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Random Radio Thoughts

Certification News

Two FCC Commissioners Sworn In

Clay's Corner

FCC Rulemakings

Amber Alert Download

The MicroChip PIC Microcontroller

Avoiding Automatic Termination Of Broadcast Auxiliary Licenses

The 50 Greatest Gadgets Of The Past 50 Years

The Buzz of New Technology

Amateur Radio News

USDTV Expands

First Of The West Coast Flood Stories



February, 2006

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Random Radio Thoughts

Cris Alexander, CSRE
Crawford Broadcasting Company

Picking Up Steam
Those of you who watch the trade press have no doubt noticed that the whole HD Radio thing is really picking up steam. The push was given a shot in the arm a couple of months ago when the HD Radio Alliance was formed. Now, the top-level engineering people from nine groups in the Alliance have formed a co-op for the purpose of assisting others in the Alliance in getting their HD Radio signals on the air and the wrinkles ironed out. What a great idea!

This is something we have been doing on an ad-hoc basis within our industry for some time now. Within Crawford Broadcasting Company, we operate an online engineering forum where our engineers and others can share information, everything from tips on maintaining particular transmitters to HD Radio conversion instructions. And outside of that forum, we often share information with other groups such as Clear Channel. One thing is very clear - if HD Radio is going to work, we all have to sound good. If we can help each other sound good in the digital realm, that will only help speed the rollout and insure the success of HD Radio.

Here in the Denver area, the number of HD Radio stations continues to increase. I haven't seen the stats, but this has got to be one of the top markets in the country for HD Radio signal proliferation. And on the Denver FM band, most HD Radio stations are also experimenting with multicasting.

I recently heard through the grapevine that KALC ("Alice") on 105.9 turned off its digital carriers after an interference complaint was received from KJAC ("Jack") on 105.5 up in Timnath. The word is that the KALC spectrum was well within the 73.317 RF mask, but the digital carriers were producing some interference in and around the Denver metro area - most of which is well outside the KJAC 60 dBu contour (which makes it to the northern part of Thornton and Northglen). This seems like a classic case of a second-adjacent channel "rim-shot" losing coverage in the market because of a local HD Radio station. I suspect that Entercom will eventually turn the KALC digital carriers back on, and KJAC will have to live with the interference. Crawford ran into a very similar issue in the Chicago market, and at the end of the day, the rim-shot had to take the coverage hit. That was after a visit by the FCC, who brought two spectrum analyzers and pronounced our occupied bandwidth in compliance.

PAD Challenges
One issue that seems to be challenging everyone with an oar in the HD Radio water is PAD, or Program Associated Data. It would seem to be a simple thing to export song title/artist from our databases to our IBOC generators and importers, but I've found that it's not so easy. Within this company, I've found that sometimes we get it working only to find a few hours or days later that it's not working anymore. IP addresses get changed, the format somehow gets messed up or something otherwise happens that messes up the PAD. I know that many of you are similarly challenged because I see it on the display of my Kenwood HD receiver. One unnamed local station was for a long time transmitting the words "Title/Artist/Album/Genre" in an endless loop on its PAD.

At Crawford Broadcasting Company we mostly use Prophet NexGen for our on-air operations. And while Prophet has been very responsive in dealing with PAD issues, they have yet to provide a stable means of exporting the data.

And so it has come about that we have begun experimenting with a software product marketed by Broadcast Electronics called "TRE" (for The Radio Experience). This product, sold in modules that each list for $600 or so, takes the database output from NexGen (or AudioVault or whatever), formats it properly for HD, HD-2 or RDS, and exports it to those applications. So far, we have been very pleased with the performance of this product. It gives us much more flexibility than what we would have were we dealing with a straight NexGen-to-importer path, and unlike the direct path, TRE doesn't lose track of what it's supposed to be doing. Stay tuned.

It's hard to believe, but the end of the "sundown" period for a lot of expanded band stations is quickly coming to a close. The sundown period was five years from the date that each expanded band station was first licensed. Here in the Denver area, the affected stations are KBJD (1650) and KDDZ (1690).

The Disney regular band station, KADZ, had to sign off by January 22, and I noticed that there is presently no signal on 1550 kHz. Salem's regular band station, KRKS (990) is still on the air but either it or KBJD ("KNUS-2") must sign off by February 20. I wonder what Salem will do with the second tower in the shared two-tower KRKS array once KRKS is gone.

