This timeline/bibliography gathers some primary sources relevant to the history of automation in American broadcast radio, including cultural works that depicted or responded to radio automation. If you know of something that belongs in this list, I’d love to hear about it:


Russell Tinkham, the Midwest District Manager for Ampex, presents at the NARTB engineering conference and explains the company’s technique for automatic programming in radio stations using 25 Hz tones.

Conference paper via University of Maryland Libraries


Broadcasting · Telecasting reports on the Vandivere Automatic Sequencer, writing, “The age of automation—that art of worker-less factories which has industrial management crackling these days—is coming close to broadcasting.”

Magazine article via


Ampex prepares a tape reel with short musical selections interspersed by 25 Hz cue tones to demonstrate their automatic programming system.

Recording via Stanford University Libraries


“Automation Steals the Show”: Earl B. Abrams reports on the 1955 NARTB convention, highlighting Ampex/Tinkham. He notes the connection between automation and remote transmitter control and mentions Paul Schafer, who would build his first automation system the following year and go on to play a large role in popularizing both technologies.

Magazine article via


Edgar Vandivere explains his automatic programming approach using multiple cue frequencies to trigger different functions.

Article via IEEE Xplore


Ampex measures automation uptake: “The responses to a mail survey of 2735 broadcast and television stations were analyzed to determine the extent to which tape recording is presently used in routine broadcasting.”

Article via IEEE Xplore


Muzak announces their plans to release the “Muzak Radiomation Programming System” that will combine “fully automatic radio station operation with up to 24 hour-a-day musical programming.”

Magazine article via


The Muzak Radiomation Programming System becomes Programatic Broadcasting Service and readies for commercial release in 1959.

Magazine article via


Paul Schafer produces an in-depth demonstration and advertisement of the Schafer 1200 automation system, dubbed “Sylvia” in the video.

Recording via Rob Schafer


The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and automation service International Good Music (IGM) announce a re-education fund to support radio engineers displaced by automation.

Magazine article via


In American Graffiti, set in 1962, famous rock & roll DJ Wolfman Jack plays a station technician tasked with loading pre-recorded tapes of Wolfman Jack into a cartridge player.

Film via YouTube


JoAnn Roe Burkhart, of automation service IGM, surveys and celebrates automation use: “The key word mentioned by top programmers using automation is ‘creative,’ the difference between dead and live sound from the machinery.”

Magazine article via


Mark Ford, a sound engineer for automation service Drake-Chenault, produces a montage of every number 1 single between 1955 and 1978 as part of Drake-Chenault’s special feature “The History of Rock n Roll.”

Recording via UbuWeb


Broadcast Engineering runs a cover feature on radio automation (including a very incomplete timeline-to-date).

Magazine article via


A plotline in WKRP in Cincinnati hinges on the revelation that a competing station is automated.

TV broadcast via YouTube


Former DJ and music director April Feld writes in Billboard that the radio industry “has aligned itself with the machine, with the numbers, with the consultants and their research, and in doing so has created a melee of boring sounds and boorish disk jockeys.”

Magazine article via Google Books


Lance Leupold surveys a range of microcomputer applications in automated radio and proposes a design for an automation system that could use computer resources for more creative musical programming.

Thesis via University of Minnesota Libraries


In Radio World, Alan Freeman lays out some of the technical considerations for radio automation with hard-drive audio storage that he had navigated in programming the Digital DJ automation software for The Management.

Magazine article via


The Simpsons airs a joke about the “DJ 3000” automation system replacing radio personalities.

TV broadcast via YouTube


Fred Gleason, working as an engineer for Salem Radio Network, begins development on Rivendell, a free and open source radio automation suite.

Data via GitHub


Wobbly (a.k.a. Jon Leidecker) uses samples from promotional recordings for automation service Broadcast Programming International as interstitial tracks on an album.

Recording via Bandcamp


Radio and automation entrepreneur Dave Scott retires shortly after selling Scott Studios to California-based ad technology company dMarc. Google will acquire dMarc in 2006.

Magazine article via Radio World


Jeff Shaw of KDRT-LP Davis authors a handbook on practicial radio automation for small, volunteer-run stations through the anti-corporate Prometheus Radio Project.

Report via Prometheus Radio Project


Product Manager William Irvin presents Google Radio Automation, a “third-generation” successor to Scott Studios products, on the NAB convention floor.

Recording via YouTube


Google pulls out of the broadcast radio market, selling its automation software to WideOrbit and shifting its focus to streaming audio.

Newspaper article via