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SMPTE Conference 2004

Listening Between The Bands

Random Radio Thoughts

Resume Service On-Line

SBE Finance Committee And Board Vote To Raise Certification Fees

Certificaton Exam Session Dates For 2004

SBE To Develop New Software For Volunteer Coordinators

Board Accepts Boston Chapter's Invitation For 2004 National Meeting

First Live Datacast Originates From KRMA-DT

DVD & Hard Drive

PDX Radio Waves

Transatlantic Cable Facts

Music At 78 RPM

KRUD Radio



December, 2003

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SMPTE Conference 2004

SMPTE's Advanced Motion Imaging Conference
Lenses to LCDs - Advancements in Motion Imaging
February 26-28, 2004 - Fairmont Hotel, Chicago

We're Turning up the Heat:
SMPTE's preparing another successful AMI Conference this February, as experts in motion imaging converge on Chicago to give you the information you need to stay ahead. Technical presentations, panels, and more are on the burner, so mark your calendars! This year's Conference will be held at the Fairmont Chicago from February 26th thru 28th. Join us as we explore the latest in motion imaging technology.

Call for Papers

Advanced Motion Imaging Conference

February 26-28, 2004 - Fairmont Hotel, Chicago
200 North Columbus Dr. Chicago, IL 60601
Join Us!
We invite you to submit a proposal to present at this three-day conference. If you have expertise and knowledge in the following areas that you'd like to share, we want to hear from you:

  • Acquisition Systems, both in Lenses and Imagers and Processing Systems
  • Quality and Measurement Systems for Advanced Motion Images
  • Film and Electronic Interfacing
  • Distribution Issues in Advanced Motion Images: Broadband Web; DTV; and Packaged Media
  • Advances in Displays for Television and the Cinema

Paper Submission Information
Submissions will be by email only. Below are instructions for submitting your Synopsis, which should be completed and submitted to SMPTE Headquarters, and all information requested will be needed. The deadline for submission is December 15, 2003. Once we've received your paper, we will contact you with further information about your proposed paper or presentation. If you have questions, please contact SMPTE Headquarters by emailing Remember, SMPTE prides itself on professional conference presentations and proceedings. Please make sure that your synopsis and subsequent paper are technical in nature. Purely commercial offerings or "sales pitches" are to be avoided and will not be accepted.

How to construct your Synopsis Submission Send an email to . In the subject box of your email write: SMPTE AMI Conference. In the text box of your email, please list the following:

1. Author(s)
2. Company
3. Address
4. City
5. State
6. Zip/Postal
7. Country
8. Contact Email Address
9. Tel
10. Fax
11. Title of Paper
12. 500 Word Synopsis

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Listening Between The Bands

Fred Baumgartner

I'm a radio geek, not a health freak... so to have collected two bicycles and four Grundig PE-100s is kind or "normal" for me.

The PE-100s are available for about $35.00 (do a web search, I got the last ones from killed one in a minor bike crashes... they are pretty brawny... OK, I'll admit I melted it's tuning mechanism leaving it in the car) and cover all of the popular shortwave broadcast bands, as well as AM and even FM stereo (with headphones). As cheap cigarette package sized shortwave radios go, the PE-100 is nothing short of splendid. I built a holder for one bike, and the other has a brake cable convenient to clip on to. The other two are in my computer bag and an overnight bag... a real luxury in a cheap hotel. There is something otherworldly about listening to radio China as I ride by the KOA 50 kW 5/8ths wave tower guy anchor on the Cherry Creek trail through Parker without interference.

With the homogenization of broadcast radio, I have found myself tuning around the dial shopping for "something interesting." Living south of town, the free-form AM station in Boulder is more noise than signal, and KCFR, the local NPR affiliated news and information station isn't really very listenable either. That leaves the Fox's "Vibro-Thursday" and the nearly automated jukeboxes ("The Mountain" seems to be the most exceptional, and they are still pretty tight). No... I won't jab Clear Channel... but for whatever reason... there just isn't much mental stimulation on the domestic bands.

On the other hand... on occasion, something like "Radio For Peace International," an occasional travelogue or documentary on the internationals comes along on my PE-100. Reports on the European heat wave, environmental and political concerns dealing with the "neighbor to the South" on the Canadian Broadcasting Company, or dating traditions in Xueng province, are all good for some thought.

Last week, I ran into WBCQ (7415 is where I found her, but she advertises 5105, 9330 and 17495 kHz) "The Planet" from Monticello, Maine.

Transmitters in a garage, antennas something less than Sturba-Curtains, old and home brew transmitters; it's the child of Al Weiner. No antenna is pointed at my bicycle as I ride Elbert County road 9 towards Elizabeth, but Firesign Theater; a blast from the past (I thought I had all of their albums... I believe I can still do all of "How can you be in two places at once when you are not any where at all?" from memory) blares from the 1.5 inch speaker following a call-in show titled "Area-51," sort of Art Bell with an attitude. This is Al in a staff meeting (stolen from web site)... Notice the lack of automation gear, file servers; and the real radio feel...