Within the next six months or so, most if not all the regular band stations with associated expanded band stations will likely be gone. Something tells me that we won't see the big reduction in interference that we were all promised when the expanded band was first authorized.

If you have news you would like to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, email me at

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Certification News

All The News About Certification
Michael Scott
by Michael Scott
Chapter 16

The 2006 NAB Annual Membership Meeting will be held on April 25th at 5:00pm at the Las Vegas Convention Center. If you are attending the convention I hope that you will make time to attend this meeting and help celebrate the Program of Certification; it's turning 30. Re-certification is something that requires: some time / recordkeeping and a degree of diligence. I know because mine is up soon. I have completed the forms, recording activities and have all but written the re-certification fee. So what am I saying is-5 years really comes along quite quickly!

2006 Certification Application & Testing Deadlines



Test Date

March 3, 2006

NAB Las Vegas

March 3, 2006

April 21, 2006

Local Chapters

June 2-12, 2006

June 9, 2006

Local Chapters

August 11-21, 2006

September 22, 2006

Local Chapters

November 10-20, 2006

To raise the professional status of broadcast engineers by providing standards of professional competence in the practice of broadcasting engineering. To recognize those individuals who, by fulfilling the requirements of knowledge, experience, responsibility, and conduct, meet those standards of professional competence. To encourage broadcast engineers to continue their professional development.

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Two FCC Commissioners Sworn In

By Tom Smith
Chapter 24

On January 3rd, two FCC Commissioners were sworn in. Michael J. Copps was sworn in for his second term as a FCC Commissioner and Deborah Taylor Tate was sworn in to replace Kathleen Abernathy whose term had expired. Abernathy did not seek reappointment. Michael Copps fills one of the two Democratic seats with Jonathan Adelstein, while Deborah Taylor Tate will fill one of the three Republican seats along with Chairman Kevin J. Martin. The third Republican seat is currently empty.

Copps has been a member of the Commission since 2001 and was the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Development in the Commerce Department before joining the Commission.

Tate was the Director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority for the past six years and the Chair from 2003-2004. She also served on a number of telecommunications and utility Committees. She is an attorney and served as an advisor for past Tennessee Governors particularly in mental health and juvenile issues. She in married with three children. Her term runs until June 30, 2007.

From FCC Releases (

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Clay's Corner

Featuring News, Rumors and Views
From Usually Reliable and Irrefutable Sources

By Clay Freinwald
Chapter 16, Seattle

As I write this I just returned from a few days in Madison, Wi. Sure The day I left there it was 10 degrees with enough wind to make scraping ice off the windows an experience. I was glad to get back to the warm weather of the PNW. While there I had a chance to attend the Milwaukee Chapter meeting. This one was held in a Milwaukee suburb at the home of Generac, the generator maker. We had a buffet dinner and then listened to a presentation about some of their technology and later a peek at one of the buildings at their plant. I had no idea how extensive their facilities are ...Understand they have 1,000,000 square feet total! They demonstrated their parallel generators. It;s fascinating to watch a 50 and 100 KW generator in parallel automatically equalize the loads to correspond to the differing generator sizes. This is all done using controllers mounted on the gen-sets. It was interesting to hear them tell us that they had indeed not marketed their products to our industry. I wonder how evening meetings, with dinner and a tour, would work in Seattle? I'm sure that the Ch16 Board would love to hear what you think.

Big news for me this time is that the FCC has just acted re. EAS. First was a R&O dealing with how digital facilities should be handling EAS messages...and then another NPRM dealing with a number of other issues. My best advice - Download and read it.

The main impact of this change is to include more things into the EAS....namely Cable TV's digital channels, Satellite Radio and TV etc. At the local level the big change is to do what many assumed would be the case; require that EAS messages be carried on all streams when we are in digital mode. I did find it interesting to read in this R & O comments from the Commission about Digital Radio....Twice they mentioned that Broadcasters would eventually turn off their analog facilities. There is more to come as the FCC is still trolling for input for what will be more changes to the EAS. Meanwhile a number of tests of new and more advanced systems are fully underway. Some of them right here in our backyard. Related to this is the fact that Congress is now getting involved in public warning systems in a way we have not seen. Meanwhile NOAA/NWS is proposing a system whereby all public warning messages would be funneled through them.

This is all going to be interesting to see how it gets sorted out. My best advice...Watch this carefully and let me know your thoughts as I will most likely be involved in the creation of SBE's response to this activity.

