven't missed a date with the printer yet.
A vivid memory of that early time is "Aerobic Day" when the entire press-run of magazines, weighing about 1/2 ton, was carried up a flight of stairs to John's kitchen. There the mailing process took place. How different from today when our Macintosh-produced pages go to a major printer of small circulation magazines where A.R.C. is printed, labeled, sacked, and mailed.
The Staff and Writers
Within a few years, full-time help was required. Scott Young was hired and stayed for ten years as Production Manager. Lisa Friedrichs signed on as Office Manager and stayed for seven years. Now Cindie Bryan, Production and Advertising Manager, and Tammy DeGray, Office Manager, have taken their places.
Still others work on a regular part-time basis. Bobby Lyman holds up certain aspects of the business end of things. A managing editor (yours truly) is needed to keep the editor in line (or is it to correct his grammar?). Technical consultants and writers like Ray Bintliff and Dick Desjarlais have been indispensable. That role too is filled by collector Dave Crocker, who is also our layout artist. Dave's dedication to the cause is proved weekly by his long commute from Cape Cod.
In all, the staff is a good balance of engineers, collectors, business managers, and keepers of the King's English. And the longevity of our employment is a testament to the fact that this is an interesting and fun place to work.
Another equally important dimension to the human side of producing this magazine is the contribution of many writers. Some bylines on series of articles in the early years still appear -- Frank Heathcote, Dave Crocker, Jim Kreuzer, Ralph Williams, Frank White, Jim Fred, and Richard Foster. Other contributors appearing frequently on our pages are Ian Sanders, Howard Stone, Ray Bintliff, Dick Desjarlais, Alan Douglas, Paul Joseph Bourbin, Ray Chase, and Richard Arnold. Our apologies to others too numerous to list here. Each year, we're delighted to add more contributors to A.R.C., and our readers seem to take great pleasure in the diversity of their topics.
Perhaps our first major milestone was the move out of the Terrey house. February 22, 1992, was the memorable day when we took over the first floor of one of the few commercial buildings in Carlisle. Though certainly not noted for its splendor or amenities, the building, originally a molasses factory, affords us plenty of space. We actually have offices, shipping and storage space, and room for our computers, as well as for the old radio (or two or three) that inevitably keeps popping up. This move seemed to be a giant step in professionalizing the magazine -- we were no longer a "cottage industry."
Incorporating color into the magazine once in awhile has brought us closer to the format of big-time publications. Although spot color had appeared on several covers -- May 1985 and December 1986, for example -- the first 4-color cover appeared in June 1987 portraying the Marconi multiple tuner. Since then we have used color whenever the occasion or the subject makes it irresistible. Unfortunately, cost has to be a factor in this decision.
No doubt the biggest milestone in our fifteen year history will be the expansion on the Internet -- a new beginning, as we look to the advent of a new century. It was ironic that last year at the same table in the same bar in Elgin, Illinois, one of the same collectors who had urged John Terrey to buy A.R.C., said many, many times regarding the Net, "John, you're already too late." We hope not.
Instead, we are convinced that our plan for ads on the Net will make you subscribers feel more confident because transactions will be with fellow subscribers only. The ads will appear on the target date -- the first day subscribers receive the hard copy -- a process that is as fair to non-Net users as we can make it.
The fact is that for fifteen years our primary subscriber complaint has been about delivery of the magazine on time. But try as we may, there is no way to control the vagaries of the U.S. Postal system. Finally, there is a solution. All of you have the choice of signing on to modern technology.
Our goal is to extend Gary Schneider's vision of A.R.C. as the premier national publication for buyers and sellers of old radios well beyond the millennium. We're sure you will stay with us through the next fifteen years to make that goal a reality.
(Dorothy Schecter, c/o A.R.C., P.O. Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741)
Gary Schneider mailed 1,000, 16-page sample issues in June 1984. The cover says "Watch us grow," and that we have!
The 28-page October 1986 issue was the first issue published by John Terrey. Subscribers numbered 1,800.
Reports on radio meets and auctions have been staples in A.R.C. This 100-page issue went to over 8,000 subscribers.