Monthly Archives: April 2019

Clay’s Corner for May 2019

April 28, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

For reasons I cannot explain…I often start out my column talking about the weather.  Perhaps it’s because of the fact that we have so much of it in this area.  I would be bored out of my mind in a place where the weather changes little.  Thus far this year we have had a full course of varied weather.  A record cold February, dry March and wet April…whew!  This year was one of those that shut down conventional access to the transmitter facilities on West Tiger for about two months.  In my 30+ years of dealing with that place…this has happened only a few times.

Looking ahead, many fingers are crossed as we remember all too well how the main feature of last summer in this area was smoke!  Let’s hope that this is not the case this year.

We have had a number of notable passings:

Jim Tharp, WA7KYI, longtime resident of Vashon and Maury Island.  I got to know Jim a lot better when we found ourselves both working for Entercom back when they owned 710 and 770.  Jim had been with KING for many years before.  When Jim was not working on the Island, he and I were working together installing equipment at Cougar and West Tiger.  Jim leaves a son (Adam) and his family living on the island.

From the local Island Ham Radio Club newsletter:

Hello Everyone.

I learned some bad news today.  Jim Tharp, WA7KYI, passed away.  Jim was an integral member of the Vashon Maury Island Radio club going back 40 years or so.  Jim had some medical issues a few years ago that prevented his full participation in club events lately.  Before that Jim helped install and maintain the W7VMI repeater, he was often the “beachmaster” for field day in June as well as a key Morse code operator for multiple club contests and events.  Jim was a great source of knowledge of the ins and outs of amateur radio and was always monitoring the repeater and ready to reply if anyone came on the air.

Jim Tharp, along with Phil Zook, W7PDZ, started the first Saturday breakfasts at Sporty’s many years ago as a small gathering that has grown to an ongoing tradition.

Vashon and Maury islands have lost a good person who did so much for the club and community.

Art Blum, historic broadcaster in Tri-Cities passed unexpectedly on Tuesday March 26th.

Anyone in Broadcasting in Tri-Cities knew Art, who spent some 42 years with KONA, serving in many roles, announcer, salesperson and finally, as the station’s engineer.  To say that Art was a fixture and legend in that area’s broadcast industry is an understatement.

Our paths crossed many times over the years.  I recall, back in the late 90’s when we were launching our EAS efforts in this state looking for someone in that area that could serve as local-leader.  Art was quickly on-board.  Our paths crossed again when I hired on at WSU.  Art too had made the jump to public broadcasting.

One of his areas of interest was photographer, where he assisted law enforcement by providing images of crime scenes and accidents as well as coverage of the area’s beauty pageant.

Art was an SBE Member and past chairman of Chapter 51.  He was 76.

 

Ron Rackley, WE4RR

Ron passed shortly after returning home from his annual trek to NAB in Las Vegas.  He was an internationally well-known and respected engineer.  The media that covers people like Ron were quick to provide coverage.  Simply Googling his name will provide you with a lot of background.  Unfortunately I never had a chance to work with Ron on a project (it was high on my bucket list).  He left a number of footprints in this area with his collaborative work with Ben Dawson as well as call letters you would recognize.  I last visited with Ron at NAB a year ago, a wonderfully warm engaging person that always had a story to tell.  I only wish that someone could compile them into a book!

Ron loved Radio and in particular the RF side of AM.

He received a number of awards, one of which was the co-honoree (with Ben Dawson) of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award in 2006 where I had the privilege of being in attendance.

I would be remiss if I I did not mention that Ron also enjoyed Ham Radio.  As you can imagine, a man with his talents deployed many of them in his solution to antenna issues at his home.

You can look up Ron on QRZ, using his call letters WE4RR and read a lot more.  From QRZ, here’s a great picture at home.  By the way, Ron loved Morse Code!  He was a young 66.

Another passing, with no known PNW connections, was Glen Clark, who gained a lot of attention many years ago with his development of an audio processor known as the Texar Audio Prism.  It was quite a light show!  Glen was a prolific designer.  He reportedly passed just weeks after being diagnosed with liver cancer at age 67.

The headline read:  Washington  Legislature Approves Daylight Time Bill

Before you make alternative plans for the twice a year ritual of changing the clocks, be aware of a couple of things: 1) This is not just a Washington State thing.  It’s part of a movement for the entire (US) West Coast to be locked on PDT (Pacific Daylight Time).  Guess they need to get Federal approval to make it official.  So what would happen if this takes place?

  • Would Pacific Daylight Time then become Pacific Standard Time?
  • What about B.C.?  B.C. Premier John Horgan indicates that the province will stay in sync and do whatever the western states do.
  • For Power/Pattern Switching the FCC requires AM stations in the US to switch according to a Table based on Standard Time.  (Frankly, I leave the stations I attend to in that mode and let the local clocks change.)  Could the FCC issue some sort of statement?
  • For those that objected to switching back and forth, I have, for years, submitted a compromise:  Change the clocks 1/2 hour one time.  It caused a lot of raised eyebrows and little support.
  • It’s really time to end all this foolishness and switch to METRIC TIME! and dispense with this ‘Base-12’ time stuff (after all don’t we divide Seconds into ‘Tenths’).

Base Time is simple:

  • Each Day is divided into 10 hours
  • Each Hour is divided into 100 minutes
  • Each Minute is divided into 100 seconds
  • Etc.

Hey….If you are going to go Metric (which we all should) why stop at Time?

Country Music Radio is about to get a whole lot more interesting in Seattle!

First, some history.  When Entercom gobbled CBS, they dropped the long standing Country Music outlet on 94.1 (KMPS), switching format to AC to become ‘The Sound’.  Sensing that this might happen, Hubbard was ready and immediately dropped their previous format on 98.9 in favor of Country.  Makes sense, as Seattle has supported two Country Music stations for some time.  The success of the Hubbard effort on 98.9 (Called The Bull) up against Entercom’s (The Wolf) has been limited.  Hubbard is obviously willing to put more into The Bull’s challenge of The Wolf by hiring Entercom’s former programmer, Scott Mahalick, who recently exited Alpha in Portland, and picked up the former Wolf morning guy, Fitz.  For those of us that have been watching Seattle Radio for many years….This is exciting.  Watching these two powerful organizations ‘duke it out’ for the Country listener is where the listeners will win.  Now to hide and watch the ratings battle between the two.  Fasten your seat-belts.

Portland, Oregon is doing some things in Radio that are unique with LPFM’s:

First there is KQRZ-LP.  Looking up the Station in Wikipedia, we find:

KQRZ-LP (100.7 FM) is a low-power radio station licensed to Hillsboro, Oregon, United States.  The station is owned by the Oregon Amateur Radio Club, Inc.  KQRZ-LP signed on the air July 22, 2012, on an initial frequency of 101.5 MHz[1]  On July 11, 2013, at 8:00 PM, KQRZ-LP changed the transmit frequency to 100.7 MHz, although the license to cover that frequency was not issued by the Federal Communications Commission until September 4, 2013.

On July 22, 2012, KQRZ undertook an affiliation with the WORC Oldies Network, which syndicates broadcast material to other low-power radio stations interested in amateur radio.  Programming includes amateur (ham) radio news, educational material, comedy, oldies, and adult standards music.

Did you catch the portions I underlined in bold?  The station is being operated by an Amateur Radio Club!  Wow.