Multicasting - A term that I bet you never would have thought would have applied to Radio. Well folks - it's here with a number of our area FM stations now programming two streams of programming. For instance - KMPS -HD1 is the same thing you hear on FM but KMPS-HD2 is 'Classic KMPS.' KZOK-HD2 is Air-America, the liberal talk programming that you can receive on 1090 AM. This means that we now have an HD-2/AM Simulcast...perhaps a first. KUOW is running two different channels of Talk and KPLU is programming their HD2 with 100% Jazz. As Radio tries to figure out what to do with this newfound transmission medium I have to recall the days before FM was discovered by the masses. AM was king and many simply put economical to produce programming on their FM in the hope that one day someone would buy a radio with FM....Sounds like history is indeed repeating itself.

Saw Terry Spring on the Tiger Mountain road the other day...he was telling me about PAX-TV's relocation from the Belo/KING facility on Dexter to Preston. Understanding that Channel 33 is pretty much a 'follow the bird' operation, moving the station is easier than it might sound in that it mainly consists of a Master Control. Preston, between Issaquah and North Bend, is certainly not where most folks would choose to locate...but it does have one big advantage - the STL path is only about 3 miles long and it's mainly up...really up!

A couple of other items of interest re. HD Radio -

> The recorded music industry is very concerned about the impact of HD on record sales. This is obviously due to the increased quality of the system over analog.
> BMW has announced that some of their 06 model year autos will be available with HD. > One of the big problems with adding HD Radio to existing cars is that many automakers are integrating other electronic functions with the car radio.
> George Bisso and Gary Engard have been busy recently installing HD equipment on Sandusky's 106.9 FM.

Gotta get an HD radio for my car; that's all there is to it!

Recently learned that Salem has purchased a pair of new Harris 3DX50 transmitters for their KKOL transmitter in Tacoma. Interesting story here. First KKOL (Ex KOL) moved off Harbor Island and onto a ship in Elliott Bay. This was to be temporary while they constructed a new array between Kent and Tukwila. Apparently this ran into 'issues' (aw, who would have guessed). The station ended up finding property in the Port of Tacoma....not very far from where KJR was transmitting from not long ago prior to them moving to Vashon.

Rumors are flying hot and heavy about the sale of ABC Radio. Apparently Disney feels it would be better off without it. The media newsletters are having a great time trying to figure out who will be the new owner.

In response for a waiver, the FCC recently waived the ID rules for a unique radio service....the coach to quarterback system used in football.

The Midwest has been having a rather large number of late season of which came very close to causing extensive damage to the facilities of ERI in southern Indiana. It did hit, causing extensive damage to the Dielectric-owned Central Tower facilities there in early November.

Talk radio has had its day in court in October as the matter of the line between free and political speech was debated. This activity created a lot of national attention as could be expected. In this instance, KVI was the station. This led the Seattle Times to run an editorial on Oct 31 titled - "Protecting KVI-AM". Not often you see the print media run that line. Speaking of Fisher...Things appear to be improving for our local broadcast ownership with a reduction in losses for the most recent period.

A sign of the times perhaps - The BBC has launched a service in Arabic. This comes at the same time they are dropping service to many European countries.

Analog TV history soon? - Apparently as the law of the Rubber Time Limit is in the hands of Congress. Wonder how long the stores will be selling analog sets to those who have no idea of what's about to happen in 2009 ? Shisssssh.

A variant of polyethylene, the stuff used to make trash bags, turns out to be good at shielding man from solar flares and cosmic rays. Don't be surprised if you see these on the market shortly for the fearful of everything.

Emmis is selling its domestic TV stations (including KOIN in PDX) and is buying radio both here and in Europe.

Not sure if I told you...but Bryan Hubert reports that they have another Nautel transmitter coming for their Cougar Mt facility, this to do HD Radio. He also told us about a sky-bolt (Lightning) that struck their facility in Edmonds on October 1st. Lots of damage reported.

The Commish has just authorized a LPTV operation for Bellingham....Not that 30 KW is really that low. The site is Mt Constitution, same location as Channel 12. Pattern looks like a DA aimed at our neighbors to the north.

