In order to reach audiences beyond Harvard's campus, the corporation acquired a commercial FM broadcast license from the FCC and began regular broadcasting on May 17, 1957 at 107.1 MHz (at that time called "megacycles"). A few years later, the station changed frequency to 95.3 MHz, where it has remained since. The broadcast area expanded considerably in 1995 when the transmitter was relocated from atop Holyoke Center in Harvard Square to its present location atop One Financial Center in downtown Boston. Broadcasts went global when internet retransmission of its programs began on November 18, 1999.
Orgies (the term is a registered trademark of the station) are consecutive presentations of the entire musical output of composers, record labels, or genres, sometimes running 24 hours a day for a solid week or more. Station legend has it that these began when an exuberant undergraduate in 1943 decided to celebrate his passing a difficult exam by broadcasting all nine Symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven in order. Orgies continue to take place during exam periods, allowing the station to be run with a reduced on-air staff at these busy times. "Orgies" are broadcast each year throughout the month of January, and again from the beginning of May through Harvard's commencement ceremony in early June.
Some of WHRB's regular programs have long histories of their own. For example, the country music program Hillbilly at Harvard dates back to 1948, and Sunday Night at the Opera is one of the longest-running programs in its genre in the United States. The station's underground rock department, Record Hospital, began in 1984 and hosts an annual music "fest".
WHRB also broadcasts live play-by-play coverage of Harvard University football and men's hockey games, and is the Boston area home, in season, for the weekly broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.
WHRB alumni are called ghosts in the elaborate and idiosyncratic lingo which has developed at the station; the term refers to their tendency to "haunt" the station after "death" (graduation).
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