Then there is KISN-LP.  Looking this one up in Wikipedia we find:

KISN was an AM radio station licensed for Vancouver, Washington but based in Portland.  On May 1, 2015, at 9:51 a.m. KISNLP commenced broadcasting 24 hours a day, 56 years later to the day when the original KISN launched in 1959.  For more information, check out http://www.goodguyradio.com/kisn-radio-coverage.html

I was living in Portland back in those days and remember listening to ‘Kissin’ on 910 AM.  It was, back then, what KJR was to Seattle.  I think what they are doing is very cool.  Can you imagine being able to listen to a radio station in the Seattle area that sounds very much like KJR 50+ years ago?

Kudos to these two Low Power FM’s for doing something unique and non-offensive.  Keeping memories alive is very much appreciated.

Speaking of Portland (my home-town prior to 1957), I recently learned that Kent Randles is going to be retiring on July 5th of this year.  Should not be a shock to anyone in this business, as it seems that retirement is coming in waves these days.  Congratulations to Kent (and Patti) on the news.

Remember the days before Smart Phones?  No one called them dumb or stupid phones.  Probably because the term ‘Smart Phone‘ had not yet been coined.

Just as with speakers, using today’s terms, all the speakers in my house are both dumb and stupid (the way I like them).  Speaking of which, Radio is apparently awakening to the idea that today’s Smart Speaker is the closest to a ‘Kitchen Radio’ as we will ever see again.  Ever try and go out and purchase a radio for your kitchen counter?  Sales dude will think you are from another world.  New surveys support the notion that these counter top gizmos are indeed being used to listen to Radio.

Then there are light bulbs.  Just like the previous examples, all the light bulbs, by today’s standards, are dumb and stupid, especially in light (no pun) of the fact that you can now go out and buy Smart Light Bulbs.

In the event you missed it, these new creations come in various power ratings (light output) and can be adjusted for brilliance and color with your ‘Smart Speaker’…or anywhere you have an on-line connection.  What will they think of next?

One thing we don’t have any of in the Seattle area is very tall towers to hold our Television Antennas.  Thankfully we have hills and mountains to do a lot of the elevation work for us.

An old friend from Wisconsin, Nels Harvey, recently sent me the following video showing how they changed a TV antenna in Florida on a very tall tower.  In this case, using a huge helicopter called a ‘Sky-Crane’.  After viewing this you will better understand why they say this is the most dangerous type of work there is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pitEq8gjNj8

It was not a heavy one.  The weight was a little over 10,000 pounds.

And the Headline read RTDNA Announces Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.

The Radio Television Digital News Association has announced recipients of its 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.  The prestigious kudos recognize more than 309 radio, television and digital news organizations in the U.S. and around the world, from more than 4,600 entries.

All regional winners will compete for National Edward R. Murrow Awards, which will be announced in June and presented at Gotham Hall in New York Oct. 14.

Here’s how Radio stations in the Seattle area faired:

  • Overall Excellence – KOMO-AM
  • Breaking News Coverage – KOMO-AM
  • Continuing Coverage – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Innovation – KUOW-FM
  • Excellence in Social Media – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Sound – KIRO-FM
  • Excellence in Video – KUOW-FM
  • News Documentary – KNKX-FM
  • Feature Reporting – KNKX-FM

On the Television side, these Stations were honored:

  • Overall Excellence – KING-TV
  • Continuing Coverage – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Innovation – KING-TV
  • Excellence in South – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Video – KING-TV
  • Excellence in Writing – KING-TV
  • Feature Reporting – KING-TV
  • Hard News – KOMO-TV
  • Investigative Reporting – KOMO-TV
  • News Documentary – KOMO-TV
  • News Series – KING-TV
  • Newscast (11PM) KING-TV

According to John Poray, Executive Director of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, this is the first case of broadcast engineers being killed on the job as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Their deaths are a reminder that we face more dangers on the job than an overload of electrons.

Adrienne Abbott, who announced the news added, Engineers here in Nevada are adding CO detectors to their transmitter buildings and purchasing personal CO monitors.

And the Headline read – Green River College adult alternative KGRG-FM Seattle (89.9) marks its 30th anniversary with a month-long on-air and online celebration.

Wow….This is news to me.  According to the FCC, KGRG is licensed to Green River College in Auburn.  “KGRG-FM WA AUBURN    USA”

Gee – Even Wikipedia got this one right.

Unfortunately this is typical for many news reports.  The writer of the story sees the actual location and uses the name of the nearest major city,  in this case, Seattle.  Not long ago there was an incident in Mt. Vernon.  Yup! the national press called it Seattle.  Perhaps geographic accuracy is not as important as it once was, or this is more of what some refer to as ‘Fake News’?

I am very reluctant to endorse a particular vendor’s processes.  However, in this case, Kudos to Ben Barber of Inovonics.  For those of you that are not familiar with this firm, they are a relatively small manufacture of problem solving items for, primarily, radio broadcasters.

Recently Ben posted a question on four different email groups asking for input on how they should handle the matter of technical documentation for equipment they manufacture.  (I don’t recall this ever being done.)  According to Ben, they received over 125 responses.

Here are the numbers:

37% prefer a paper manual.
52% prefer a QSG with link to downloadable PDF.  (QSG is a Quick Start Guide)
4% prefer a CD ROM.
7% thought that data on a USB / SD card was a good idea.

Here is what Ben posted:

Here’s what Inovonics is going to do:

Inovonics will continue to supply paper manuals with all of our products.  This seems the best idea for those who are at a transmitter site without internet connection, or if you’re trying to read the manual on your phone.

Inovonics will supply more QSG with our gear so you can get into it more quickly.  For instance, our Site Streamers are hooked to the network and then best operated and adjusted via their web interface.  To aid in this, a QSG will tell you how to hook up the Ins/Outs and how to enter the IP address.  Once into the device, most things should be easy to find.

Inovonics will NEVER require you to make an account and log into it, just to download a manual, datasheet or the latest firmware!

I have a two word summary – VERY COOL!

Perhaps the one place where radio has a huge edge is in the motor vehicle, aka, car and trucks.  There are several reasons for this:

  • Most vehicles come with car radios standard (yes, I am old enough to recall when that was an option).
  • Radio has been an ‘Audio Only’ source of information.  Historically these radios had two knobs and a few push-buttons.
  • Later came tape players for those that wanted ‘their tunes’.

Then along came the Cellphone:

  • Early versions were adaptations of earlier ‘mobile-telephones’ with a handset, cradle, outside antenna, etc.

Then came the much smaller cellphone that you carried with you –

  •  First the ‘Brick’, then the flip phone etc.
  • And the first ‘Pairing’ with the vehicle.
  • And the first sharing portions of the vehicle radio to permit ‘speakerphone’ operation.

Intro the Smart Phone:

  • Now we have a phone with a display that shows more than just a phone number.
  • This has evolved into a hand-held device that will display a lot of distracting information for the driver.  Most notable is the feature called ‘Texting’.

Automakers have responded:

  • Now the ‘Car Radio’ is a connected piece of the cellphone.
  • And now, distracted driving is taking lives and laws have been created to roll back the clock.