Finally - Lee Hurley is enjoying retirement in Southern California. Bet he would enjoy hearing from his old friends. His email is lee(at) (email address cryptic for obvious reasons)

Clay, CPBE, K7CR

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Compiled By Tom Smith
Chapter 24

MB Docket No. 05-312; FCC 05-192
Digital Television Distributed Transmission Technologies

On November 5, 2005, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning rules for the use of Distributed transmission Technologies for DTV Stations. This technology would allow for the use of several smaller transmitters operating on the same frequency to be used to cover a station service area instead of one high-powered transmitter. The Report and Order was discussed in the December newsletter.

On December 7, 2005, the FCC published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the FEDERAL REGISTER. With the publication of the notice, the 60-day comment period was started. Comments are due on February 6, 2006 with replies due on March 7, 2006.

In another action that was published on that same day in the FEDERAL REGISTER, the FCC issued a clarification on the use of Distributed transmitters. The clarification states that the coverage of all transmitters in a distributed system cannot exceed the predictive noise limited contours of a station. The FCC will consider requests for transmitter facilities that exceed the limits only if the proposed transmitter power is required to serve an area currently served by the station. This would allow service beyond the predictive noise limited contour only in the replication area on a secondary basis, if no interference to another station occurs. All waivers will be done on a case-to-case basis.


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Amber Alert Download

Amber Alert
Download the publication Best Practices Guide for Broadcasters and Other Media Outlets. It "provides state, regional, and local authorities with the information necessary for developing and improving AMBER Alert initiatives and procedures."

Other Amber Alert related publication are here also: US Department of Justice Amber Alert website.

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The MicroChip PIC Microcontroller

Dave Driessen
Chapter 80 - Serving Northeast & Central Wisconsin

Microcontrollers are found in almost everything these days, from toys to cell phones and most broadcast gear. There are many different microcontrollers available - our program will cover the MicroChip PIC 16F877. (about $8 from Digikey) The PIC could be used to built a serviceable transmitter remote control or allow a contact closure to control a serial device.

MicroChip Pic

The 16F877 has 8K of flash memory, 256 bytes of EEPROM to save settings, 30 I/O pins, serial port, several channels of analog to digital conversion, two pulse modulation outputs with adjustable frequency and duty cycle and lots more.

I got most of the info from a book by Myke Predko: "Programming and Customizing PICmirco microcontrollers". ($33 from Amazon) The best part is the book includes an etched printed circuit board for the programmer. An order to Digikey and some soldering and I was burning software.

PIC Book

Most of us don't have time to learn an arcane assembly language in order to write an actual useful program. A visit to the authors website reveals a Basic interpreter for the 16F877. Now you can interactively develop software with a TTY terminal program on a PC. With simple commands, switches can be sensed, relays closed and 2 way communication with a PC can be had. The following code typed into Hyperterm will flash a light attached to pin 30.

' This is a Test
' Let's see what happens with Register Reads
' and Writes
' Myke Predko
TRISD=170 ' Enable four Outputs
LOOP: ' Come Back Here to Change PORTD
PORTD=PORTD^1 ' Toggle the LSB of PORTD
GOTO LOOP ' Repeat

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Avoiding Automatic Termination Of Broadcast Auxiliary Licenses

By Chris Imlay,
SBE General Counsel
Thanks Chapter 24

(Ed: The information in this article is provided as a matter of interest as the deadline for action has already passed.)

A number of issues were raised by the FCC almost a year ago in a January 21, 2005 Declaratory Ruling ("DR") regarding automatic terminations of wireless radio service authorizations in the Universal Licensing System (ULS). SBE has since that time attempted to clarify the applicability of this DR to broadcast Auxiliary (BAS) facilities. We received the necessary clarifications orally from FCC staff long ago, but it has been exceptionally difficult to get the FCC to clarify for broadcasters generally (by a revised public notice) the means necessary to protect Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) licenses from cancellation. This is a basic "primer" that will not be news to all of you, but for those of you who have limited experience with the FCC's ULS, there are some issues you must know about, and you need this information right now, to avoid automatic cancellations starting February 1, 2006.

I. Background

On January 21, 2005, the FCC issued its DR in Docket 05-23, which stated that, as of July 1, 2005, it would automatically terminate and delete from the ULS any wireless radio service authorization for which no notification of completion of construction had been filed. Though footnotes 2 and 4 of the DR listed the radio services affected by this automatic termination provision, Part 74 facilities were not listed. Section 1.901 of the FCC rules, however, does include Part 74 BAS facilities among the "wireless radio services." This issue alone made it necessary for FCC to clarify the applicability of the automatic termination provisions. So, SBE filed on February 21, 2005 a Request for Clarification of the DR, asking that the FCC clarify the applicability of the DR to Part 74, and other clarifications discussed below. In addition, SBE representatives met with FCC Gettysburg staff in February of 2005 to ask the same questions. In our view, the DR was as clear as mud, and broadcast engineers deserved to know how to avoid termination of their stations' BAS licenses before the automatic termination provisions became effective.