By the way, the other stimulating (in my humble opinion) program is Radio For Peace International. All 30 kW from Costa Rica are on 7.445 24-hours a day... between eviction notices. They have a 19-meter service on occasion also.

In any case... real radio is still out there... somewhere between the AM and FM bands.

So, I'm thinking... Maybe Low Power AM isn't going to get so much as a thought from the FCC, and there isn't room for so much as a micropower FM in the area... Maybe it's time to build a SW station...

There is one caveat. I know that there are two places where some sort of data is running from AM to blue light just along the highline canal trail. I assume that if the FCC allows BPL (Broadband on Power Lines), that shortwave radio becomes pretty much history. I've seen the driving demos ARRL did, and it's pretty scary... so enjoy it while you can


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Random Radio Thoughts

Cris Alexander, CSRE
Crawford Broadcasting Company

AM Major Change Window
After many years of wondering when (or if) it would ever happen, those waiting to file AM major change or new station applications need wonder no more. The FCC has announced an AM new station and major change filing window for January. The window will open January 26 and close January 30. A minor application freeze will go into effect from January 12 to January 30, so if you have any minor changes to file, better get them in ahead of what some trade publications have labeled the "AM gold rush."

The FCC has had its share of problems lately with the heavily-used Consolidated Database System (CDBS). The trouble seemed to start last month when the FCC did an SQL Server upgrade. Immediately following that, those of us who use the system on a daily basis noted a marked slowdown. Sometimes, it would take ten minutes for a page refresh or to load a form. In late November, we got word from the FCC that it would be doing a "retrograde", returning the system to the previous version of SQL Server. The latest word is that the CDBS lock-up problem under SQL Server 12.5 has been fixed. The downgrade to version 11.5 has been canceled.

This problem was severe enough that the FCC announced in late November an extension for several filing deadlines. For Colorado, the most significant of these is for the Biennial Ownership Report (Form 323/323E). The original December 1 deadline has been extended to December 8.

Most of us with AM directional arrays near metropolitan areas receive, from time to time, letters from wireless operators making the required notification that a wireless tower within 3 km of the directional array is being built or modified. These letters almost always say that an analysis of the situation reveals that no adverse effects to the directional pattern will be produced, and that the contractor will measure the station's monitor points (MPs) before and after the construction or modification to prove this.

I think the first reaction that a lot of busy CEs have when receiving such a letter is to blow it off. The contractor is, after all, obligated to protect the pattern, right? Well, sort of. Crawford Broadcasting Company has a lot of directional arrays all across the continental US and this is something that our market CEs and I deal with on a weekly basis. The truth is that the contractors hired by the wireless operators to "coordinate" the construction or modification generally work on a flat fee and will do the absolute minimum required by the law. That usually includes only the letter and pre/post-construction MP measurements. What a lot of CEs don't recognize is that serious pattern distortions can occur with little or no (or even a downward) change at the MPs.

Recently in St. Louis, our CE received such a letter. Our company policy is to be rather militant about protecting our patterns, so I sent our CE out to run a pre-construction partial proof on the station's nighttime pattern (the one which was most likely to be affected by the wireless tower). Analysis of the results immediately showed that we had another problem - a serious pattern distortion that had not been detected by regular measurement of MP field strengths.

To make a long story short, our CE made arc measurements on a number of nearby towers, including a four-tower AM array a mile or so south of our site. Analysis of those measurements showed a significant amount of reradiation from each of the four towers, all of which were supposed to be detuned and IM trapped. A consulting engineer was brought in and he found that indeed, the detuning networks and IM traps had been badly misadjusted, evidently as a result of lightning damage. When lightning had, on a number of occasions over the summer, destroyed coils and caps in the networks, they were replaced and the taps approximately set by counting turns. The networks were never set using test equipment, however, and as a result, our nighttime pattern was seriously skewed in the major and minor lobes and several IM products were being radiated from the other station's towers.

I share all this with you to point out what can happen right under your nose, affecting your coverage and occupied bandwidth. I suggest that when you get those wireless letters, you take them seriously. Don't rely on the formula in the NAB Engineering Handbook to predict the amount of reradiation - I have found that the NAB formula consistently gives a low prediction. Use a worst-case evaluation instead. If the predicted worst-case reradiation is still less than 10% of the null depth in your directional pattern, you can probably relax a little.

Otherwise, making pre/post-construction partial proof measurements is the best course of action. These days, you only have to measure eight points per monitored radial; with a GPS, in most cases you can easily do this in a day. Trust me, it's the safe way to go.

BAS Revisited
We are now a month into the new Broadcast Auxiliary Service PCN coordination rules. Have any of you filed for new or modified BAS facilities using the new procedures? The SBE would be interested to hear of your experiences.

While we must now use professional Part 101-type PCN coordination for all fixed BAS applications, I have found that there are lower cost alternatives. One new entrant into this field is Terrestrial RF Licensing. They can be reached at (888) 373-4832 or online at:

In the meantime, back in late September, I filed a number of BAS applications to correct or supply missing information on CBC records in the BAS database and paid $120 per application for the privilege. The idea was to insure that all of our BAS records were correct and complete so that other users making coordinations would be doing so using complete and accurate information. That would presumably prevent interference down the road and hopefully keep our phones from ringing as PCN coordinators tried to fill in the blanks with the missing information. As of late November, none of the changes I filed has made it into the BAS database. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised.