The problems are:

  • If you don’t own a fairly new vehicle, suggest you stop by a dealer show room and ask the salesperson about the stuff in the ‘Center Stack’ that used to be called ‘The Radio’.  You will be amazed how anyone can navigate all that and drive at the same time.
  • As has been said, today’s car buyers are choosing their new wheels based on style and acceleration specification.  They are buying them based on what’s called the “in car entertainment experience’.
  • That experience is not just audio….but visual as well.  Title and Artist and Album Art of what’s playing.
  • Today’s Car-Radio and Cellphone are being integrated in ways that, not long ago, seemed not possible.
  • Despite all the new technology being deployed with new vehicles to keep you safe, demand is increasing for things, inside the cabin, that create more distractions and the death rate statistics are a grim reminder of what’s taking place.
  • The Genie is ‘out of the bottle’.  Users want it all and STILL safely drive the vehicle.
  • We have ‘Trouble in River City’ because of consumer demand for yet a more connected vehicle that is running headlong into an ever-increasing number of laws and regulations regarding distracted driving.
  • This puts the automakers in an interesting and perplexing position.
  • Are people going to stop using their cellphones in their vehicles and go back to just listening to the radio?  Unfortunately,  Probably not!
  • Perhaps one bright spot is in the area of voice recognition (think smart speaker).

Maybe this technology will keep more eyes on the road?

  • The bottom line is that not much of this is good for Radio as the choices for the driver are increasing all the time.  Radio is fighting back with the automakers to make sure that they are not squeezed out.  In some cases, AM Radio already has been.
  • I still see radio stations that are not on the visual band-wagon…not even displaying their call letters or logo etc.  In some cases radio is its own worst enemy and continues to go through life with ‘Blinders’ on.

Another place where the status quo is on the chopping block is in Television.  I’m sure you recall the days when having a TV set also meant having a TV Antenna on the roof, unless you were close enough to the transmitters where having ‘Rabbit Ears’ was a status symbol.

Then along came Cable TV.  Replace your old ugly antenna and get a better picture and more channels…bla-bla-bla.

So many jumped on the band wagon and subscribed to cable.  Later Satellite TV joined the list of providers.

Then something happened.  It’s called the Internet.  The Cable Companies woke up one day with a chunk of coaxial cable into millions of homes that could be used for two-way communications.  The telephone companies made a similar discovery with their physical plant and developed DSL (albeit at a slower rate).

With ever higher speed Internet connections and cable video steaming, suddenly the cable outfits discovered that their coaxial cables (and fiber) were in demand for something other than watching TV.  As their prices went up, consumers became frustrated with their cost of getting television via cable and cord-cutting started, along with the re-discovery of Free OTA TV via an antenna.

So what’s going on now?  A recent survey provides some insight.

  • 4.56 million TV households will cut the cord this year.
  • For the first time, the number of households that are watching TV via streaming will surpass those that are watching conventional Pay TV.

For the cable outfits, this is not all bad news as the ‘American Couch Potato’ will continue to send them money.

Frankly, In my opinion, broadcasters have been asleep at the switch in this race.  It appears that they have thrown in the towel in terms of promoting over-the-air (OTA) viewing.  Perhaps they would be just as happy to see that expensive transmitter plant be replaced with a simple feed to their local cable outfits?

To help underscore the fact that Radio continues to be a big factor in broadcasting, consider:

  • Cumulus recently sold KLOS in Los Angeles for $43 Million.
  • Billing numbers are impressive
  • WTOP-FM in Washington DC – $69 Million
  • KIIS-FM in Las Angeles – $61 Million
  • KBIG in L.A. – $46 Million
  • WLTW in NYC – $44 Million
  • Looking at the top 10 Billing Radio Stations we find
  • IHeart has 5, Entercom 4 and Hubbard 1.

I’ve written a lot over the years about the demise of AM Radio.  A lot of this is simply due to the reduction in consumer demand.  Like what I wrote earlier about the Car Radio, there is a lot more going on vying for the consumers ear these days.  AM has a lot of negatives in the first place – Reduced Audio Bandwidth (Poor audio quality) No Stereo, ever increasing amount of noise, etc.  AM Station owners, watching their audience head to FM, sought relief from the FCC in the form of FM Translators.  (Any doubt as to the value of those signals to an AM will be erased when you look at the prices being paid for them).

The problem is that adding translators may be a Band-Aid to the station’s business model, but it does nothing to resolve the three core issues I just mentioned.  This has caused some AM station owners to look beyond having economic relief come from law-makers to something that could, in the long run, change the equation in their favor — changing modulation mode from AM to Digital.  Granted most AM stations could have opted for the HD Radio system that’s been pretty successful on FM, however that system has a number of technical and economic issues.

Now a Texas broadcaster has joined others and would like the FCC to consider allowing Digital-ONLY AM’s.  This action has, perhaps predictably, given voice to a number that are very critical of the idea that our original modulation mode might be scrapped in favor of something else.  What about the fact that few, if any, have a radio that will receive something like DRM?

I find myself on the side of the broadcaster.  After all – ‘It’s their money’!!

The fact is that AM is a dying mode all over the world, perhaps the only reason it remains viable in this country is because:

  • There are still some successful AM Stations left.
  • There are a zillion radio receivers out there.

I say – let them do it – if they want to experiment with this new mode and find it has all the advantages they feel it has.  Let them be pioneers.  Who knows, we might just learn something.

If you have been an Amateur Radio Operator for a long time, this will sound familiar, as they went through the pain of walking away from AM and, over time, embraced Single Side Band (SSB) as their chosen mode for a host of technical reasons.  Maybe this will happen here?

Oh yes, if you think that traffic is bad where you live, sit back and enjoy this video….

https://www.youtube.com/embed/UEIn8GJIg0E?rel=0

Over the years you have read comments I’ve written about Bustos Media.  I ran across this picture recently of the man behind the company, Amador Bustos.  Amador operates the 1210 AM KMIA as well as 99.3 FM, the first FM in this area deploying a Single Frequency Network (SFN) of co-channel boosters.

 

Each month I look for something to bring a smile to conclude my column.  Thanks to my readers that share my love of this stuff, I never suffer from a lack of contributions.

This month – IDIOSYNCRASY AND AMBIGUITY

  • DON’T SWEAT THE PETTY THINGS AND DON’T PET THE SWEATY THINGS.
  • ONE TEQUILA, TWO TEQUILA, THREE  TEQUILA, FLOOR.
  • ATHEISM IS A NON-PROPHET ORGANIZATION.
  • I WENT TO A BOOKSTORE AND ASKED THE SALESWOMAN, “WHERE’S THE SELF-HELP                              SECTION?”.  SHE SAID IF SHE TOLD ME, IT WOULD  DEFEAT THE PURPOSE.
  • WHAT IF THERE WERE NO HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS?
  • IF SOMEONE WITH MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES THREATENS TO KILL HIMSELF, IS IT CONSIDERED A HOSTAGE SITUATION?
  • IS THERE ANOTHER WORD FOR SYNONYM?
  • WHERE DO FOREST RANGERS GO TO “GET AWAY FROM IT ALL”?
  • WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU SEE AN  ENDANGERED ANIMAL EATING AN ENDANGERED PLANT?
  • IF A PARSLEY FARMER IS SUED, CAN THEY GARNISH HIS WAGES?
  • WOULD A FLY WITHOUT WINGS BE CALLED A WALK?
  • WHY DO THEY LOCK GAS STATION BATHROOMS?  ARE THEY AFRAID SOMEONE WILL CLEAN THEM?
  • IF A TURTLE DOESN’T HAVE A SHELL, IS HE HOMELESS OR NAKED?
  • CAN VEGETARIANS EAT ANIMAL CRACKERS?
  • IF THE POLICE ARREST A MIME, DO THEY TELL HIM HE HAS THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT?
  • WHY DO THEY PUT BRAILLE ON THE  DRIVE-THROUGH BANK MACHINES?
  • HOW DO THEY GET DEER TO CROSS THE  ROAD ONLY AT THOSE ROAD SIGNS?
  • WHAT WAS THE BEST THING BEFORE SLICED  BREAD?
  • ONE NICE THING ABOUT EGOTISTS: THEY DON’T TALK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE.
  • DOES THE LITTLE MERMAID WEAR AN ALGEBRA?
  • HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A CIVIL WAR?
  • IF YOU ATE BOTH PASTA AND ANTIPASTO, WOULD YOU STILL BE HUNGRY?
  • IF YOU TRY TO FAIL, AND SUCCEED, WHICH HAVE YOU DONE?

