What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

When I was a kid, living in Meriden, CT, my next-door neighbor, Gary, was six or eight years older than me. On summer nights, after I’d gone to bed, Gary would sit outside, just below my bedroom window, listening to baseball games on a little transistor radio. He loved to listen to Bob Prince call the games. I knew Bob Prince called home games for the Pirates. But I couldn’t figure out how Gary could get KDKA from Pittsburgh on his AM radio. Neither could Gary.

When I got older, I learned the ionosphere is higher at night. I also learned AM radio waves bounce off the ionosphere, causing them to travel farther than they otherwise would. I was thinking of Gary, of Bob Prince, of the Pirates, of KDKA, of the ionosphere, and of AM radio waves when I read this article: “Radio signal from 9 billion light-years away from Earth captured”.

Sure enough:

A radio signal 9 billion light-years away from Earth has been captured in a record-breaking recording … The signal was detected by a unique wavelength known as a “21-centimeter line” or the “hydrogen line,” which is reportedly emitted by neutral hydrogen atoms … Researchers detected the signal from a “star-forming galaxy” titled SDSSJ0826+5630, which was emitted when the 13.8 billion-year-old Milky Way – the galaxy where Earth resides – was just 4.9 billion years old.

Wow! The possibilities of all that blew me away.


I was so excited, I ran out to Best Buy and bought a 21-centimeter line/hydrogen line receiver. If researchers were able to receive radio transmissions from nine billion light years ago, I’d surely be able to pick up classic radio programs from the 1930s like The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, Popeye, Abie’s Irish Rose, The Green Hornet, Flash Gordon, December Bride, I Was a Communist for the FBI, and Jack Armstrong, All American Boy. At the very least, I thought I’d be able to tune in to broadcasts of old New York Yankees games with Phil Rizzuto and Bill White on the call. I was never a Pirates fan anyway.

No such luck.

At first, all I got was a bunch of static. It was something that sounded as if it might be organized enough to be Morse Code. (To the best of my ability to decipher, the message seemed to be, “Don’t forget to floss”). Then I got a message from some dude from Saturn who asked if I wanted to hear his Tonto impression. (“You be heap big impressed, Kemosabe.”)

It’s the story of my life: I’m always on the wrong wavelength.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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