Of all the innovations that have occurred
in the recent past, none has had greater
impact on our OTR hobby than the Internet.
And we've only begun to tap the potential of
cyber-space communication and archives.
In the past five years, OTR holdings in many archives, both private and public, have been made access available to anyone with a computer, a modem and Internet service. Also many individual dealers, collectors, and clubs have created their own web sites, thus inviting examination from potential members and customers throughout the world.
Web sites specifically designed by OTR mavens have appeared in the past three years and are now providing radio logs, articles, tips, and assistance to everyone who has the use of a computer. Inter-active bulletin boards, chat- rooms, and e-mail puts OTR fans across the country in instant communication with one another.
Many talented and generous people are responsible for these helpful and informative OTR web sites, but generally you'll find just one person who's doing most of the work to keep each site up-to-date, relevant and available. Three of these "OTR Web Masters" live in different parts of our country but all combine a deep love of OTR with a strong background in computers.
Lou Genco was born in Chicago, IL about 55 years ago and currently lives and works in San Antonio, TX. He is employed as a consultant in physiological optics and business process engineering. In the fall of 1994 he began his OTR page on the World Wide Web and it consisted of an OTR e-mail newsletter, a FAQ (frequently asked questions) section, and limited links to other OTR archives.
Since that time, his "Original OTR WWW Page" has continued to expand and refine itself so that now it is the most extensive OTR web site on the Internet. It includes sections on radio history, clubs, archives, logs, articles, links to other OTR sites, as well as data about copyrights, logs, and an inter-active bulletin board. Lou's site has some advertisers ("A Word From Our Sponsors"), but basically the expenses are coming out of his pocket.
As Internet technology has advanced, Lou's site has progressed from a text-only web page to a graphically enhanced site with many visual and auditory attachments. Less than three years from its debut, his site has received several honors, including a Hall of Fame Award from Program One On-Line Service and a Gold Award from Net Guide Magazine.
Visitors to Lou's site (nearly 1000 daily) can access his data base of OTR dealers, listen to sound-bites of programs and commercials, view pictures of radio stars, download a large bibliography of OTR book titles, and make their own additions or corrections to some sections. Lou's future plans include increasing the number of multi-media presentations, expanding his OTR history segment, and drawing more young people into our hobby.
Another OTR Web Master is Jerry Haendiges, born in Whittier, CA on New Year's Eve in 1937. With the exception of a brief military stint at Fort Huachuca, AZ, he has lived his entire life in Whittier. Jerry married his college sweetheart; he and Elaine have three children and two grand-daughters. He has always worked in electronics, moving up the business ladder from TV repairman to president of a home electronics service company.
In his spare time, Jerry was doing OTR programming for local California stations from 1970 to about 1980. He, Jim Coontz, and Kevin Stern founded SPERDVAC in 1973, though none of that trio at the time imagined it would grow to 1,700 members nation-wide. In the early 90's, Jerry designed his own home page, but not until December 1996 did he get his web site, "The Vintage Radio Place," on the Internet.
Jerry's web site contains over 200 logs of various radio series, excellent articles by OTR authorities, and links to other OTR sites. Last month he added a new feature, "The Club House," which has complete details on various OTR membership clubs and e-mail links to their officers.
His site gets about 50 visitors every day, many of whom send him e-mail messages with their observations. So far, he's been able to acknowledge every one (600+) because he believes they all deserve a personal reply from him. His future plans include considerable expansion of his articles on OTR history, collecting, and specific series.
The third OTR Web Master is Jim Widner a 50 year old native of Indiana who works as a computer software/hardware support manager. Jim and wife, Mary, reside in Dayton, Ohio. He has been collecting OTR programs since the early 70s. Jim has acquired special expertise in several genre, particularly science-fiction, and together with Meade Frierson III, he authored the most comprehensive book thus far on the subject. "Science Fiction on Radio."
A few years ago, Jim met Lou Genco at an OTR forum held by GENIE (the commercial service of GE) and he accepted Lou's invitation to join the OTR Digest that Lou had helped form (with Bill Pfeiffer) on the Internet. Jim was so impressed with the interest of OTR fans in the World Wide Web that he created his own web site: "Radio Days: A Sound-bite History."
Jim's site now includes a section called Radio TimeLines (with monthly overviews), a feature on OTR news broadcasting, and a very extensive section containing links to other OTR sites, dealers, and nostalgia merchants. He is especially proud of his CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT section, which features special graphics and complete episodes for visitors to download. Jim recently moved his radio log section to Lou's site, to eliminate duplication and create some space for other OTR data.
Jim would like to add Real Audio streaming so a visitor could listen to the shows as they were being downloaded, rather than waiting to play the download. However at present, he can't justify the additional cost. As he says, "We all do this for the love of the hobby, and in trying to minimize expenditures, I've decided to focus on sound-bites for now."
Just how many hours a week Lou, Jerry, and Jim put in on their respective web sites is probably not even known to them (Who counts the hours in a labor of love?) But the time, talent, and personal expense, each of them put into their OTR web sites is given freely to the thousands of OTR fan's with computer access. All of us in the OTR community are very appreciative of their efforts which have enriched our hobby so much.
Since Lou, Jerry, and Jim run rival web sites, a casual observer might assume they are, technically, competitors. However, the exact opposite is true. They willingly support each other in their endeavors and have become close friends, not through personal contact, but through this new medium of cyber-space. As Jerry puts it: "I've never met Lou or Jim, yet because of our web sites, we've become good friends. Lou has been a tremendous help to me, as has Jim. It's probably the most selfless relationship I've known....and completely genuine."