That’s about it for this month, my friends –

Thanks for the read…….

Lord willing, I will be back to most of the same locations next month at this time.

Until then, may you have a wonderful Spring!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

 

The KE0VH Hamshack for April 2019

April 27, 2019
By

April 2019     

I dedicate this edition of the Hamshack to Barry Thomas, our good friend and engineer supreme who we lost last year to cancer here in Denver.

A memorial fund has been set up in Barry’s memory, accessible here – https://www.gofundme.com/6jman3c

 

This will help his children’s mother take care of the kids needs as he wasn’t able to obtain life insurance because of his condition.  We will miss Barry tremendously.  You can see Barry’s obituary here at this site:

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/thestate/obituary.aspx?n=barry-thomas&pid=191007639&

 

Last month I wrote also wrote about the GOES satellite going away and my buddy Lee, NØVRD in Denver conducted some experiments and says:

“Speaking of the GOES birds, I took down the 2m/440 whip in order to put up a 137 quadrafiliar helix; it’s basically a 2l nested loop with a 90′ twist for polarization, and just recorded the attached pictures  from NOAA -19”.  Lee did some very fine work in getting this to work and the pictures as seen below are really awesome.

From friend K-LOVE engineer Scott, NØBST:

“Saw an ingenious little device today.  It’s a sniffer to find cabinet radiation in cases of suspected LTE interference.  Take an empty can, about the size of a short sweet potato can and install an N connector on the end with a little 50 ohm resistor soldered across it.  Hook it up to your spectrum analyzer and point it at the cracks in your transmitter and you’ll find where the radiation (if any) is leaking out.  The guy who showed it to me had to put a bunch of conductive tape on his Nautel transmitter up in Duluth MN.  He got the design from a consulting firm in MI.  The idea is the small can keeps the resonance well above the FM band.”

Wish we had a picture of the device.  Will have to work on that for a future issue!

One of our repeaters here in Denver that I mentioned before is the Denver Water Amateur Radio Club 448.350 repeater located on the water treatment property in Lakewood CO.  Mark NØXRX contacted me about the repeater after hearing that the Monday Night Net was going to try to set up a Fusion repeater and offered to allow us to be on that repeater.  To that end I set up a WiresX Fusion node with my FTM-100 and WiresX box and the “SBENETCOM” Fusion room for the NET and to be able to access the WiresX digital network.  I actually really like it better than DMR because is is easier to access networks from the front panel of the Fusion radios.  Yaesu makes quite a lineup of radios for analog/digital operations and its repeaters are capable of automatic mode switching between analog and digital modes.  The radios are capable of that as well.

This is the KDØSSP 448.350 Fusion/Analog Repeater owned by the Denver Water Amateur Radio Club (https://sites.google.com/fotoair.com/dwarc)  in Lakewood.  It operates both analog and digital modes based on Yaesu’s AMS (Automatic Mode Select) system that will repeat whatever signal it hears analog or digital.  This is the repeater that my WiresX node I am operating works thru to tie into the Yaesu WiresX Network.  We operate it primarily on the “SBENETCOM Fusion Room 46361.  This is the first generation repeater that will be replaced soon with the latest model.  I will be reporting on that soon.  This repeater is located just a couple of air miles from me at one of the water treatment plants for the city of Lakewood.  This is one of the nicest and well setup sites I have ever visited.  They did a first class job in building this site as seen in the pictures below.  I am going to be helping the folks at DWARC by looking after the repeater and WiresX operations here soon.  The repeater and SBENETCOM is connected into the KGØSKY Skyhub system and thru DMR Talkgroup 310847 during most days and for the Monday night SBE Chapter 73’ of the Air Hamnet.  The fun thing about the node is that you can command it from your radio to go to other rooms in the Fusion network.  America Link, Colorado Link, the MinWis (Minnesota/Wisconsin) and TexasNexus and others are very popular and feature a lot of traffic to different parts of the world too.  I had a fun QSO with a ham in Japan one night with my mobile Fusion rig.  My across the street neighbor Bernie N3ZF has had a great time using the Fusion node and repeater making contacts literally all over the world.  And at todays time of low sunspot activity on the HF bands this mode is really gathering many new hams and old timers to keep in touch and make new friends, of course the essence of ham radio.

The DWARC 448.350 Repeater site & antenna at the very top of the 150 ft tower

Mark NØXRX of DWARC with the 448.350 Fusion repeater

And DWARC also operates a Fusion repeater on 2 meters here in the Lakewood CO area.  Its on 147.210 and will detect analog or digital as well, analog with a 100.0 hz tone.

 

Another project that Skyler KGØSKY and I have been working on is the use of the Raspberry Pi3 computer and the MMDVM audio interface board to make a hotspot for DMR, Fusion, P25 and other modes with the use of a Motorola GM 300 radio as the node radio.  So, far we haven’t been very successful although there are many internet sources that show successful implementation of the system.  So far though no go for us as we have wired and tuned the system for proper operations, and the spectrum analyzer shows proper waveforms, but we are still not getting any better than sporadic audio blips being transmitted.  We had my system at one time operating at least in Fusion mode but it quit and so far we haven’t been very successful at making it work again.  Fusion audio comes out garbled and I haven’t been able to get DMR mode to work at all.  This is the waveform you are after and with the center frequency you are using in your radio and the span set to 15 khz.  We are able to achieve this using the tuning pots and setup in the SSH from the software, but so far no go to passing the audio.  Wonder what kind of magic that the folks on the internet are making that we can’t seem to do here.

And if it stumps KGØSKY, well then…..  For now will use the store boughten Zumspot

Tuning a MMDVM board using the Pi-Star SSH capability

https://www.f5uii.net/en/installation-calibration-adjustment-tunning-mmdvm-mmdvmhost-raspberry-motorola-gm360/5/

The MMDVM, RaspberryPi3, and the Motorola GM300 experiment

Speaking of KGØSKY earlier, using parts he bought and put together in the proven method, he was able to make quite a nice profit selling hotspots at a local hamfest recently.  He even programmed up (on the “SPOT”) 😊 the sold units with the customers callsign and WiFi connection so they would work when they got the unit home.  He also had an external monitor setup to demonstrate the system, 3 different radio’s to test each unit sold, and managed to sell all his units! Great job and VERY ENTREPENUER-ish Skyler!  Need one or want one?  Let KGØSKY know!

The setup!

THE SALE!