HD Rollout
The HD Radio rollout continues at a slow but steady pace. With the release of the new HDC coder, I expect that quite a number of operators who had tabled their HD plans while the coder problems were worked out will get moving once again.

Last month in Chicago, BE installed a Shively HD filter on the output of the FMi-703 digital transmitter at Crawford's Power92 (WPWX). The immediate results reported by Spanish Broadcasting's market CE Bill Murdoch were that the interference to SBC's second-adjacent stations was gone. Unfortunately, within a day or so of the filter's insertion, the filter became very hot and the digital transmitter shut down with a high reflected power condition.

Shively sent out an engineer with a network analyzer and he spent two days adjusting the filter. We found out that the factory does not put any power through the filters before they are shipped, and we also found that the VSWR bandwidth of the filter was very poor. When the Shively engineer pronounced the filter as "fixed", we put it back in the line.

With 3.1 kW forward, we were seeing close to 70 watts reflected. That calculates to be 1.35:1, not too good in my book, but I decided to let it go awhile and see what happened. Within a few hours, however, the filter was again too hot to touch and the Power92 transmitter room smelled of burning paint. Reflected power soon climbed to over 250 watts and the digital transmitter shut down. The filter was removed - permanently. It seems to me that the design of these HD filters is going to have to be revisited. One thing I would note, however, is that Power92 (analog + digital) does meet the occupied bandwidth requirements of 73.317 without the external filtering.

CBC put its second HD station on the air in Chicago last month. WSRB "Soul 106" went on the air without incident in the common amplification mode using a BE FMi-703 solid-state linear transmitter. Our third HD station, "Soul 106" in Rockford (WYRB), which is synchronized with co-channel WSRB, should go on the air this month. The synchronization issue will no doubt pose some interesting engineering challenges when introducing all the HD variables. Stay tuned.

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

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Resume Service On-Line

The SBE Resume Service is now online at With increased visibility and ease of use, the Resume Service is the perfect companion to JobsOnline for SBE members searching for new positions and for employers searching for the right candidates.

At no cost, SBE members complete a questionnaire and send the national office copies of their resumes. This information is used to compile an anonymous profile that is posted (not the resume) on the SBE website for employers to browse. Employers interested in one or more profiles will contact the national office and pay a small fee to access the actual resumes.

Only SBE Members may use this service and any broadcast related employer may participate. For more information Contact Angel D. Bates at abates at, 317-846-9000 or go to

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SBE Finance Committee And Board Vote To Raise Certification Fees

The SBE Finance Committee recommended and the Board of Directors voted to raise certification fees by $5 effective January 1, 2004. This is the first certification fee increase in more than ten years. It is important to note that the Program of Certification was not designed to be a profit center for the SBE, but rather provide a service to our industry. To do this, we must cover our own administration costs. This fee increase allows us to accomplish both goals. New fees are as follows:

Certification Level



Broadcast Technologist



Broadcast Networking Technologist



Broadcast Engineer



Audio/Video Engineer



Senior Broadcast Engineer



Professional Broadcast Engineer



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Certificaton Exam Session Dates For 2004

Certification exam session dates for 2004 are listed below. Check the list for the exam period that is best for you. For more information about SBE Certification, contact Chapter Certification Chair Fred Baumgartner or Certification Director at the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000 or

2004 Exam Dates


Application Deadline

February 6-16, 2004

Local Chapters

December 31, 2003

April 20, 2004

NAB - Las Vegas

March 2, 2004

June 4-14, 2004

Local Chapters

April 23, 2004

August 13-23, 2004

Local Chapters

June 11, 2004

November 12-22, 2004

Local Chapters

September 24, 2004

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SBE To Develop New Software For Volunteer Coordinators

From Chapter 28

SBE will be developing new software to be used by its volunteer frequency coordinators. The new software will replace software that was developed in 1989 by member Gerry Dalton of Chapter 67 in Dallas. The existing software has been a great tool for frequency coordinators and our thanks go to Gerry Dalton who created it at no charge to the Society in order to help SBE's frequency coordination effort grow and become more efficient.

The new software will be utilize a run-time version of FileMaker Pro and will be operable on Windows, Mac or Unix platforms. AppleSauce Productions, of Grand Rapids, Minn., will be the developer. It will be a valuable tool for the regional coordinator as well as for coordination of special events. It's expected to be ready for use by spring of 2004.

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Board Accepts Boston Chapter's Invitation For 2004 National Meeting

The SBE Board of Directors at its fall meeting in Madison, Wisc. October 14 voted to accept an invitation from SBE Chapter 11 in Boston to host the 2004 SBE National Meeting. 2004 will be the third "Bos-Con" convention for Chapter 11. The 2003 event was held October 28-29 at the Best Western Royal Plaza and Trade Center in Marlborough, Mass. Dates and exact location for the 2004 event in the Boston metro area were not confirmed as of this writing but it is expected to be held in October.