The FCC issued a Public Notice on May 25, 2005 (DA 05-137) postponing the effective date of the automatic termination provisions in the ULS until Fall of 2005, in order to allow licensees some time to submit late-filed notifications of completion of construction of licensed facilities, together with requests for waiver of the notification deadline. These are commonly known as "NT" filings, the code used in the ULS for Notification of Completion of Construction.

SBE representatives were called to a meeting by the FCC's Wireless Bureau staff in June of 2005, to discuss the SBE Clarification Request. The Bureau did not want to readdress the issue, and felt that the Request would have to be treated as a Petition for Reconsideration. SBE explained that if the Commission would simply issue a clarification public notice, that was all that would be necessary to inform BAS licensees how to avoid losing licenses by not filing an NT when necessary, or for other reasons. FCC agreed to do this, and SBE agreed to withdraw its clarification request.

The FCC further postponed the implementation date of the automatic termination provisions due to the disruption of broadcast operations due to Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, and Rita. Ultimately, the Commission decided to postpone the implementation of automatic terminations until February 1, 2006. In its December 20, 2005 Public Notice announcing this latest postponement, the FCC stated as follows:

The...automated feature in (the)...ULS for all Wireless Services that will identify those licenses, locations or frequencies for which a timely notice of completion of construction or a request for an extension of the construction or coverage period has not been filed by the required deadline. Where the Wireless Service includes construction or coverage requirements and the licensee fails to submit a notice of construction or request for an extension in a timely manner, ULS will both notify the licensee that its license, location or frequency has automatically terminated and will list the license, location or frequency on a weekly public notice as automatically terminated.

Clearly, this is not something a BAS licensee can afford to have happen, especially now that FCC has made it so expensive to license a new fixed BAS facility or modify an existing license. Automatic terminations are unfair if the FCC has not been specific about when NTs are required and how to avoid the pitfalls associated with BAS licenses in the ULS. FCC's public notices have not significantly clarified the obligation of BAS licensees. Here are some important points about the process.

II. Are Part 74 Facilities Included in the Automatic Termination Provisions?

Yes. The FCC finally made that clear in the December 20, 2005 Public Notice, though it was not at all clear in the DR. Part 74 is in fact one of the radio services affected by the DR and subject to the automatic termination provisions if the notification of completion of construction is not timely filed and if a Petition for Reconsideration is not timely filed if an authorization is terminated for non-compliance with the notification obligation. The inclusion of Part 74 is mandated by the original ULS Report and Order, FCC 98-234, released October 21, 1998. Though that is far from clear in the DR, there is no doubt now about the inclusion of Part 74 as one of the wireless services that are subject to the provisions of the DR.

III. When Do I Have To File An NT For A New Or Modified BAS License?

The rule is that you must file an NT after completion of construction of a BAS license where a frequency is added, deleted, or changed. Therefore, a licensee has to file an NT for any new BAS license. As to modified facilities, if the frequencies are not changed, it is not necessary to file one. The only BAS (or other) facilities that are subject to the Notification of Completion of Construction obligation are those in which frequencies are added or modified.

Most Aural and Television BAS facilities are given an 18 month construction period, within which time an NT must be filed. However, RPUs and Low Power Auxiliary facilities are given only 12 months to construct and within which an NT must be filed. Note, by the way, that if you delete a frequency from a license, you actually have to file an NT after the modification application is granted, or else the deleted frequency comes back! Notwithstanding the FCC's informal guidance here, the best practice is to file an NT for any new or modified BAS facility before the end of the construction period, and as soon as the new or modified facility is complete. Filing an NT is extremely easy in the ULS compared to other FCC filing requirements in either the ULS or the CDBS, and the safest thing is always to file, rather than risk an automatic termination, which starts February 1, 2006.