  BY THE WAY, the TIP OF THE YEAR, SO FAR

One of my co-workers in California in our absolutely EXPERT AMAZING second to NONE IT Department (can you tell I like these folks?) turned me on to this website for scanning files before install and webpages for nastiness!

https://www.virustotal.com/#/home/upload

Bookmark this one friends!  Really does the trick for taking care of the stuff that you DON’T want to step in of the computer/internet canine (worst kind I can think of) variety.  Like the way I didn’t type what I really think?  CHECK IT OUT!

 

Once again, watching a series on Netflix I saw what I think is an Alinco rig they were using for coms on Mt. Everest talking to the people on the mountain.  VERY COOL!

The Hamshack Archive Links

 

                                                  4 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2015/04/

                                                  5 Years AGO:  http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2014/04/

                                                  6 Years AGO: http://www.smpte-sbe48.org/wp/2013/04/

 

 

 

SBE VHF/UHF Chapter 73 of the Air HAMnet

 

 

The SBE Chapter 73 of the air UHF/VHF Hamnet is today (Monday) at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) worldwide via Echolink KG0SKY-L, node 985839 (available via computer and radio), Allstar node 46079, DMR Talkgroup 310847, AND you can join us via Yaesu FUSION SYSTEM “YSF55411 “Skyhub SBE LINK – SBE Linkup”.  Try it with your hotspot.  The SBE UHF/VHF Hamnet is based in Denver on 449.450, pl 103.5, and the 448.350 Fusion repeater, linked to WiresX room “SBENETCOM” node 46361

And NOW BACK: WØKU 449.625, pl 141.3 ALLSTAR NODE 40368

 

You can listen on the LIVE STREAM thru Broadcastify at:

https://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/25448/web

or https://hose.brandmeister.network/group/310847/  

We hope you’ll join us. 

See the latest edition of “The KE0VH Hamshack” for more information at www.ke0vh.com.

 

 

The Society of Broadcast Engineers

9102 North Meridian St, Suite 150
Indianapolis, IN 46260
317-846-9000 ■ Fax 317-846-9120

 

 

 

 73’ from the “Shack”

 

Clay’s Corner for April 2019

April 27, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

 

Finally!!  I get to say welcome to SPRING!  Since we last met here amount a month ago, I’ve had a lot to write about in the Weather Department….and some pictures to share too.

February 2019 has gone in the record books as one of the coldest this area has seen in the last 30 years.  Seattle just had its coldest February in 30 years.

The average temperature at Sea-Tac Airport in February was 36.6 degrees, making it Sea-Tac’s third coldest February on record.  It came within 0.3 degrees of the second coldest February on record, which was back in 1989.  The coldest February was in 1956 when average temperatures at Sea-Tac hit 35.6 degrees.

It was not just colder than normal in the Seattle area, but all over the Northwest, as the following map makes clear.  As you can see, Seattle was 6.8 degrees below normal.  But look at Great Falls.  They were almost 28 degrees below normal.  I have a friend that’s lived in Anaconda for many years.  He said he’s never seen it like this.

What made this so unusual was the fact that we had some snow….and then some more snow on top of that.  This is very unusual for normally mild Western Washington.

Many experienced having to shovel their driveway.  Perhaps not to the extent that Dwight Small, K7KG, had to deal with.  He assures us that he did this by hand.  Yes, that’s the same Toyota 4×4 that I used to drive.

During weather like this, we expect that travel to the broadcast facilities at West Tiger to be difficult…and they were.  Travel was restricted to ‘over the snow’ machines.  Cougar Mt., about half as high as West Tiger, got at least a foot of the white-stuff, limiting access significantly.  Tim Moore, transmitter Poohbah for Sinclair, discovered just how icy it was trying to reach the gate access code box on Cougar…the hard way.  He’s OK.

The bad weather, snow and ice, caught up with me as I was just leaving a restaurant in Auburn on Feb. 6th with Mike Gilbert and Ben Dawson.  My feet went up, and I went down (hard), landing on my back and head.  The result was 13 stitches, a very bad concussion and nearly two months of dealing with vertigo.

Here are a couple of winter pictures.  First, the Accelnet Tower Cam on March 10th on West Tiger at sunrise.  The tracks are from snow machines.

And this one, from my Camera, taken of a sunset from Cougar Mt.  If you look between the trees on the left you can see the buildings of downtown Seattle.

On March 6th, someone plowed part of the road up West Tiger.  Terry and Caleb checked it out.  Unfortunately they had to walk the rest of the way, about 2.5 miles.  Terry said it had been a month since he was able to reach his transmitter at West Tiger-2.  Unfortunately, no one plows the road to the top of the mountain for us.

We are not the only place in the country where winter weather demonstrated who’s boss.  In this case, wind had its way with a tower on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine.

To give some perspective, here is what it looked like before:

Sugarloaf Mountain’s elevation is 4,259.  That’s 1300 feet higher than West Tiger.  Can you imagine if this happened to one of those big towers that adorn the hills of Seattle?  Not likely, as at that elevation the tower had collected a large load of Rime Ice  and then was hit with winds of over 100 mph.

After this failure, Wayne Davidson posted some interesting comments.  So who is he?  Wayne did a lot of design work for Magnum Tower Company.  It was through them that I worked with him back in the late 1980’s, on the first broadcast tower on West Tiger.  Thankfully it is still standing!  After reading his comments, I reached out to him and asked permission to re-print what he posted.  This provides a very interesting perspective to these towers that are vital to the role of broadcasters everywhere.

For those who think towers are forever…

Just want to add my two cents worth regarding tower longevity.

Nothing that man designs or builds lasts forever – not even the Egyptian Pyramids.  Having said that, man has managed to build some structures (towers) that will last a very, very long time.

All towers are not created equal.  I have designed somewhere on the order of 3500 towers and poles during my career.  Many towers were designed to withstand environmental conditions (wind and ice combinations) which are never expected to occur – not ever.  I have designed numerous towers of that type – mostly for state agencies, local municipalities, and large corporations that have very deep pockets and for which the failure of the tower is known to have extremely dire consequences.

Those structures are designed as major communication trunks which must remain operational following catastrophic natural disasters such as earthquakes and extreme wind storms (so extreme that they are quite unimaginable given the site at which they are constructed).  My expectation is that those towers will survive until their usefulness has expired and they are finally dismantled.

Many private broadcast tower owners have also taken the potential failure of their towers very seriously.  Extreme design criteria was used that by far exceeds the minimum requirements to obtain a building permit.  Several examples come to mind:

1)  KSL’s tower near Salt Lake City,

2) a 180-foot self-support tower at Shasta Bally, CA (designed for 3 inches of radial ice concurrent with 12 inches of rime ice at full design wind),

3) an AM multi-tower array at Vashon Island in Puget Sound (150 MPH EIA C winds),

4) a self-supporting tower in Slide Mountain near Lake Tahoe.  Those towers should last indefinitely with proper maintenance.

Probably the most famous example of a tower that has a very long life expectancy is the Eiffel Tower.  It was designed using the math-graphical method in which the shape of the tower was determined by the geometry required to keep its composite legs in compression (no tension allowed).  It was also designed for a wind force shape factor of 2 at a time when most structures utilized a force factor of 1.5.  Bear in mind that the Eiffel Tower was only supposed to remain for 20 years after which time the tower was to be demolished.  There was great opposition to its original construction.  Today, it is recognized worldwide as a tremendous leap forward in man’s engineering capabilities and is considered a great thing of beauty.

