What does it mean on old time radio shows when you hear the show is "Transcribed"?During the Golden Age of Radio, "transcribed" programs were recorded and sent to stations or networks on a disc running at 16 rps. The discs are larger than 33 1/3s.
"Transcribed" means it was recorded on a disc. "Recorded" was a term that was known, of course, but not used very much in Radio's Golden Age. During the era, it was also considered very important to distinguish which shows went out live and which were recorded (transcribed), so if a show was transcribed it was announced as such. "Transcribed" was a colloquialism of the era. One reason they came up with it was because there was still enough skittishness about recording that "pre-recorded" sounded a little obscene inside the industry.
CBS and NBC were live through the '30s and '40s. Yet line transcriptions were made for either the sponsor or its ad agency.
The "transcription taboo" was purely a network thing. Syndication stations had no other method but transcriptions to get their shows to stations.
Sometimes you hear on live shows like Fibber McGee and Molly but they'll announce "Parts of this are transcribed..." Some radio stations today still may have dusty McCurdy turntable that play transcription disks.
WWII greatly increased the number of "transcribed" programs. Truncated shows were made available for re-broadcast on AFRS to troops worldwide. Much of old time radio has survived in this format; unintentionally creating the archive of OTR.
Transcriptions (and that particular term) are also mentioned in the Basil Rathbone movie, "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror." He used an oscilloscope to graph the difference between a live broadcast and a recording. May have not been very faithful to Conan Doyle, but still very educational.
Billboard did a front page story on Bing Crosby's first transcribed show including reactions from listeners and other radio stars in 1946.