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Clay Freinwald

Clay’s Corner for November 2014

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineer's perspective since September 1986


Hard to believe that we only have a couple of months to go in 2014.  Wow has this whizzed by.  Of course all things do when you reach this point in life.  You can certainly tell we are at this time of year when the days are getting really short  and the weather has turned wet.  Speaking of which, have you noticed that Seattle’s precip total is about 10 inches - above - normal for the year?  I’m guessing that the folks in California would like to have their 10 inches back.  Winter is getting really close.  I noted that the higher peaks in the Cascades are sporting a nice fresh coat of snow.  For those of us that head up into the hills - it won’t be long before we will be dealing with the ‘white-stuff’.  I just checked and the snow level is now down to about 4000 feet.  For those of you that read this column in other places, this must seem strange to read.  Remember we are at 47 degrees North!

Just completed a roll out of new Satellite Receivers for WSU’s NWPR.  This required a lot of driving over a short period of time.  Gone are the old ICP’s with new XDS’s  taking their place.  On the subject of NWPR, one of my co-workers, Tom Saylor, has been out due to a medical issue…The latest is that he is, thankfully, on the mend.  On the subject of NWPR - the WSU based radio network continues to grow and now consists of 19 transmitters and 12 translators.  In-State programming originates in Pullman as well as at the KVTI Studios in Lakewood at Clover Park Technical College.

Well, we had another EAS mess.  Like many times before, someone has used EAS data in their programming with no regard for the FCC’s rules, potential fines, or the impact on others down-stream.  In this case it was a syndicated radio DJ that thought it was a good idea to make fun of a station that ran an EAS during a ball-game.  It just happened that the data he used was of the type that the FCC’s rules require everyone to forward so a lot of broadcasters, perhaps 100, ran a false message.  I suspect that the DJ that ran this had no clue about the impact of what he was doing.  He probably just thought the data bursts were just noise-makers.  What technophobe would think to decode the sound of computer data before running it during a radio program?  The other thing is that it’s very likely that this DJ had no clue about the legality of what he was doing.  Chances are he is not likely to be well versed in the FCC’s EAS rules.

The big question now is what is the FCC going to do about it and who are they going to do it to?  If the radio program syndicator is not a licensee, the FCC has limited authority.  What about the licensed stations whose EAS equipment was triggered and, obediently, forwarded it as an legitimate message?  Can they be held responsible for the authenticity of EAS messages they receive?  Or could the FCC go after the syndicator?

A number of solutions have been proposed.  Because the EAS data was from a couple of years ago…EAS Boxes should be able to not forward messages that are not current.  Only problem is that much of our current hardware won’t do that.  One party suggested that perhaps preventative equipment could be deployed that would prevent an EAS tone from being sent from syndicators or other suppliers of programs and program elements for broadcasters.

At this writing there is a lot of dust in the air - and when this settles out, the Feds will likely weigh in …In the meantime - a lot of band-width is being used by a lot of people discussing what happened and waiting for the next shoe to drop.

On the subject of EAS - We are always looking for volunteers to help with the EAS effort in Washington State.  The most pressing need is at the local level, working with the LECC’s.  If you have an interest in helping (I call it giving back)…Drop me an email and I will get you connected.  The next meeting for the Washington State SECC will be Thursday, November 13th at the State EOC at Camp Murray - I hope you can attend either in person or via the conference bridge.

Doug Fisher is back to working full time after his open heart surgery….He is assisted these days by Alex Brewster.

We have all heard someone’s cell phone whose ringer sounds like an old Western Electric mechanical bell.  Those of us old enough will smile at this sound in the world of electronic tweets or other sounds.  (Still like Jim Dalke’s phone that rings in Morse).  Now for those that have an ‘old phone ringer’ comes this App.

Old phone app

If you look back in history, just a wee bit, you discover a huge number of problems that were addressed with mechanical solutions…..Then came electricity and with that the marriage of the two and electro-mechanical devices.  The rotary-dial phone, step switches and mechanical bells were an example.  Later, when electronics came along we had mechanical devices controlled by electricity that were controlled by electronics.  Now we have computers controlling everything.  I have to smile when I had a neighbor kid come over to the house a while back and he asked about an old radio I had…and asked if it worked.  I said sure-does and turned it on.  He looked a bit puzzled when I told him it had to warm-up and asked, "What do you mean ‘warm up?’".  I explained it had vacuum tubes inside - He frowned some more.  Then (when it had warmed up) I dialed about and found 3 stations in Portland.  I suggested he should go home and see if he had a radio there that could receive 3 Portland stations… He was blown-away that something so old could work so well.  I recently ran across this item in the same category.