By the way, the Shasta Bally tower was subjected to an ice and wind condition that by far exceeded its extreme design criteria.  I have a couple of photos showing the tower completely filled solid with ice and with about 15 feet of rime ice projecting off of one face.  That condition alone would be enough to collapse most towers in existence.  Some very high winds came along during that ice event to really ‘test its mettle’.  The tower is still standing.

The interesting thing is that the cost of building some very serious longevity into a tower is not proportional to its life expectancy.  That is to say, a 50 percent increase in structural capacity is purchased at far less than 50 percent increase in cost.  One can generally make substantial strength and capacity gains with very little additional capital investment.  Moreover, stochastic probabilities of extreme wind and ice events are non-linear.  For wind, it only takes a 7-percent increase in basic wind speed to move from a 50-year to a 100-year mean recurrence interval.  That is primarily why our building codes and standards are becoming more and more demanding in terms of design criteria.  There is minimal cost associated with providing an ever-wider margin of safety.  If that cost was substantial, then we would not tolerate it and we would “throw the bums out” (meaning those individuals responsible for making construction economically infeasible).

One of my clients coined the phrase:  “Where there’s a will, there’s a Wayne.”  I like to think that we humans can do almost anything – if we put our minds and enough resources to it.  We managed to land several men on the moon, and miraculously brought them home safely.  Eventually, my guess is that building codes and standards will become sufficiently demanding that tower failures will become an extremely rare occurrence.  We are almost at that point now.

Warm regards,

Wayne Davidson,  PE CE SE

 

Then, what seemed like a couple of days…everything changed completely and we had a dose of summer.  On March 11th we were all basking in the 70’s (with so rapidly melting snow sitting in large parking lots).  By Tuesday the 12th we’d broken another record with a 79.  Records were set again – the warmest winter day and the earliest day to hit 74 – ever!  The 79 was the hottest November to March day since they’ve been keeping records in 1894.  The previous record was a 63 from 1951.  Those few days of summer were soon replaced with normals in the 50’s and rain drops.  Likely summer will return, right after the thunderstorm on the 4th of July.

As we moved later into March, warmer weather in other parts of the country has been melting all their snow, creating massive flooding.  Here in our area, we can, and have had, flooding from rapid warming and snow melt too, thankfully, not yet.  What we have been having, of late, is wildfires here in Western Washington.  This due to our abnormally cold and dry weather.  Fingers are crossed as our fire season approaches.

We get a lot of razzing about our weather in these parts.  The following story is one that got my attention.  Carefully note that this one comes from a Washington DC TV Station!  Feel free to use this one on your friends.  (Fact is, there are a lot of places in the U.S. that get more rain than we do, proving that ‘urban legends’ don’t have to be based on fact.)

It’s a contest we don’t want to win, but Washington, D.C. is actually wetter than Seattle, Wash!

Of course, Seattle is the city many think of when it rains – locals consider it a badge of honor to not carry an umbrella, for example – but when it comes to actual inches of rain falling, DC has them beat.

On average, Seattle measures 37.49 inches of rainfall a year, while D.C. measures 39.74.

 

© Getty Images/WUSA Seattle vs Washington Rain Games

 

We had a record setting 66.28 inches of rain in 2018, while Seattle had 35.73.  In 2018, Seattle saw 157 days with measurable precipitation (0.01 inches or more), while D.C. saw only 131.

The real difference here was the number of days with at least 1 inch of rain.

Seattle only did that five days in 2018, while D.C. managed that feat on 24 days…almost five times what Seattle saw.

The colder Pacific Ocean and associated atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest just doesn’t hold as much moisture as the warmer, sometimes tropical atmosphere that D.C. sees helped by The Gulf Of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

Well…enough of weather…on to other stuff –

There was a recent story aired by a Russian broadcaster where a number of locations were spelled out for attack should our two countries get into a nuclear war.  To the surprise of many, one of them named was the Jim Creek radio transmitter near Arlington.  Reportedly that facility is used to communicate with US Naval Submarines.  This news caught a number off-guard.

I recall, many years ago, getting a tour of Jim Creek.  It was part of the old ‘Skagit’ Hamfest (now I am dating myself).  The site is impressive, covering almost 5000 acres.  Towers holding antennas between two ridgetops…and a big transmitter.  The place has been in operation since the 1950’s.  If you go looking for it on a map, it’s a few miles south of Oso, location of the huge land-slide of a few years ago.

Despite many calling it foolish, unneeded, wasteful, etc., HD Radio continues to grow with now some 2600 radio stations operating the mode all over North America.  Mexico, is apparently, rapidly embracing HD Radio.

By now you are likely used to PDT (Pacific DAYLIGHT Time).  Once again there are calls for stopping the twice a year clock shifting.  A UW professor has come up with a number of reasons why we should switch to Daylight Time year around.  In fact the State legislature is considering it.

Once again, the Radio Numbers are out for Seattle-Tacoma market #12.  Here are the highlights from my perspective:

  • KUOW again has proved that a non-commercial station that does not play music can be a huge factor.  This time around they did it with an 8.0 besting the #2 rated station KQMV, who had a 6.8 (they do play music).
  • Right behind, in #3 is KIRO-FM (Hard to believe that I worked there when it was in Tacoma and the call letters were KTNT-FM).
  • In #4 is KSWD (The Sound) which, not long ago was long running country station KMPS.  Appears that Entercom figured they already had a country property (The Wolf).  They looked at the long running success of ‘Warm 106.9’ programming AC and decided that’s where they wanted to be.  With their 5.1 and KRWM at a 4.0, they should be happy.
  • In the battle for the country music listener, Hubbard jumped into the fray with their 98.9, now re-branded as ‘The Bull’.    Appears that here too that KKWF is winning this one with a 5th place finish 4.5 compared to KNUC’s 2.8.
  • Sinclair Radio’s KOMO is the clear winner on the AM dial, even if you have to look at 15th place to find them.  Actually their numbers are improving.  The same cannot be said for the next ranked AM, KIRO, whose numbers are descending.  Perhaps a factor of the end of football season.  Now if the M’s do well this year.  Interesting that KIRO and KTTH are tied.
  • In the Non-Commercial world, KNKX and KING are holding steady, however still way behind KUOW.
  • Appears that streaming is increasingly catching on with both KISW and KSWD showing some results.

One of my favorite topics to write about in this column has been HD Radio.  This is perhaps because I was involved with the first on-air test of this mode many years ago when the NAB Radio Show was in Seattle.  After this I was involved with the installation of this new technology at several stations.  The following was recently brought to my attention:

https://www.pugetsound.media/2019/03/23/hd-radio-hidden-secret-programming/

The writer is spot-on with his comments.

What he fails to mention is the fear that many stations have, that by promoting their own HD Channels it will syphon listeners away from their parent FM, and this will reduce their ‘numbers’ and from that – income, bonuses etc.  There are many broadcasters that feel HD Radio is a total waste of time and money, for the simple reason that installation of the equipment does not mean instant return on their investment.  Some are even willing to call HD ‘Self-Destruction’.  Perhaps this explains why you don’t hear much promotion, or self-promotion of HD Radio?

I recall when we were introducing HD.  Managers were salivating over the thought that they were getting another radio station to add to their stable without having to go out and buy one.  Slowly times are changing.  What many don’t understand is that the progress of HD Radio is often hindered by the very companies that own them, ie, an ‘internal-problem’.  Being an ‘old-guy’ I recall hearing the same arguments, many years ago.  The comments then were being made by owners and managers of AM stations talking about that mode called FM!  Looking back, Radio feared TV, owners of the livery stable feared the automobile…and so it goes.