This will be the first SBE National Meeting held in New England. The National Meeting includes the fall meeting of the SBE Board of Directors, Fellows Breakfast, Annual Membership Meeting and National Awards Reception and Dinner. Meetings of the Certification and Frequency Coordination Committees are also tentatively planned. If you live in the New England area, be sure to include the 2004 SBE National Meeting and Bos-Con SBE Regional Convention on your calendar.

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First Live Datacast Originates From KRMA-DT

Jim Schoedler
Director of Network Engineering
Rocky Mountain PBS

On November 12, 2003 the first live datacast from a Colorado television station was successfully transmitted from KRMA-DT atop the Republic Plaza Building in downtown Denver.

The datacast was part of a pilot project co-produced by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Rocky Mountain PBS, reaching four schools in the Denver metro area and featuring live video and audio from a USGS lab at the Federal Center in Lakewood. Paleontologist Kirk Johnson displayed core samples, fossils and other results of the Museum's Denver Basin project, and answered questions that students phoned in to an audio conference bridge.

Four Middle Schools + DMNS + Janus Foundation + RMPBS

Rocky Mountain PBS and SpectraRep provided the technical capability for the datacast. The data used 500 Kbps of KRMA-DT's 19.39 Mbps transmission capacity. Video and audio from the USGS lab were encoded as Microsoft Windows Media Player (Version 9) streaming data, encapsulated in MPEG packets, and multiplexed with the normal KRMA-DT SD or HD program content. Logic Innovations supplied the IP Encapsulator and Multiplexer and the Windows Media Encoder was running on an NDS server.

Remote Broadcast Inc and the Denver Teleport relayed live video and audio program content from Lakewood to Rocky Mountain PBS. Dave Baysinger, Digital Media Development Coordinator for the Museum, produced the remote production.

At the receive locations a $250 B2C2 data receiver and inexpensive UHF antenna were coupled to a laptop computer running the Windows Media Player application. Most schools projected the display to classroom audiences of 40 to 50 students. The 500 Kbps streaming data provided good resolution and very intelligible audio. The system Rocky Mountain PBS is putting in place offers up to 4 Mbps of fixed bandwidth data transmission capacity for streaming video and audio as well as opportunistic data insertion suitable for file transfer and other non-real time applications.

Hardware deployment took less than 20 hours over a two week period.

Datacasting combines broadcast television with data transmission technology. It offers the most efficient and cost-effective method for delivering high bandwidth, real-time video and audio to multiple receive locations within the television station coverage area. Even using the low-power KRMA-DT signal, reception at the four schools, all within a 15-mile radius of downtown Denver was successfully achieved inside the building with a signal to noise ratio of 27 db or better.

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DVD & Hard Drive

Roy Trumbull
Chapter 40 - San Francisco

It has been my observation for years that virtually nothing is developed for broadcast or professional use that doesn't have some consumer product fallout. So it was with some interest that I noted a new product reviewed in the Circuits Section of the New York Times. It was a DVD recorder housed in the same chassis with a digital hard drive style recorder. Three manufacturers will have product out there this holiday season. One of them contains TIVO software.

As I look at my tired DVC-Pro decks that are approaching 15,000 hours of use, I wonder how long tape will be with us? We've been dumping everything into hard drives to edit for quite some time now. Cameras have been demonstrated with dockable hard drives as have cameras with DVD recorders.

It is a real challenge to bring a tape transport back to original specs when it has been used for 3 or 4 years. It's not just that parts wear out it's that those parts were cherry picked at the factory to make the machine meet spec.. Just putting any old replacement part in won't accomplish the same thing and the manufacturer won't facilitate the process. If anything, the replacement parts are jacked up in price year after year so that your only choice is to buy new equipment because the old is too expensive to maintain.

If I can buy a recorder that doesn't have media grinding against heads and guides, that doesn't hang loading and unloading, and that permits rapid access without spooling and spooling, why shouldn't I make the move?

The adoption rate will tell the story. No one had to draw diagrams in the sand to explain the virtues of using a server for spots and programming. Everyone got it really fast. I think the hard drive DVD combination will go the same way.

Roy Trumbull

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PDX Radio Waves

by Michael D. Brown N7AXC CSRE
Brown Broadcast Services, Inc., Portland
mike at
Chapter 124 - Portland

"It's been like living at Mt. St. Helens. The first few days the cars were covered with ash and soot and it smelled like we were living in a chimney. The skies were entirely smoke-filled, the air quality made you choke. And you couldn't escape it. At work, we were all choking. The air conditioning brought in the bad air and recirculated it. When it was off, there was no air to circulate....The tragedy and devastation are beyond anything you can imagine. I don't think there is one person that does not know someone who has lost a home. Everything up in smoke in a matter of minutes."

Descriptions such as this, from my aunt near the Cedar Fire near San Diego, have been repeated time and again to this writer in recent weeks, when describing both the San Diego and San Bernardino-area fires. 3300 homes, 20 lives, and several radio and TV station transmitter sites were lost. The saga of top-rated country station KFRG, San Bernardino, is a typical case in point. The 50 kW station's transmitter site, about 6 miles north of the city, was completely destroyed in the massive "Old Fire" blaze, along with another FM and TV facility. Read the story at You can read the story at See, and for pictures (links courtesy of the CGC Communicator).

