A monthly newsletter by Society of Broadcast Engineers Chapter 48

October 1996


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Contents

The September Meeting
Upcoming Chapter 48 Meetings
New Radio Service
New RF Limits Established
Engineering Forum Looks at Honor
Custom Phasor Panels From Ft. Collins Engineering Company
Computer Related Acronyms - Part 1 of 3
Tower Survey Beign Conducted
Etc.

 

The September Meeting

On September 11th, members of chapter 48 met at the Larcan TTC facility in Louisville. The meeting was called to order by chapter vice chairman, Eric Schultz who announced that the next meeting will be a joint SBE/SCTE/SMPTE meeting at the KUSA studios at 11:00 on October 17th. Members are required to RSVP for this meeting and can use the registration form found in this newsletter.

Without further ado, the floor was given to Dennis Wallace of Larcan TTC. Dennis gave a brief overview of Larcan TTC and its parent company, The LeBlanc Communications Group. The LeBlanc group owns several other companies, including LeBlanc and Royale Telcom, BMS Communications, and Lodestar Towers. Dennis went on to discuss how Larcan TTC is preparing for the new ATV channel assignments. He mentioned that construction permits for ATV may come as soon as next summer, and Larcan TTC and Lodestar are expecting to be very busy with ATV.

Following Dennis' presentation, Larcan generously provided the chapter with a catered lunch. After lunch, the chapter was greeted by Jim Wilson, the president of Larcan TTC and LDL Communications. Next, we were given a tour of the manufacturing and engineering facility by David Hale, Larcan TTC's operations manager. Highlights included the test area where Larcan tests their full power transmitters, right down to the high voltage supply, and their engineering department where they currently are developing a new modular 1000 watt transmitter.

Thanks again to Larcan TTC for their hospitality.

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Upcoming Chapter 48 Meetings

November 20, 1996 Wednesday, 12 noon, Coco's Restaurant Chapter Elections, EAS update (deadline is Jan. 1), Ennes foundation

December 18, 1996 Wednesday, 12 noon, KWGN studios FCC's new inspection vehicle - note the date and location of this meeting are subject to change.

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New Radio Service

THE NEW FAMILY RADIO SERVICE (FRS), established by FCC Report and Order (FCC 96-215) on May 10, 1996, will permit personal two-way communications among small groups of persons over a 200-yard to one-half mile range. Fourteen channels between 462-468 MHz have been allotted for this new service which requires no license.

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New RF Limits Established

Chapter 28

The FCC has defined a new set of RF radiation limits to apply to all broadcasters beginning January 1, 1997. The good news here is that the Commission declined "at the present time" to require stations to measure induced or body currents. But for FM broadcasters the present maximum of 1,000 uW/cm-squared will become the new "controlled/occupational" limit. And, for the general public, the specification will be tightened con-siderably, down to 200 uW/cm-squared. This will impact mostly those stations whose antennas are mounted on short towers on high buildings For them, the new standard means that their limit is now just 1/5 of the previous level allowed. The FCC has indicated that they will be publishing formulas for calculating exposure under the new guidelines sometime before December of this year.

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Engineering Forum Looks at Honor

W.C. Alexander - Dallas

When an engineer accepts employment at a station, he or she usually is coming in behind another engineer who is departing. Often, the engineer finds that he has inherited a multitude of problems that may include chronic maintenance troubles, undocumented wiring, "temporary" fixes that have become permanent, repairs made with chewing gum and baling wire, you name it.

The station manager, program director and staff have high expectations. They want the new engineer to fix all the problems left by the departing engineer, and to do so quickly.

Often, the previous engineer found it necessary to get by with less- desirable fixes and creative engineering solutions because he had no budget or support from station management or ownership. Perhaps things were tight, as they often are in today's economy. Perhaps the previous engineer was not adept at communicating his needs to management. He may have felt obliged to do what he had to, in order to get by.

Sadly, in other cases the departing engineer may have been the kind of employee wo did not do any more work than necessary. Cleaning the mess may consume a lot of time and quite a bit of money. This schedule more than likely does not meet the expectations of management. "So what's the holdup?" they ask. "When we hired you, it was with the understanding that you would get all these problems under control. Can you do the job or can't you?" Now our engineer has to make a decision. How would you respond?

A thread on ethics

The natural instinct is to blame the preceding engineer. "We wouldn't be in this mess if Joe had doen his job," the new employee wants to say. "You should see the rat's nest behind the console. I can't make heads or tails out of it! You should have dumped him years ago."

