The NBC Chimes Museum A Celebration Of Old-Time Radio's Most Famous Signature
A Matter Of Time
There was also quite a bit of concern in NBC's Chicago office that the chimes were consistently being rung either late or early but never precisely on time. Sidney Strotz of the Chicago office spent several years arguing for the adoption of an automatic clock mechanism that would ring the chimes exactly twenty seconds before the next program period without human intervention. From Strotz's standpoint this made perfect sense - the Chicago office was sometimes handling and routing six different feeds between twelve to fourteen legs of the network all at once.
Engineering Chief O. B. Hanson, in a letter advocating Strotz's position in
This would have been especially helpful in the case of programs originating from the West Coast. One of Strotz's memos arguing for
clock-operated chimes to end programs on time points out an incident from the previous week in which a show originating on the West Coast
The reason the West Coast could not know that the preceding program had run over was that the link between California and Chicago was one-way. Normally programming went from the East Coast through the midwest to the West Coast, but when California was providing the programming this series of links had to be reversed - a job that took AT&T engineers fifteen seconds to accomplish.
Despite the cogent arguments of the Engineering Departments in New York and Chicago, the Programming Deparment was wary of letting any sort of automatic control of programing intrude on what they perceived as an operation that required a human touch, particularly where sponsor sensitivities were involved. This attitude was noted by Sidney Strotz, who commented that "the difficulty we always have is with the independent or agency producers who seem to think radio was created for their particular benefit. Each one feels his is the most important show on the air". Arguments against automatically-rung chimes ran from "Think of the headaches when a speaker, and he need not be the president, or a musical number, and it need not be Toscanini, is cut on the nose" to "I don't like the idea of chimes crashing through the last few moments of a commercial announcement...there is something about the idea of the necessity of a thing like pre-set chimes that infers some sort of weakness on our part. In effect, we say to ourselves [that] we cannot or do not dare to cut a program ourselves, so we hide behind a set of automatic chimes".