The fire was "hot enough to melt silver-solder joints" according to CE Kevin Scott, which would put the flames in excess of 1000 degrees F. Inside the building, the temperatures were hot enough to easily melt aluminum (1200+ degrees F). Amazingly, a propane tank just outside the building escaped unscathed. The building was a conventional cinderblock construction, with a wood-beam roof. "If it wasn't for the roof, we might have survived," Kevin surmised. KFRG quickly made arrangements to get back on the air using the old site of market competitor KGGI, Riverside, at Box Springs Mountain, southeast of San Bernardino, and far from the fire lines. With a marginal match of their 95.1 signal into the KGGI 99.1 antenna, they got back on the air with about 90 watts ERP. Then KGGI's main site about 12 miles northeast of San Bernardino failed, and officials refused to let KGGI engineers into the closed area. KGGI was forced to reclaim the Box Springs antenna from KFRG, which then erected a temporary "custom modified" antenna at about 50 watts ERP. There was an "enormous amount of cooperation by everyone" involved, including managers from competing stations. And it really points out the value of having separate backup sites, Kevin added. Those sites that were not destroyed were often affected by power outages, many sites (such as KGGI) were just unreachable, and some backup generators failed due to sooty air clogging intake filters. At press time, the weather had cooled and rain had fallen, but some of the blazes were still not fully contained.

Closer to home, Amador Bustos' Bustos Media Holdings has become Portland's fourth largest group owner, with his $2.8 million purchase of 1520 KKSN Oregon City from Entercom now being approved by the FCC. Unofficial word is that the format will remain Adult Standards. His three other area stations, KKGT 1150 Portland, KMUZ 1230 Gresham, and KGUY 1010 Milwaukie, are all Spanish-language programmed. Mr. Bustos started the Z- Spanish network in 1992, eventually building it into an empire with 32 O&O's and 46 other affiliates nationwide. This group sold in 2000, and Bustos has since been building another radio group with the proceeds. In the wake of the Mitre Report which concludes that third-adjacent LPFM's would cause minimal interference problems, NPR has given qualified support for such stations. "We believe that the best way for policymakers to implement LPFM is to begin with a measured trial period of interim LPFM service introduction," NPR stated. "We believe such a trial period would be important in documenting the successful strategies of interference remediation and avoidance where it counts - in the real world." (quote courtesy of RW Online). This is the first time that NPR, who previously was vigorously opposing third-adjacent LPFM's, has publicly budged on the issue. NPR's previous position was probably the key reason that many Democrats and moderate Republicans joined in voting for the "Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000", which killed third-adjacent LPFM's. But in the wake of the tidal wave of new second and third- adjacent translators, most of the frequencies in populated areas will be gone already.

Finally, this bit of research from Clay Freinwald's "Clay's Corner" column in the Seattle SBE Newsletter: According to the U.S. Naval Historical Center, the first computer "bug" was indeed an insect. In this case a moth between some relay contacts of an old Aiken Relay Calculator being tested at Harvard University on Sept 9th of 1945. The log showed that they had "debugged" the machine. And all the time we thought that the term "bug" had nothing to do with insects at all! Armed with this historic data we now are free to use the term "bug" when describing the impact of insects in other systems around the plant.

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Transatlantic Cable Facts

By Vicki W. Kipp

Transatlantic Timeline

Gutta-percha, a natural plastic derived from trees native to Malaya, was discovered. Gutta-percha is produced when the milky, gray sap of the Gutta tree is boiled. Chemically similar to rubber, gutta-percha is an inelastic latex polymer that is hard yet moderately flexible at room temperature. Gutta-percha is a reliable insulator in water because it doesn't deteriorate when immersed in water for long periods. A disadvantage of gutta-percha is that it has poor capacitance. The Gutta-percha insulation between the conductive wire and the conductive water causes capacitance, slowing and distorting the telegraph signal.

Brothers John and Jacob Brett proposed laying underwater cable across English Channel and across the ocean.

John and Jacob Brett laid a 22-mile underwater cable from England to France. It worked for one day until a fisherman's anchor caught the cable. Thinking the copper core could be gold, the fisherman hauled it up and cut out a piece of cable. The cable could not be repaired. Most European countries were connected via landline telegraph cable.

1851 (September 25)
Second cable the Brett brothers laid between England and France lasted because they used a heavier, sturdier cable. R.S. Newall attempted to lay an underwater telegraph cable to connect England and Ireland, but failed because the frail cable broke.

R.S. Newall successfully connected England and Ireland with an underwater cable, but it was severed by a ship anchor within three days. Cable splicing wasn't possible at that time so that cable could not be repaired.

(May 23) Charles Tilston Bright ran a cable from Portpatrick, Scotland, to Donaghadee, Ireland. Finally, there was a sustained undersea telegraph connection between England and Ireland. Cyrus Fields proposed laying a transatlantic cable, raises capital, obtains materials and engineers, and begins a thirteen-year quest.

English & Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company (E&IM) laid a second cable from Portpatrick, Scotland to Whitehead, Ireland. This is significant because it marks a change from individuals funding to corporate funding for cable installation.

