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When Joy Ridderhof started the work she may not have had the word "technology" in her vocabulary. But as it turned out, her simple but brilliant idea of using phonograph records took her and her young Gospel Recordings ministry down a path that relied on increasingly sophisticated high-tech equipment to reach low-tech people.
By today's standards, the first recording equipment was antiquated and clumsy. Bulky lathes cut grooves in master records while recordings were being made. The only way to edit mistakes was to start over and cut a new disk.
Recording on location meant toting heavy machines around exposing the equipment to hot dusty environments and other hazards. But as primitive as these recording devices were, they produced recordings that changed people's lives!
It was a huge milestone when staff member, Herman Dyk made the first-ever portable tape recorder - the Minidyk. Then in 1958 Joy heard about a new portable Swiss tape recorder about to come on the market. The price was high and reporters and television newsmen were falling over each other to obtain models. Undaunted Joy prayed. One time while in Switzerland her host offered to arrange a meeting with the inventor. He explained that the recorder was not quite ready, then asked, 'How many machines will you need?' The Nagra turned out to be a very reliable GRN workhorse for years to come.
Another challenge was playing the records in locations where there was no electricity. Stuart Mill, the Director of Gospel Recordings Australia invented and produced an ingenious mechanical handwound record player called the Phonette. An even simpler and amazing cardboard record player was developed named the CardTalk.
A major milestone was the gradual switch from records to audiocassettes. Once again, Australia answered the challenge and invented hand-cranked cassette players. A small generator in the player supplied electricity to the motor as long as the crank was turned. This gave new meaning to the term "batteries not included."
Today a new milestone is emerging as cassettes give way to digital technology. Now the same gospel messages are becoming available in a whole range of media from CDs and DVDs to mp3s. Programs in over 4,000 heart languages can be heard or downloaded from GRN's web site. GRN Australia has come through again with a rugged hand-cranked mp3 player called the Saber that can be used anywhere.
As we work overtime to keep up with technology, we look to the Lord to show us the next milestone. The possibilities are endless, but the goal remains the same - telling the story of Jesus in every language!