With Pirate/unlicensed radio broadcasting continuing to be an issue – Congress has passed a bill that would increase the fines to $2 mega-bucks.  It would raise fines to $10,000 per violation and to $100,000 per day per violation up to $2,000,000.  Adding to this, the FCC would be required to sweeps in the major cities where this has been a problem.  My thinking is that this is all well and good.  However, it’s been shown that a lot of these guys have very little assets and manage to get out of paying.  Not sure how a huge fine is going to do the trick.  Think of repeat offenders for speeding.  Police can take away their license…but they still drive.  Take away their equipment and they go out and find another Junker and speed some more.  Sure, I’m on the side of curbing the problem, but remain unconvinced that huge fines are the answer.  Time will tell.

Over the years, readers of this column often read about broadcast operations on mountain-tops.  I related this information for a couple of reasons.  1) This is primarily what I do, and 2) It’s an aspect of Broadcasting that is often never seen or understood.  The fact is, the majority of those who work in Radio or TV have never been to the stations transmitter location!

Generally the work of a Broadcast Engineer at these sites, contrary to popular opinion, does not involve climbing towers, but rather the maintaining of the various electronic systems that are housed in the building nearby.  There can be some aspects of this work that are dangerous, as you are occasionally, called upon to deal with high voltages, climb ladders (inside), deal with sharp objects etc.  Very seldom do you hear of someone being killed in this work.

That changed on March 1st this year when I received the following email from Adrienne Abbott who lives and works in the Reno Nevada area:

It is with a great, personal sense of sadness that I report the deaths of two of Northern Nevada’s best broadcast engineers. The Nevada Broadcasters Association website released their names Friday (3/1/2019) evening:

“Nevada’s Broadcasting industry is with heavy heart as we mourn the loss of two iconic figures, Herb Primosch and John Finkbohner.  Our thoughts and prayers are with their immediate and broadcast families and friends.  May you find strength through this very difficult time.  Herb and John, you will forever be remembered.”

These two gentlemen represented the best and highest commitment of a broadcaster, serving their community.  At the time of their deaths, they were working at a translator/transmitter site called Peavine Mountain, for the Verdi TV District, attempting to restore over-the-air service to the Verdi, Nevada community.  At this time, it appears that they died sometime Thursday (2/28/2019).  They were discovered by Deputies when they did not return as expected.  The exact cause of their deaths has not yet been determined.

On March 23rd, while writing portions of this column, I received an email from Steven Allen informing me that Jim Tharp had passed away.  All I know, at this point, is that he was in Vashon Community Care after a fall a couple of months ago.  Obviously the news of the passing of a fellow co-worker hits hard.  Just as I have made the original broadcast site on West Tiger ‘my baby’, Jim was long attached to the (KING-AM)1090 facility on Vashon.  It was ‘his baby’ for many years.  Jim and I worked together on many projects during the years that Entercom owned 710 and 770 AM on Vashon, including the moving of 100.7 to West Tiger and the construction of the, then Entercom, facility on Cougar.  He lost his wife several years ago, and to the best my knowledge lived alone on the Island.

Having spent my entire life in a vocation where science was a foundation, I found this quote from a very famous person to be ‘spot-on’:

 

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

– Carl Sagan

 

Another place where I have spent a great deal of my life in the area of broadcast station participation is Public Warnings.  For the last several years I have been working with Greg Cooke at the FCC.  On Feb. 27 – I received this announcement:
Subject: [EAS] FCC EAS Office changes

To: “The EAS Forum” <eas@radiolists.net>

Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 10:54 AM

EAS Participants,

After 15+ years in the PSHSB FCC EAS office, Greg Cooke is moving to a different position within FCC on April 1, 2019.

He is being promoted to Division Chief of the Intergovernmental Affairs Office.

Our new main EAS POC until a replacement for Greg is named is:

Elizabeth Cuttner, Attorney Advisor, PSHSB  Elizabeth.Cuttner@fcc.gov, 202-418-2145

Elizabeth says a secondary contact for EAS matters is:

Linda Pintro, Attorney Advisor, PSHSB

Linda.Pintro@fcc.gov, 202-418-7490

 
Unrelated to Greg’s move, Austin Randazzo who was formerly in the FCC EAS office, has now also received a promotion.

Austin is Division Chief of Cybersecurity Communications Reliability.

Although no longer a primary EAS contact, he will continue to work on databases like DIRS, ETRS, and the forthcoming ARS.

 

Many of our friends and co-workers will be heading to the Big Show in the Desert in early April.  I gave the matter some serious thought, but concluded after my recent head-injury, the Oregon Coast was a better choice.

NAB just put out the word that they are going to alter the long standing Monday through Thursday schedule for the ‘big-show’ starting in 2020.  Apparently responding to the fact that the show floor is pretty quiet on Thursday.  The new schedule will be moved up a day to become Sunday through Wednesday, with exhibits opening at Noon on Sunday.  This should not cause a huge problem for historic Sunday events.  The SBE Board Meeting and the popular Nautel NUG event have been on Sunday Morning.  The Public Radio Conference runs up against the traditional opening too.

Occasionally people come up with some clever/unique names for their company that’s licensee of a broadcast station.  Case in point, KMEH-LP in Helena, MT is owned by ‘Montana Ethical Hackers’.

A term that used to be confined to a ‘delivery room’ is now common place, as related to Pay TV subscribers.  People today are ‘cutting the cord’ (meaning the coax cable) in record numbers.  Many are doing (horrors) without Pay TV altogether in favor of services like Hulu, Netflix or services provided by Amazon.  Satellite TV providers Direct TV and Dish Network suffered the bulk of the losses.  Recently I was in a Costco store where they have someone stationed to promote Satellite TV.  I overhead the person they were pitching try to explain that he has all the free TV he wanted or needed by using an Antenna.  I’m not sure the person doing the pitching understood.

Every once in a while someone I have worked with over the years many times, is honored.  In this case, The Association of Public Radio Engineers is honoring Jeff Welton from Nautel.  The ceremony will take place at the Public Radio Engineering Conference (just prior to NAB) in Las Vegas on April 5th.

I don’t mind stating that this award is ‘spot-on’.  Jeff is exceedingly knowledgeable and helpful.  Way to go Jeff!!  For those that have not had the pleasure of working with him, here is his Bio:

 

Jeff Welton has been with Nautel for over 28 years, the first 17 of which were spent in field service and technical support positions, as well as assisting Engineering with design review of new products and improvement of existing systems.  Since moving to Sales in 2007, Jeff keeps finding ways to get his hands dirty and can frequently be found assisting in the install of a transmitter he’s sold, as well as performing several site inspections every year, along with the occasional repair.

Recipient of the SBE’s James C. Wulliman Educator of the Year Award for 2018, Jeff writes articles and performs presentations every year on the topics of lightning protection, grounding, transmitter site safety and various other subjects of interest in the broadcast engineering field, as well as being a contributor to the 11th edition, NAB Engineering Handbook, authoring the chapter on Facility Grounding Practice and Lightning Protection, among others.

