In the old days, when you had to turn a dial to tune to a radio station, it was a surefire way to know you’d landed on 1060. The clatter of a teletype machine, connected to a wire service. Connecting Philadelphia to the world of news, printed a word per second or so, pages ripped off by entry-level copy boys and rushed to the editor's desk.
In truth, on Day 1 of KYW Newsradio, and for a short time after Sept. 21, 1965, there was no clacking behind the anchor. But it eventually became a sound synonymous with Newsradio.
For a lot of people, it’s up there with "all public and parochial schools are closed," since the ticker would be playing under those long lists of school closing numbers. A soundtrack to your snow day.
It sounded like time marching. Calamity, catastrophe could and would happen, and the ticker would keep on ticking. As if to say: we carry on. Because the news already has.
Much like technology.
Sluggish teletype machines gave way to speedier dot matrix printers in the early 1980s. But KYW Newsradio kept running a recording of that iconic sound, first off tape, later from a USB stick, and finally an SD card.
Despite a persistent but false Philly legend about "that one time it disappeared," that cool clack-clack-clack always let you know the mic was hot.
Hey, we get it, we’re Philadelphians, too. Santa deserved the snowballs. We don’t eat cheesesteaks for every meal. Our institutions are fine the way they are, thank you very much.
But some change is not just for its own sake.
The teletype sound was like an imaginary friend. Comforting. Constant. But, in the end, make-believe — and a relic of another age.
And so, a tip of the cap to the ticker — which lives on as a downloadable MP3 below.
Hope that clears the air.