IV. What is the status of BAS Modification Applications When an NT is not Filed for the Modified Facilities?

SBE expressed concern to the FCC about the status of a licensed BAS facility that is subject to a granted application for modification, but for which an NT is necessary but not timely filed. It would be unfair for that license to be deleted, rather than to revert to the prior licensed status. This was clarified by the WTB Gettysburg staff as follows: Because the only BAS (or other) facilities that are subject to the NT obligation are those in which frequencies are added or modified, if an application for modification of a licensed BAS facility includes a change in frequencies, an NT is required. If the NT is not timely filed, the license will revert to the prior licensed status. The license will not lapse. Rather, it will revert to the prior licensed status in the database and the modification will disappear.

V. Beware! ULS Records do not reveal old and proposed new facilities!

For Aural and TV BAS fixed links, as soon as a modification application for an existing fixed BAS facility is granted, the old record disappears from the ULS, and only the proposed new facilities show up. Since there is an 18-month construction period for new and modified BAS licenses (except that RPUs and Low-Power Auxiliary stations are given 12 months only), and since it is necessary to ensure that an existing but not yet changed path is properly protected from other incompatible applications (especially given the new Prior Coordination Notification requirements for fixed BAS facilities), there should be protection of both old and new facilities during the modification period. This cannot be done under current FCC ULS protocols. It is unreasonable (since, for example, new studio construction and modified STL construction could take the better part of the 18 months authorized) to delete the old licensed facilities in the ULS before the end of the construction period for BAS licenses. SBE understands that this will be addressed in ULS upgrades sometime in the future. Because this matter has not been resolved, however, the FCC staff suggests that an applicant should not modify a fixed BAS facility. Rather, the applicant should file an application for a new facility instead, and, upon completion of construction of the new facility, the applicant should simultaneously file a notice of completion of construction for the new facility, and a dismissal of the old license.

VI. Check the Administrative Information for Each BAS License, and Make Sure that NT's have been filed for ALL of your BAS Licenses Before February 1, 2006 !

The FCC's December 20, 2005 Public Notice urges licensees to check their licenses and determine whether or not an NT was filed for them. If not, you should immediately do so, together with a request for waiver (electronically filed along with the NT) for the untimely filing of the NT. This will protect your license against automatic termination, and the FCC routinely grants waivers for late NT filings. At the same time, it is easy and free to do an administrative update (AU) for each license to make sure the contact information, licensee name, and all other administrative data is correct.

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The 50 Greatest Gadgets Of The Past 50 Years

Kent Randles
Chapter 124

PC Magazine ranks your favorite gadgets, or the gadgets that led to your favorite gadgets of the last 50 years at,aid,123950,00.asp . #1 is the Sony WalkMan of 1979, #2 is the iPod, and at #5 is the Sony CDP-101, the first consumer CD player, which came out in 1982 and cost almost $1000. There's a link to a 1983 Stereophile magazine review which is more about CDs than the player itself.

The FM station I started working for in 1984 had one, and just a dozen CD's to play on it. There was an intro cart that hyped that we were about to play a song from the "laser disc player." (Kind of confusing since Laser Discs themselves, with video, were being called VideoDiscs and are #37 on the list from 1978).

Some more of my favorites: #10 the first transistor radio (1954), #21 the Zenith Space Command Remote Control (1956), #23 the Kodak Instamatic (1963), #39 the Snappy Video Snapshot (1996), and #42 the Motorola HT-220 Handie Talkie (1969, with a link to the Motorola HT-220 page).

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The Buzz of New Technology

By Mike Wenglar, Director of Technology, Broadcast Media, KVUE TV
Chapter 79 - Austin

Scope It's new technology, but the buzz is very annoying! I'm speaking of GSM cellular phones and Blackberry type PDA/cellular phones. I know if you own one, you heard something new in and around audio gear, such as computer speakers, home stereos and just about any other audio gear that is near a GSM service type instrument. If you have a friend with a hearing aid....well keep your distance!

One of the bigger noise contributors in the cell phone is the RF stage. In GSM cell phones, the RF PA switches on and off at 217 Hz. During the on state, the RF PA sends data to the base station and the off state allows the phone to conserve precious battery power. In my simple laboratory test I held my Nokia GSM phone about 12 inches away from a short antenna coupled to a Tektronix scope. I called my cell phone and grabbed the signal that was picked up on the scope. The noise looks like a high frequency RF signal, gated by a square wave. See the scope snapshot. In fact the time period is 217 Hz according to information I found in my, guess you would call it "GSM for Dummies" text book.