Cyrus Field initiates an expedition to install land line telegraph between Cape Ray, New Foundland and St. John, New Foundland for later use in connecting the transatlantic cable to the U.S. The remote port of St. John, New Foundland was chosen as the Western connection for the transatlantic cable because it is 1,200 miles closer to Europe than New York is. New Foundland was later connected to New York by telegraph cable.

First attempt to lay transatlantic cable: No ship existed that could carry the 2,500 miles of transatlantic cable which weighed 5000 pounds. Two sail boats, the British HMS Agamemnon and the American USS Niagara, each carried a 1,250 miles of cable. The HMS Agamemnon began laying the cable at Valentia Bay, Ireland. The USS Niagara would accompany the HMS Agamemnon to the center of the ocean. There, the cable laid from Ireland to mid-ocean would be spliced together with the cable on the USS Niagara, and USS Niagara would lay the remaining cable to New Foundland. A device called a paying out machine was installed on deck to release the cable in a regulated fashion while controlling the release speed and preventing tangles. Unfortunately, the cable laid from the Valentia Bay, Ireland to middle of ocean by the British ship snapped due to a braking error on the paying out machine and was lost on the ocean floor just 200 miles into the journey.

The massive Great Eastern steam ship with capacity to hold enough coal to travel to anywhere was launched in the River Thames, London.

1858 (June 10)
Second attempt to lay transatlantic cable: As a result of damage from a severe storm, the Agamemnon's cable snaps.

1858 (July 17)
Third attempt to lay transatlantic cable: Cable was laid successfully from Ireland to Newfoundland. With improved cable paying out machinery such as an automatically-adjusting brake, the two ships started in the mid-ocean, spliced their two cables together, and laid to Ireland and Newfoundland simultaneously. Europe and America had instant communicates with each other. Queen Victoria and President Buchanan exchange messages over the cable. The cable failed within four weeks of installation when telegraph operators used too high of voltage, causing the insulation to deteriorate. The operators used high-voltage telegraph equipment meant for land-line telegraph cable instead of the low-voltage equipment designed for underwater telegraph cable. This incident settled the argument between Dr. Whitehorse and Professor Thompson about whether high-voltage or low-voltage signals should be used for the transatlantic cable.

U.S. had telegraph strung from the East Coast to California.

Fourth attempt to lay transatlantic cable: This voyage was comprised entirely of British personnel except for Cyrus Field. This was the first cable voyage using the Great Eastern. This ship was advantageous because it could be maneuvered in response to cable tension. Because it was steam powered the massive ship could carry the entire cable, and the cable was unlikely to become tangled in the paddles, which were located in the middle of the ship. The seven year delay, perhaps a side effect of the Civil War, since the last cable expedition brought many material improvements such that the new cable was much larger, stronger, and better insulated than previous cables. When the ship was within 1,200 miles of America, the cable snapped at a section where brittle insulation had broken off. Three unsuccessful attempts were made to bring up and splice the cable. Following the third attempt, the Great Eastern didn't have enough cable remaining to complete the mission. The Captain took a precise sextant reading of where the broken cable lay on the ocean floor so that it could be brought up, spliced, and laid for the remainder of the distance to New Foundland later. The fourth attempt ended.

1866 (July 27)
Fifth attempt to lay transatlantic cable: First successful installation of a transatlantic cable from Europe via Ireland to America via Newfoundland. With the Great Eastern, a new cable was run from England to New Foundland in just two weeks. Repeating the ceremony of the opening of the 1858 cable, the first official telegram was an exchange of salutations between Queen Victoria and President Andrew Johnson.

1866 (August)
The Great Eastern hauled up the 1,200 miles of cable laid in 1856 to repair it and splice a new cable to the end so that there were two parallel working transatlantic telegraph cables.

Underwater cables reach India, Australia, China, and Japan.

First transatlantic telephone cable laid.

Late 1960s
Gutta-percha cable laid in 1866 ceases to work, after nearly a century of use.

Satellites compete with transatlantic telephone cable for business.

First transatlantic fiber-optic cable laid across the Atlantic by AT&T, Standard Communications Laboratories (a subsidiary of STC), and the French firm Submarcom. They partnered to lay TAT-8, the eighth transatlantic telephone line.

Transatlantic Cable Contributors

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
The civil engineer who designed and built the Great Eastern steam ship was nick-named "the little Giant" because he was short in stature, but not in intensity or ability. In a chance meeting, Brunel suggested to Cyrus Field that the Great Eastern would be perfect for laying the transatlantic cable. Prior to using the Great Eastern steam ship to lay cable, sailboats were used.

Cyrus Field
American businessman who conceived the plan, raised funds for, raised public support for, and led the laying of the transatlantic cable. Dr. Edward Orange Wildman Whitehouse Dr. Whitehorse, a medical doctor who liked to experiment with electricity, was the British "electrician-projector" of the Atlantic Telegraph Company. He got this position by claiming that it was possible to send a signal across the transatlantic cable, while most research suggested a signal transmission over this length of cable was impractical or even impossible. Whitehouse advised that a thin wire be used for the transatlantic telegraph cable, that the signal power be greatly increased, and that signals be measured with a magneto-electrometer. Dr. Whitehorse suggested creating signals with a five-foot induction cable, and sending signals through the transatlantic cable at a 2kV electrical power level. Whitehorse invented, held patents to, and sold the generators and induction coils, which he recommended for the cable. Whitehorse's Theories directly contradicted those of the other British electrical advisor, Professor William Thompson.

