It’s been 50 years since WDCV’s Linn Myers ’64, Jim Sharf ’65 and Howie Spencer ’64 flipped the on-air switch for the station’s first official broadcast. Today, the thrill of that fledgling moment re-ignites, as WDCV celebrates a landmark anniversary with special events, an online archive, new technology and programming—and a fond look back at its past.
Steeped in classical and jazz “study music” and educational programming, early broadcasts were limited to a few hours daily. The station moved to FM and 18-hour programming in 1973, to stereo in 1983 and to 24-hour broadcasting in 2003.
Memorable on-air personalities include the class of 1984’s Rosie O’Donnell, whose morning show delivered “music to dry your hair by”; William G. Durden ’71, whose weekly roundtable boosted station ratings—and prestige—shortly after his installation as college president; and the resourceful Fred Barney ’98, who single-handedly ran the station for a brief stint.
But for all of the programming and personnel changes WDCV has weathered, it’s the technological advancements that continue to spark the greatest transformations. Station engineer and former student-DJ Tom Vernon ’76—who, as a high-schooler in the vinyl-only ’70s, often visited the station with his father, William, WDCV’s first advisor—is helping to bring WDCV’s equipment up-to-date.
New additions include a state-of-the-art FM transmitter (the 1983 model is now the backup); text displays on car radios and mobile devices; and ISDN connections, allowing faculty and staff to be interviewed by major media organizations without leaving campus. An FTP server enables Dickinsonians to send audio files from anywhere in the world.
WDCV also broadcasts live on Britton Plaza and at select local events. The station welcomes DJs from beyond the limestone walls, including a pediatrician who’s a world-music fan and a retired techie with a yen for jazz. Students maintain robust Twitter and Facebook accounts and recently launched a Tumblr archive.
This year, WDCV enters a new age in sportscasting with the addition of Red Devil Radio advisor Keith Fischer ’02. The station has purchased equipment to improve away-game broadcasts and is bringing more sportscasters on board. Plans are to cover matches for all Dickinson sports for the first time in college history.
Such new and expanded programming is only the beginning, says co-advisor Joy Verner. “We want to open up the circle—involve people with different perspectives, interests and life experiences who can shape a diverse radio community,” she says. “That brings vibrancy akin to the excitement Dickinson experienced when WDCV began.”