You can see my time measurement of approximately 4.56ms between the two cursors and if you do the math, that comes out to roughly 219 Hz...close enough to the 217 Hz in my crude lab.

To further my curiosity, I polled the entire staff at the station by email and asked if anyone experienced this buzz in their audio equipment. I received about 35% who answered my email regarding my weird questions and to my surprise; many are very annoyed about this buzzing noise. It was also surprising that this noise also was noted in car stereos, television sets, XM radio receivers and more. There was one positive comment and that being that the buzz gave this person a "heads up" that their phone was going to ring! But the consensus was that it was annoying and they said the words I have heard all my life..."can you fix it"?

Guess my answer is no for the present and yes to the future. One also might ask, why this buzz isn't apparent in my cell phone, it has audio stuff and a small speaker. Well, there is some magic the cell manufacturers use to cancel this noise from you hearing it in your ear piece. The newest type of audio PA architecture, which is in production today in many cell phones, smart phones, and other wireless devices, is the fully differential audio amplifier. These types of audio PAs are available in both in Class-AB and ClassD technology, with Class-D starting to be the preferred solution due to its high efficiency. The fully differential amplifier does not use an output as an input for creating a differential signal, so the amplifier does not create a 217-Hz square wave on one of its outputs while trying to respond to the RF signal. That's one of the reasons why many manufacturers of cell phones, especially GSM phones, are moving to this type of amplifier architecture.

That's fine for the phone, but what is the answer for a cure to external audio devices and equipment with the buzz. I'm afraid that we are going to be stuck with it from what I can find out from the cell phone manufacturers. As new audio gear is designed, they will incorporate newer technology to counter this buzz. I guess it has to be that the old technology has to catch up to the new.

If you watch any newscast, local or national, you might hear this buzz getting into the talent's microphone. I have certainly heard it. The Blackberry type instruments are also a culprit, for they are always spitting out data. One of my staffers related a story about several Blackberrys looking for a signal in an area where signal reception was poor. He said it was "buzz city" in the audio gear and everyone was annoyed.

I have to ask why the FCC was not bothered by this "interference". Yes, I call it interference, for it is "interfering" with lots of stuff. I'm not talking of the old fashion term of interference, but the new, the one that affects more people than any other interference caused by any broadcaster, ham radio operator and maybe even a citizen band operator!

After seeing this ugly interference, I have to wonder if I want my brain pulsed with RF at a 217Hz rate. I know they say these things are safe, but how much are you up on your basic radar or microwave oven theory??

I am really surprised that there isn't more discussion and press on this annoying new technological buzz!

I would like hear your comments regarding this. I'm not on a crusade by no means. It's more of a technical curiosity. Email me or use your cell phone and give me a buzz!

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Amateur Radio News

By Tom Weeden, WJ9H
From Madison Ch. 24

o Another "Broadband over Power Line" complaint was filed with the FCC on January 5 by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) over the renewal of the Ambient Corporation's BPL system in Briarcliff Manor, New York. The system is operated by Ambient, on power lines owned and operated by Consolidated Edison, under an experimental FCC authorization.

The latest communication points out that the FCC, without adjudicating ARRL's repeated complaints about interference throughout the amateur 20 meter band, renewed Ambient's experimental license for an additional term, from August 1, 2005 to August 1, 2007. "The Briarcliff Manor BPL system currently (still) causes harmful interference to Amateur Radio communications and it is not compliant with applicable FCC part 15 regulations," according to the ARRL complaint. "Neither," it continues, "is it compliant with the terms of the experimental authorization granted by the Commission, most recently on August 1, 2005."

ARRL reasserted its request that the BPL facility be instructed to shut down immediately, and that it not resume operation unless the facility is shown to be in full compliance with Commission rules regarding radiated emissions and with the non-interference requirement of the Commission's Rules and the terms of the experimental authorization. The complaint also demands that information about the system must be listed in the FCC-required BPL publicly accessible database.

ARRL's Laboratory Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI, wrote in a supplemental report after conducting further tests at the site December 5, 2005, that he had conducted similar tests twice before during 2005, and three times during 2004. In this earlier testing, Hare found significant violations of FCC rules regarding Part 15 emissions limits.