Professor William Thompson
Thomson was a great applied physicist. In recognition of his research, Queen Victoria knighted him with the title Lord Kelvin of Largs. In his later career, Thompson did work in Thermodynamics, which led to the Kelvin scale on the thermometer being named after him. Thomson disagreed with Dr. Whitehouse's high voltage transatlantic telegraph theory. Thompson discovered the "Law of Squares": the longer a cable was, the more its signals slow down, collide, are altered, and become meaningless by the time they reach a receiver. Signal transmission speed decreases in proportion to the square of a cable's length. Thomson believed that using a thicker wire, a low-voltage transmission, and sensitive receivers would compensate for the Law of Squares. Due to resistance, the telegraph signal weakened as it traveled along the 3000 mile transatlantic cable. Thomson's low-voltage signal minimized distortion. A mirrored galvanometer was used to read low-voltage telegraph signals. Invented in 1802, the galvanometer is a current-detecting instrument. Although the galvanometer needle is difficult to read for very small currents, it worked well as a telegraph receiver once a mirrored-galvanometer was created. The mirrored-galvanometer substituted a beam of light for the needle, placed a shaft through the light beam center, and attached a small tin foil mirror to the shaft. The mirror reflects the light beam onto a scaled galvanometer screen three feet away. The tiny deflection of the mirror causes a larger light movement on the scale. Telegraph operators sat in a dark room watching for tiny rays of light and converting those Morse code flashes to messages.

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Music At 78 RPM

By Kevin Ruppert
Chapter 24

There seems to be a special attraction for some of us to old, outdated technology. I'm certainly one of those people. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in consumer technology of the past. As a youngster, 78-RPM records and the outdated machines that played them fascinated me. It started with listening to polka records at my grandmother's house. (Remember, this is Wisconsin!)

Later, my uncle and dad bought a Victrola from a neighbor with the idea of restoring the finish to enjoy it as a piece of furniture. After deciding that the restoration would not be worth the effort, they gave up and left the machine and its contents of old records with my grandmother. I later inherited the machine.

I was delighted to own one of the first, mass-market home entertainment devices, the Victrola. Before there were record players, people who could afford such a luxury item had a piano, music box, or even a player piano in their homes. But none of those had the allure of being able to actually hear Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong or the Sousa band playing in your living room!

Into the Home
Before there were Victrolas, most record players were made in the style known as a "gramophone." This is the classic machine with the brass, tulip shaped horn coming off of the pickup arm, and a small wooden cabinet to house the turntable mechanism. After making many "Talking Machines" of this style, The Victor Company decided in 1906 that people would spend even more money to have a phonograph that had the horn enclosed in an attractive cabinet that could become a valued piece of furniture. Thus, this first real home entertainment center became welcome into living rooms everywhere.

Victrolas were produced with the classic, hand cranked turntable mechanism as well as electric motors as more and more homes became wired with power. Some of the later, premium hand cranked Victrolas had clockwork type regulators, which provided amazingly precise speed control.

In the Groove
Now, some history on the "format" of 78's. There are really two basic types of 78-RPM records. There are acoustic recordings and "electrical" (what an engineer would call "electronic") recordings. The Victrola was designed and built to play the acoustic ones. Acoustic records are made without the advantage of microphones or amplifiers of any kind. The performers had to gather around a large horn, similar to the type you would find on a gramophone. The large horn acts as a magnifier of the sound to bring enough energy to the cutting stylus to cut the grove. Recording technicians obviously had to make sure there was not too much energy there or the stylus would cut into the adjacent grove. Too little "deviation" and the signal recorded would not overcome the enormous surface noise found in this early technology (a lesson in signal to noise ratio). More on surface noise later.

The deviation allowed by the stylus mechanism of the Victrola is really quite small compared to later electronic pickups. Therefore, a well-produced electronic recording cannot really be played on a Victrola without causing a certain amount of distortion. Victrolas have a diaphragm connected to the needle that vibrates as the record is played. The sound from the diaphragm goes through the arm, and then out the horn. This diaphragm is vibrated harder then it was originally designed to when most electronic records are played, producing the distortion. This being said, the surface noise and limited frequency range of 1910's technology do not really provide a high fidelity listening experience anyway. In a way, you have to wear a different set of ears to enjoy a Victrola. I am not what you would call a "golden ears" engineer, so it is easy for me to put away the critical listening judgement that I might use in my job and just enjoy hearing recorded music from artists the way someone would have in 1917.

It was not until 1925 that technology had developed to allow electronic records as well as talking motion pictures. Now, amplification of audio signals was possible, using microphones and powered cutting lathes. Engineers understand the difference between magnification and amplification. In amplification, a local, external energy source is used to provide an output that is much larger then the power available in the original source. The output signal is a scaled-up or "amplified" version of the original input. Magnification, on the other hand, is the process of concentrating all of the available energy into a small spot, like a magnifying glass.

