By Mike Powell, SVP International Operations & Chief Compliance Officer
Incredibly, next year will mark the 40th anniversary of RCS opening its doors with the very first version of the legendary Selector music scheduler, as invented by the company’s founder, Andrew Economos.
The impact that Selector had on radio all around the world can only really be understood by those of us who worked in the pre-Selector and post-Selector eras! From crude card index song rotation systems, to – for many of us – our first exposure to computers, and the discovery of a tool so sophisticated that it literally changed the sound of radio stations overnight.
Listeners may not have understood why their favorite radio stations suddenly sounded different, but they sure liked what they heard – and that was reflected almost immediately in audience figures.
Some PDs and DJs feared that control was being taken away from them, but most of them soon realised that exactly the reverse was true. Now a PD could ensure that the radio station in their head, became the radio station that went to air. Now, songs rotated beautifully; there were no ugly clashes between styles, tempos, textures; the whole sound of the radio station flowed like never before.
Wait – rewind. First exposure to computers? Well remember that availability of, what were then called microcomputers, didn’t really begin until 1977. That was the year of the Apple II, the Commodore PET and Tandy/Radio Shack’s TRS-80.
It wasn’t until 1980 that the era of the off-the-shelf personal computer really started and the first IBM PC wasn’t released until 1981. The earliest version of the IBM PC that I ever used had two 5¼ inch floppy disks – with no automatic backup (I shudder remembering some of the horror stories that occurred with that arrangement). Eventually IBM added a 10MB hard drive in place of one of the floppy drives. What on earth were we going to do with that whopping 10MB?
But at this stage, apart from gaming on machines like Atari and ZX Spectrum, very few people had their own personal computers, which is why I point out that in Selector’s early days, for many of us, this amazing tool was not only a way of revolutionizing the sound of our radio stations, but it also allowed us to be pioneer computer users!
It certainly seems funny to think of that 10MB IBM PC hard drive in comparison to the computer power most of us carry in our hands every day now. The storage in a typical smartphone, for example, can between 64 and 128GB. A fairly standard laptop these days, can have half a terabyte or even a whole terabyte of storage on board. And, of course, these statements will also seem amusing 10 years from now!
All along the way, as computer power expanded, RCS was there, ahead of the curve, expanding the capability of Selector exponentially. And where this incredible expanding computer power was perhaps even more useful, was the advent of studio automation – exemplified by NexGen and Master Control, and now the world-beating Zetta system. Zetta is doing “stuff” now that could only have been dreamed of way back then.
Some of our ideas were so ahead of their time that we had to wait for computer capability to catch up. RadioShow, for example, a system to permit synchronous graphics alongside a radio station’s audio output, was born in the days of dial-up modems and only a small percentage of the population even having access to the internet at all!
Since those pioneering days, RCS has continued to push the envelope wherever it can. In the early days we were often referred to as “The Selector Company” – an epithet that reflected where the bulk of our sales came from. An epithet of which we were proud, by the way, as “Selector” became almost a lingua-franca at radio conferences all around the world. If you couldn’t speak Selector, you were on the outer rings of the radio galaxy!
These days RCS products include futuristic mobile and cloud-based solutions and our brands are used in more than 14,500 radio stations, TV music channels, cable companies, satellite music networks and internet stations worldwide. With more than 800 professionals working from 23 wholly-owned offices around the globe, we are proud that RCS has maintained its position as the world’s largest broadcast software company for all this time.
But we will never rest on our laurels. We continue to be passionate – consumed even! – about customer service, quality and innovation. And these days, the RCS family of companies is bigger than ever: AirCheck, Florical Systems, Mediabase, Media Monitors, HitPredictor and Test All Media, all providing unique solutions for the broadcast industry, in whatever form, and whatever platform.
So now the big question is how should we celebrate our 40th Birthday?