Hear a radio DJ's very strange on-air experience during huge 1965 blackout


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Somewhat related, the iconic Hammond b3 organ had a similar issue where it’s pitch was directly related to mains frequency. When traveling to parts of the world using 50hz power bands had to take modified b3s or special power converters else the instruments would play flat.


I had no idea it could slow down either. That’s so weird.


Frequency trends downward when demand is greater than supply. The kinetic energy of the generator rotors is tapped to meet the demand, which slows the rotors and drops the frequency.

More than you want to know about it here:
ReGrid: Frequency and voltage regulation in electrical grids


I swear I passed Electric Motors and Control Systems, back in the late Cretaceous.


I don’t get it, how was this recording made? I assume reel-to-reel or other spinning media as I’ve seen on old timey movies, so if the frequency was dropping, wouldn’t the recording speed also drop (and maybe even line back up with the slow records, but make the DJ sound off)? Or was it recorded somewhere far away that was still 60 Hz? But then why does it pick back up the next day when everything is working again?


The recording device’s motors may have been DC.


The recordings wouldn’t necessarily be captured at the same station. Perhaps it was someone else not affected by the power issue?

PBS has a very good segment in their “American Experience” series on the one that happened in '77 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/blackout/player/


In Unix you can change the computational load of an app with the “nice” command. Wouldn’t it make sense if we could do this with our appliances?


If I have to renice my toaster anytime in the next decade I swear I’m going to track down whoever is responsible and beat them with a stick.


Hey! Nice to see you back.


Sounds like George Carlin.


Great. Now I want to get my hands on some vintage NY radio. Quickly, to Youtube!


…a massive blackout impacted more than 30 million people…

Did it hurt anyone when it impacted? I didn’t realize blackouts had mass. How fast was it moving when it impacted? Did it leave a crater?

Ohhhh…you meant affected.


Learned about the Nor’east blackout of 65 by watching James Burke’s excellent Connections series. Terrified me at the time. Parts of it still do.



  1. strongly affected by something.


I’m extremely curious: What dictionary gave that as the first definition? Those I checked give it second or lower.
And then there’s the medical dictionary:
1 a : blocked by material (as feces) that is firmly packed or wedged in position


With regard to the lights dimming, could the lower frequency cause this with incandescents if, say, there was a capacitor or something somewhere in the path? Like PWM? Or, are we talking about a situation where the blackout was preceeded by an extended brownout?


As per Faraday’s law, if the generator itself is spinning slower with the same amount of magnetic excitation you’re going to get a lower induced voltage.


This is a great piece, but it leaves out the best part of the story. When Ingram realized what was happening, he grabbed an armload of records, and he and his engineer ventured out into the darkness and drove to New Jersey, where they resumed broadcasting directly from WABC’s transmitter, for the benefit of folks listening on transistor and car radios, and areas in the station’s wide coverage area that were not affected by the blackout. I don’t know if any airchecks exist of his broadcast from the transmitter, but I’d sure love to hear it.