Download Comic 

Talking about a very cool thing to do - The Arne Skoog Memorial Scholarship Fund providing money to pay for a percentage of educational efforts for engineers who wish to improve their skills.  Arne, as you know, was an Engineer for CBS Radio in Seattle.  Check the Chapter 16 Web Sirte for more info - http://sbe16.org or send an email to director1@sbe16.org

The FCC has pushed back their filled with controversy spectrum incentive auction until early 2016.  Have to think a lot of lawyers are involved with this one.  Remember those days when there was all that unused spectrum allocated to TV?

It’s been said that the most dangerous phrase in our language is - “We’ve always done it this way.”

Then comes word that the French outfit that made glass tubes for Amperex has stopped production.  Apparently the only manufacturer for tubes like the 4-400’s (used in many 1 kw AM Transmitters) and 3-500’s (Use in many Ham amplifiers) are in China.  I don’t know of any 1 kw AM’s still running tube type transmitters, but knowing the economic state of AM Radio test days, I would not be surprised that there are quite a few.

For some time, especially in explaining how EAS works, I have used made up call letters KRUD and KRAP, admittedly for the smile factor.  Old sage - Phil Johnson did a bit of research into perhaps funny or interesting call letters and came up with the following list:

KRAP-AM  Washington, MO
KRUD-FM  Newman, CA (dark).  This also didn’t work very well for KRUD-AM, Honolulu (dark)
KPOO-FM  San Francisco
KLIT-FM  Ranchitos Las Lomas, TX
WFRT-LPFM  Bronte, TX (dark)
KBRF-AM  Fergus Falls, MN
KFAT-FM  Anchorage
WSHT-LPFM  Indianapolis
KDRK-FM Spokane

In Seattle there used to be a number of AM Radio Sites - KAYO at 4th and Lander, KJR on the West Waterway, KOL on Harbor Island, KXA on Rhodes Department store etc.  Peter Ward dropped me a note informing me that the Pigeon Point AM Tower used by KKDZ (1250) and KBLE (1050) is the last AM tower in the city.  What makes this a bit more interesting is that the tower is not even owned by a broadcaster but rather belongs to American Tower.  Thanks Peter.

What is it about successful Pacific Northwest or Seattle area companies that people don’t like?  Just think of all of those folks that would bad-mouth Bill Gates and Microsoft (That is until he starting giving away millions to help people around the world).  Microsoft succeeded because it developed products that people wanted.  Now it’s time for another Seattle based company, Amazon, which has become just a wee bit too successful.  Some are now saying that they have grown too large and must be stopped through government action.  Seems to me that Amazon earned their way to where they are.

Every once in a while, someone with lots of time on their hands, comes up with a phony piece of equipment that brings smiles to the faces of broadcast engineers.  Thanks to Dwight Small, here you go -

Phony Equipment
 
This is right in there with the Engineer that provides the technophobe manager with a very impressive box with lots of blinking lights and knobs and switches that they can use to enhance their skills.

The story of the Fox network in our town has taken a few twists and turns.  First the media ran a story about how Fox was buying KBCB in Bellingham.  (Viewed from elsewhere they were calling KBCB a Seattle station …A bit of a stretch.)  Then the news that Fox wanted to buy KCPQ-13.  The latest is that KCPQ will remain with Tribune where they just inked a long term affiliate agreement.  Now the question is what will Fox do with the Bellingham station?  Just another story to be continued.

Apparently Nielsen has determined that Seattle is at the top of the list of cities where people are cutting the cord…or where TV signals are not delivered via cable or Satellite but rather via on-line services.  This comes on the heels of another survey that shows the vast majority of folks watch television delivered by the ‘cord’.

No copper thefts to report this month - However I’m sorry to report that James Boyd who does contract work all over the PNW had his truck broken into with the theft of a considerable quantity of very expensive test equipment.  For example - an Aglient  Network Analyzer, Agilent Spectrum Analyzer and a number of adaptors etc.  If you see this equipment, or hear of where It might be - Please contact James at 503-703-8360 or e-mail boyd.broadcast@comcast.net.

I’m going to leave you with some interesting quotes - all from Thomas Edison:

1.    Never Underestimate the Power of Persistence
2.    Your Accomplishments Define You
3.    Learn from Failure
4.    Give Employees the Freedom to be Creative
5.    Don't Be Afraid to Think Big
6.    Listen to the Customer
7.    There is No Substitute for Hard Work
8.    There Are No Shortcuts to Greatness
9.    Success Doesn't Come Easy
10.  The Keys to Achieving Anything Worthwhile Haven't Changed in Over 100 Years

That’s it for this month - As we approach the Holiday Season - Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and may you weigh less the day after!

73, Clay, K7CR, CPBE