A prominent tool manufacturer has an accessory for their small screwdrivers with a name that annoys this writer. It is a handle that fits over the smaller handle of the drivers to give the user a better grip. It is called a "torque amplifier." Every engineer who has one in his tool kit knows that it is really a "torque magnifier," because no external energy source is being added to make it easier to turn the screw! But, I deviate.

Finding the Right Fang
In order to play records, everyone knows that you need to have a stylus or "needle." The term "needle" probably comes from the early days of the phonograph when the stylus was nothing more then a steel needle! The Victrola uses either steel or bamboo needles. The steel needles are good for about 3 to 4 plays, if you don't want to risk damage to your records! I tried unsuccessfully to find the bamboo needles that I remembered from my childhood. Bamboo gives the Victrola a mellower, quieter sound. Steel needles sound loud and crisp.

Unlike 50 years ago, you can't just go to a record store to buy steel needles. I had to find a good source for new needles. A mail order house was the key. I ordered several dozen Pfanstiehl steel needles, which I hoped would last me for a while.

The Need to Archive!
Let me state right now that I am by no means a record collector, although I do have a few records that I particularly enjoy. I probably don't have the discipline needed to organize and arrange the records that I own, let alone know what records to buy, where to find them, and what price is fair for them. I just know what I like and own some of it!

I did feel the "need to archive" records that I owned. Maybe it was the engineer in me needing to preserve order and document history! I knew that each time I played them, even with a brand new needle, I was wearing the 78's out. Even though some of them were almost 100 years old, I knew deep down inside that each time there would be a little less signal and a little more noise.

I wanted to put them on a format that would last forever. (Or at least for a very long time. We know now that there is no recording format that would never eventually break down.) So, I started with some of the classic acoustic 78's that I carefully stored in the Victrola cabinet. Some of the ones I enjoy most are marches, a form of music that was very popular in the early 1900's. (I decided by this time that I had enough polkas!) I even have a great recording of "On Wisconsin" on the Columbia label that still has a signal to noise ratio just slightly above 1.

Because these are acoustic recordings, I wanted to reproduce them in the authentic manner - on the Victrola. Playing them on a turntable with an electronic pickup just didn't seem right. It occurred to me right away that the Victrola did not have a "line out" connector, so I was going to need to use a microphone to record the 78's. (In the early days of radio, the very first disc jockey shows were done by micing a Victrola with a carbon mic.) I went to my friend, Kevin Peckham. I knew he would be able to help.

Kevin lent me a couple of mics to use. I decided to record the 78's on a track tape deck so that I could edit, EQ, and otherwise alter the recording before committing to CD or mini disc. The next decision was how to properly mic the Victrola. Because it is strictly an acoustic devise, I needed to decide whether or not to mic the room that the Victrola was in, or keep the mic close so that only the sound of the Victrola would be recorded without any of the environment. I decided to do both.

The Victrola lives in my living room, which has pretty good acoustics. It is carpeted and has window curtains. Anyway, moving the Victrola to another room would have been difficult. It is a large cabinet and has about 50 pounds of records stored in it. I decided this would be a good place to make the recordings.

One of the mics was set close to the horn of the machine; the other was about five feet away so that the natural reverb of the room would also be captured. Five feet is really too close for the optimum listening distance of the Victrola. To tell you the honest truth, if you were this close, you would be hearing too much of the harsh, noisy sounds of this reproduction system. One of the main goals of its designers seemed to have been to make the Victrola as loud as possible to try to overcome the signal to noise problems. That works if you sit across the room, where the hard edges are a little more tolerable or if you have a room of people dancing. (Can't you just see a group of people drinking bathtub gin and doing the foxtrot?)

If you don't listen too closely, and tap your toes to the music, the content of the acoustic 78's is okay. You would not want to listen with headphones! (I once tried to figure out how one might design headphones for the Victrola for private listening. Maybe you could attach a stethoscope to the tone arm before it flares out to the horn. On the other hand, with this setup you would probably hear too much of the noise and experience ear fatigue before the end of the first record!)

The results of my recording were mixed. As it turned out, the mic placed close to the horn gave me so much signal that the input to one of the mic preamps was overloaded. That track of the tape was not usable. The living room set up did not allow for proper monitoring. I had some headphones connected to the tape deck, but could not hear the distortion while the Victrola was playing. As it turns out, the other mic, placed in the room and away from the horn, produced the results that I was looking for. You can hear the sound field coming from the Victrola and into the room.

Moving Along to Electronic Stuff
Okay, I finally had a CD and an MD of Victrola Marching Favorites to keep for eternity. Now it was time to take this hobby to the next level and move to a slightly newer technology. That meant moving ahead 20 years from the Victrola days to the era of electronic 78's. I'll cover the electronic 78 journey in the next newsletter edition.

Sources for the above article include the following:

The Victor Victrola Page (see

Canadian Astatic (see

Garage-A-Records (see

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Newsletter Committee

Bill Harris

Garneth M. Harris

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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.