The January 5 complaint, entitled "Continued Request for Immediate Cessation of Operation," was signed by ARRL Counsel Christopher D. Imlay, W3KD. (Imlay is also counsel for SBE.)

o The only survivor of the January 3 mine explosion in Tallmansville, West Virginia is Randal McCloy Jr, KC8VKZ, of Philippi, West Virginia. At press time, he was listed in critical condition at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he is undergoing specialized treatment. Fellow hams may wish to send a note of support on a QSL card to Randal McCloy Jr, KC8VKZ, PO Box 223, Philippi, WV 26435.

o Amateur Radio Emergency Service and other Texas amateur radio operators from the Abilene vicinity were called to assist with communications during the last week of 2005 when wildfires struck Cross Plains, Texas, in the southeastern portion of neighboring Callahan County.

"There was no cell service because the connection to the cell tower was burned," said Bill Shaw, KJ5DX, the ARRL Emergency Coordinator in nearby Taylor County. "There was one landline phone working at the church where the Cross Plains Red Cross shelter was set up." Amateur radio operators established communication via UHF and VHF radios between the Cross Plains Shelter, Brownwood Red Cross Shelter, and Abilene Red Cross headquarters. A team of 14 radio amateurs was on hand during this emergency.

"We kept up 24 hour communications for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday until noon via ham radio," Shaw explained. "The fire started as a grass fire about noontime on December 27, and quickly escalated into a raging wildfire that was fed by 45 mph winds." Unfortunately, the fire quickly spread toward town about 3 miles away, and it burned the area that is about 4 to 6 miles east-west and 2 to 3 miles north-south in size.

"About 31 fire departments fought fires until about 5:00 the next morning," Shaw said. As a result of this fire, almost 8,000 acres burned, 152 homes were damaged, and that represents 25 to 30 per cent of the homes in Cross Plains. Over one hundred of those homes were completely destroyed.

(Excerpts from the American Radio Relay League's <> web site)

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USDTV Expands

By Tom Smith
Chapter 24

USDTV has announced that they will be entering another market. This market will be the Norfolk/Hampton Roads, Virginia market, and will be the fifth market that they will have operations in. They plan to start operation in the spring.

USDTV previously had operations in Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas, and recently started operations in Dallas/Fort Worth. This will be the first operation in the eastern half of the country.

The USDTV service is an over-the-air broadcast service which uses a DTV set-top box to receive both regular and encrypted DTV signals The encrypted signals use the extra bandwidth that DTV stations have.

The service will cost $19.95 a month for 11 encrypted channels with an additional $6.95 a month charge for Starz. The signup cost is $24.95 for delivery and use of the set-top box. With the normal free over-the-air channels also receivable with the set-top box, a viewer may access to up to 30 channels.

The service bills itself as an all-digital, low-cost alternative to the rising cost of cable TV services. The encrypted services include channel information with a major channel number of 99, and sequential minor channel numbers (i.e. channel 99-x).

USDTV was started in 2003 and received a $25 million dollar investment from a number of TV broadcasters in 2005 and became at that time U.S. Digital Television, LLC. Their web address is

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First Of The West Coast Flood Stories

(From James Boyd K7MKN Boyd Broadcast Technical Services)
Chapter 124 - Portland

"I received a troubling phone call from Dave Bischoff [K7UIR, Chief Engineer of the Pamplin stations in Portland: 860 KPAM & 1550 KKAD] this afternoon (Sat 12/31) and pictures from the site. This is KDUN in Reedsport, owned by Pamplin. I don't yet know the extent of the damage, but there appears to be about 6 inches or more of water into the transmitter building (which by the way is elevated about 8 to 10 feet above ground level). In the photos you can see about the top foot or so of the ATU.

Inside the building is a Nautel XL-60 (day transmitter), a Nautel ND-1 (night transmitter) and other related equipment. The river is the Smith River near its confluence with the Umpqua River. There is a dike along the river and one side of the property. The tower base is about 10 feet above sea level.

This is the same site that lost a tower in a freak wind storm a couple of years ago. I probably will make an attempt to get to the site tomorrow or Monday. Several highways into Reedsport were closed today except, US 101 from the south." (Pictures at:

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Newsletter Committee

Bill Harris
  (505) 767-6735

Garneth M. Harris

Newsletter archives are available online.

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Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Societies, its officers, or its members. We regret, but are not liable for, any omissions or errors. The Denver SBE and SMPTE Newsletter is published approximately twelve times per year. It is prepared with a combination of text and graphic data. Submission deadline is 10 days before the last day of each month. Other SBE or SMPTE chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the original authors, sources, and/or the Denver SBE/SMPTE Newsletter.