This response may be natural, and it may contain a good deal of truth. It may all be true. But what does our new engineer achieve? How would you respond in the reverse situation, if the newly hired engineer stood in your office and blamed his slow performance on his predecessor? Your opinion of the new engineer would probably go down a few notches. Perhaps your opinion of engineers in general would go down as well.

A number of engineers recently addressed this problem in a nationwide on- line forum.

"In the real world," writes KEn Hoehn of Teletech in Dearborn, Michigan, "a spade should be called a spade... but it is often not politically correct to do so. Taking management for a walk, showing them the problems, and pointing out that they could be due to a variety of reasons (budget or time constraints, or lack of expertise) would be the best way. Not all senior managers would take that tour or accept that kind of frankness, though."

Chip Morgan of CMBE in Sacramento, California, replies, "That's right. That's what should be done. And a new engineer should tell the new staion that time is needed to determine the condition of the facility and to come up with the first steps in their plan to make improvements. The feedback to the station depends on the reson the old engineers went away."

He continues, "But what of the newly hired engineer (or even program director) who comes into a station and attempts to discredit other employees by telling everyone that they don't know what they're doing? How does this make the new guy look? What can be done to teach people in our industry the harm they do to themselves and to their profession?"

Sid Schweiger, chief engineer of WXLO(FM) in Worcester, Massachusetts, offers this advice: "Do your job to the best of your ability ... which doesn't have to involve getting where you want to be by steppin on others. There's a name for people who do that...and it isn't 'professional'." George Nicholas, an engineer from the Cedar Rapids area, says he tries never to question the work of the previous engineer, no matter how bad the situation might be.

"Doesn't do much good to change the situation. The exception might be if something is extremely dangerous, such as exposes HV wiring, or some no- brainer. But for the most part, I always thry to look ahead rather than behind. Most times where it's held together with baling wire, it's because management wouldn't come across with the money to do it right the first time."

Nicholas also "had the pleasure of following an engineer who I considered better than me. The first few weeks you're proving yourself to the staff."

Preserving Integrity

These offerings point out one thing: You gain little by badmouthing your predecessor, even if he truly was responsible for the mess. Honor in our profession lies in acknowledging the problem, devising an economical and efficient plan to deal with it and presenting that plan to management.

You may not have the budget to deal with the problems. Management may not want to hear about it. You may still find yourself stuck, unable to do much to fix the myriad of problems your predecessor left behind and that may earn your predecessor a degree of respect in your eyes. Yet by refusing to give in to the natural tendency to point the finger at the other guy, you will have preserved your own integrity and honor as well as that of your profession.

Reprinted with permission of Radio World newspaper. This article originally appeared in the September 18, 1996 issue.

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Custom Phasor Control Systems Available From Ft. Collins Engineering Company

AM Directional Antenna Users

It seems that RF relay status and control in phasing systems that employ pattern switching has been a weak area of the phasor system design. Troubleshooting is often miserable due to lack of meaningful status indicators, and poor location of parts. You typically have to walk out to each tower to find out which relay didn't switch. Sometimes the control relays are installed on the floor of the phasor, down in the dirt, where you have to climb over energized RF parts to get to them. Or there are lots of control relays with contacts in series, some of them intermittent. Remote control capability and status indication are an afterthought or nonexistent.

With these factors in mind, FFI has developed a retrofit product having the following properties:

All RF relay control and status functions are contained in a 5.25 inch rack- mounted unit. Only the relays that switch AC line voltage to the RF solenoids are outboard.

There are two status LEDs for each RF relay. CMOS logic is employed for summing the RF relay status. All status is low voltage DC. All RF relay status is available for remote indication.

Relays are employed only for essential functions - transmitter on/off, antenna monitor mode selection, failure indication, and RF solenoid control. Since memory is a latching relay, AC mains failure cannot cause mode change.

Every unit is (and must be) a custom product that accommodates the individual system requirements.

A pattern change sequence requires only one contact closure input, which can be accomplished directly by old remote control systems, and automatically by the new smart remote control systems.

Contact closures indicating any RF relay failure permits the station engineer to select how the station is notified.

The standard unit accommodates two transmitters and up to four towers; expandable to 12 towers.

Full documentation is provided in a bound manual. These units are installed in four states. Installation is available, and recommended. Installation can be accomplished without losing air time in most cases.

This column is paid for by FFI in Fort Collins. Inquiries are invited at 970 484 2704.

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Computer Related Acronyms - Part 1 of 3

Eric Schultz - Chapter 48

It seems like every day another TLA emerges from the computer industry. What's a TLA? It's a Three Letter Acronym. It seems like every piece of computer software or hardware can only be described by an acronym. Even the language of the internet is being reduced to abbreviations. In the first of three, this month's article will define a number of the more common and more confusing computer acronyms. This is, by no means, a complete list.

