Apple Gunkies, Nocturnal Aviation
And Other 1960s MIT Radio Humor

Apple Gunkies
Apple Gunkies downloads
Nocturnal Aviation
The Doormat Singers


The call letters WTBS used to belong to MIT's student radio station (before Ted Turner bought the call letters and it became WMBR). It broadcast at 88.1 megacycles (cycles, not Hertz--these were the old days!) with an effective radiated power of fourteen watts, and was educational and noncommercial. It also broadcast the same programs to the dorms via short-distance "carrier-current" AM. When commercials ran on the AM station, it was necessary to fill the time on the FM station, which traditionally was done with public service announcements. The following link has more information on the history of WMBR.

I decided it would be fun to run fake humorous commercials instead.

The name "Apple Gunkies" was the creation of Sue Lasdon Abrams, (then a student at Goucher College, now a journal editor at Johns Hopkins University). I borrowed (stole) it for the first Apple Gunkies ad. I also borrowed (stole) some ideas from Pohl and Kornbluth's "The Space Merchants" (the reference to Costa Rica and the "skilled native craftsmen with pride in their work." And, yes... I incorrectly used the word "rhomboid" when I should have said "parallelepiped."

I was at the time shy about the sound of my own voice so I had others read the commercials. Rory Johnston had what I thought was a wonderful, distinguished-sounding British voice, and he read the first ones. This one (656 KB .mp3 download) was the very first Apple Gunkies ad ever to air. But I think it was less funny than many of the later ones.

"Apple Gunkies" were seized on and embroidered by many other WTBS staffers, and gave rise to other commercial parodies, such as Pete Samson's ads for "Digicomputronimatics" and "Nocturnal Aviation."

Incidentally, the Free Software Foundation has a host named apple-gunkies; I have been unable to find out the story behind it.

I sent Sue Lasdon some tapes, and she and some of her friends at Goucher created some more. I had a minor argument with some of the WTBS engineering staff about airing them, because they were made on a home tape recorder and "weren't broadcast-quality."

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