ACK - Acknowledgment - A bit or byte used by computer hardware devices to indicate data was received correctly.

API - Application Programming Interface - The collection of programming functions used to implement a software library or operating system. For instance, the Windows API is the collection of functions needed to write Windows applications.

ASCII - American Standard Code for Information Interchange - A character set developed by the American National Standards Institute. The ASCII character set contains 128 characters, each of which can be represented by a seven bit number.

ASPI - Advanced SCSI Programming Interface - A subset of the SCSI interface. Not all SCSI devices are compatible with ASPI.

ASIC - Application Specific Integrated Circuit - A computer chip designed for a specific use. ASICs are commonly found in modems, video adapters and sound cards.

ATAPI - Advanced Technology Attachment Packet Interface - A subset of Enhanced IDE, used to control CD-ROM drives and other devices. ATAPI devices are generally easier to install than their SCSI counterparts, and can be connected to a computer EIDE controller.

BASIC - Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code - A common programming language.

BBS - Bulletin Board System - A dial-up computer system, generally on a much smaller scale than online services such as America Online or Compuserve. BBSs are usually run by private individuals, from their homes, serving local users.

BIOS - Basic Input Output System - A computer's low level instruction set which is loaded from Read Only Memory when the computer is started. The BIOS allows the operating system to interact with the hardware specific to the computer.

bps - Bits Per Second - Used to indicate the transfer rate of a channel.

BTW - By The Way - An abbreviation used in email, chat and news.

CAM - Common Access Method - A subset of the SCSI interface. Not all SCSI devices are compatible with CAM.

CD-R - CD Recorder - A CD-ROM drive, capable of re-writing CDs.

CD-ROM - Compact Disk-Read Only Memory - A non-writable storage medium, similar to audio CDs developed in the 1980s. In fact, CD-ROM drives are able to play audio CDs. In fact, CD-ROMs can store CD audio along with computer data.

CGI - Common Gateway Interface - A standard that allows HTML documents to interface with various computer platforms and languages. CGI allows web sites to process and respond to user input.

CISC - Complex Instruction Set Computing - A microprocessor format using an extensive set of instruction codes, allowing the processor to perform complex tasks using fewer instructions. An example of CISC processors is the Intel x86 family of processors.

CPU - Central Processing Unit - The main processor in a computer.

CRC - Cyclical Redundancy Check - A mathematical method of error checking used in streams of transmitted data. The CRC is calculated by performing an algorithm on the transmitted data. If the sending and receiving computers do not calculate matching CRCs, the data was not transmitted correctly.

DBR - DOS Boot Record - The first sector of a DOS drive partition, containing the boot information for the system.

DMA - Direct Memory Addressing - A technique that allows peripheral hardware to access the computer's memory without using the CPU.

DNS - Domain Name System - The method that the internet uses to keep track of domain names and IP addresses. A domain name is a computer's identity, such as vegetable.com. The IP address is a number that represents the address of the computer, such as 128.32.8.2.

DOS - Disk Operating System - The software that allows the user to interact with the computer. Often, software applications operate between DOS and the user.

DRAM - Dynamic Random Access Memory - Computer memory used in most computers. DRAM is only able to store data for a few milliseconds and must be refreshed continually by the computer.

DCE - Data Communications Equipment - In serial communications, the DCE is the equipment connected to the host terminal or computer. Modems are the most common form of DCE devices.

DSP - Digital Signal Processor - A microprocessor that is specialized to control digital signals such as sound or video.

DTE - Data Terminal Equipment - In serial communications, the DTE is the terminal or the computer to which a modem is connected. The DTE interface is complimentary to the DCE interface.

EDO - Extended Data Out RAM - A type of random access memory that offers increased its speed by being capable of moving blocks of data (called pages).

EIDE - Enhanced IDE - An expanded subset of the Integrated Drive Electronics interface.

Part 2 will appear next month.

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Tower Survey Being Conducted

The American Society of Civil Engineers is conducting a survey regarding performance of freestanding and guyed telecommunications towers and monopoles. The survey will be used as part of a study to further the safety and functionality of towers world wide. SBE members are encouraged to participate in the survey.

To participate in the survey, contact James S. Cohen, P.E., at (609) 730-0510.

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Newsletter Committee

Bill Harris.......(303)756-4843 email: BHarris4@IX.netcom.com
Garneth M. Harris..(303)756-4843
Andre' Smith.......(303)871-4204 email: ansmith@du.edu

Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Society, its officers, or its members. We regret, but are not liable for, any omissions or errors. The Denver SBE 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 chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the original authors, sources, and/or the Denver SBE Newsletter.