If you have been involved with Emergency Communications, perhaps via Amateur Radio, be advised that Communications Academy 2019, will be held at the South Seattle College campus, Seattle, WA, on April 13 and 14, 2019 this year.  The event is two days of training and information on various aspects of emergency communications.  Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES©), Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS), EOC Support Teams, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), Civil Air Patrol, Coast Guard Auxiliary, REACT, CERT and anyone interested in emergency communications should attend. Learn, network, and share your experiences with others.  Further information regarding the event can be found here:

http://commacademy.org/

There are certainly job opportunities for Radio Broadcast Engineers from time to time.  Perhaps you don’t have a clear picture of what’s involved.  The following will give you a good idea of what’s expected to work in this field:

Alpha Media – Alaska is seeking an experienced Staff Engineer for our radio facilities in Anchorage and Wasilla.  Reporting to the Market Manager will be responsible for the maintenance of equipment, maintaining broadcast systems and technologies, build out projects, and ensure FCC compliance.  The successful candidate will be familiar with radio related technologies including, but not limited to, networking and IT, PC/software maintenance and repair, AM and FM transmitter repair and installation, VHF and UHF radio technology, digital and analog audio, EAS equipment and studio equipment maintenance.

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Alpha Media operates 207 radio stations within 45 markets across the United States covering all formats.

Responsibilities for this position may include:

· Maintain and repair all technical and electronic equipment at the studios and transmitter sites with a proactive approach to problem solving.
· Install, monitor and perform maintenance on control consoles, audio routers, recording equipment, microphones, digital audio systems, transmitters, antenna systems, meters, control systems, and remote equipment, including accurate record keeping.
· Maintain, troubleshoot, and repair local computer infrastructure to include local area network, on-air automation system, and office workstations.
· Assist with, as necessary, the technical needs at remote broadcasts and live performances.
· Interact with management and staff at all levels in a personable, professional manner.
· Other duties as assigned by the Market Manager.

Requirements of this position include the following:
· Knowledge of all applicable FCC rules and regulations.
· Experience in computer based broadcast automation.
· Experience with cluster-wide studio equipment and operations, audio routing and distribution of analog, digital and audio-over-IP protocols, EAS, satellite receivers, studio telephones and broadcast IT systems.
· Proficiency in basic electronics theory and principles including Ohms law and the ability to read schematics.
· Ability to use test equipment, i.e. Multi-meters, Oscilloscopes, Spectrum Analyzers, and field strength meters in troubleshooting.
· Ability to work independently to troubleshoot and repair high-power AM and FM transmitting facilities including troubleshooting down to the component level when practical.
· Knowledge of telephone systems and protocols including POTS, ISDN, T1, DSL, VoIP and PRI circuits.

· Knowledge of building systems, HVAC, electrical, UPS, and standby generators.
· Possess IT skills including PC/server troubleshooting and repair as well as knowledge of TCP/IP, UDP and local area networking.
· Proven ability to communicate technical information and interact easily with all levels of staff.
· Current SBE membership.
· Able to be on-call after hours for emergencies or routine maintenance as needed.
· Must possess a valid driver’s license and current vehicle insurance.
· Must be 21 years of age or older.

Preference may be given to candidates who have the above experience plus the following:

· Experience with NexGen Automation for Radio.
· Experience with Directional AM Systems.
· Knowledge of telephone systems and cellular.
· SBE, Microsoft, and CompTIA Certifications.
· Associates or Technical Degree in Broadcast Engineering Technology or related field or an equivalent combination of education and work experience.

Physical requirements:

· Ability to lift and/or move loads up to 50 lbs.
· Ability to climb ladders and work on elevated surfaces.

If you feel you are a qualified candidate and want to join a fast moving, growing entity submit your cover letter and resume ASAP by clicking the Apply button at

https://recruiting2.ultipro.com/ALP1009ALMD/JobBoard/8a5ecde6-7408-45f9-8d5d-1bf4e35b089c/OpportunityDetail?opportunityId=37404dcd-752f-4f2a-81c2-2c0e814c0615

 

If a warmer climate is more your cup of tea, Entercom has an opening for their 6 station cluster in Sacramento.  Check out

https://entercom.avature.net/careers/JobDetail/Chief-Engineer/14055

I recently overheard a person use the term, “Pick up the phone”.  Got to thinking how many are among us that, upon hearing that, would have a different response than older generations would expect.  Here are some other ‘telephone terms’ from the past that today find little, if any, use:

  • Hang up the phone.  Hang up your smart phone might be understood to put the phone in something in your car so you can use it while driving?
  • Off Hook – What in the world is a ‘Hook’ for a phone?
  • Dial Tone – Huh?
  • Extension – Of what?
  • Princess Phone – I an only imagine
  • Wall Phone – More confusion
  • Phone Booth – Are there any these days?
  • Pay Phone – Something you do with a credit card
  • Dial a number – As in Rotary Dial?
  • Operator – As I asking a real/live person for assistance?
  • Reverse the Charges or Calling Collect
  • Party Line
  • Phones available only in Black
  • Flashing the Switch Hook

 

Part of getting old is being able to look back at all the things that ‘newbies’ never heard of and can’t understand.  Yes, there are advantages of getting older!

Here’s another example of something old becoming new again…Podcasts.  It’s presently the rage in Radio.  iHeartMedia has just debuted the ‘iHeart Podcast Channel’, an AM Radio Station that will be running hour long shows (oops, Podcasts).  I have to wonder if one of the AM’s in the Seattle area that are presently in the cellar in terms of ratings will jump on this bandwagon?  Imagine listening to a radio PROGRAM on the radio?  For those of us that grew up listening to radio programs, yes, before TV.  This is wonderful.  Wonder what Jim French would say?

Content designed for kids are hitting the Podcast Market.  I can just hear the Cisco Kid, Lone Ranger, Sky King, The Shadow, etc. reaching the ears of kids, enabling them to enjoy creating their own pictures as I did when I was young.

The FCC has issued their budget request for 2020…and its 1% less than 2019.  The President is sure to frustrate Broadcasters and Wireless Carriers as he is asking for Spectrum Fees on top of the regulatory fees they already collect.  This will be interesting.

Some time ago, readers of my Column may recall that I mentioned how hard it would be for a person to learn our language, because certain words have so many meanings and uses.  In that case, I used an example of the word ‘UP’.  I’ll admit I had great fun in doing so and received a number of comments.

Well, another word has crept into my head.  This time the word “LINE”.  Here are some examples that come to mind where we use this word:

  • Air LINES
  • Bus LINES
  • Shipping LINES
  • Railroad LINES
  • Short LINES
  • Clothes LINES
  • Power LINES
  • LINES of Credit
  • Fishing LINES
  • Property LINES
  • Red LINES (Used by political leaders)
  • Pipe LINES
  • Main LINES
  • Branch LINES
  • Side LINES
  • Telephone LINES
  • Party LINES
  • Blank LINES
  • LINES in Music (ala Bass Lines)
  • LINES of code (as in computers)
  • LINE as in falsehood – (Don’t feed me that Line)
  • LINES in performing arts
  • Off LINE – (as in not being on the Internet or in proximity to a computer)
  • On LINE – (As in being on the Internet)
  • Transmission LINES – (Use in Power and Radio Frequencies)
  • LINES (as wrinkles)
  • Growth LINES (as in trees)
  • LINE drive (as in Baseball)
  • Blue LINE (as in Hockey)
  • Yard LINES (as in football)
  • LINE of scrimmage
  • Foul LINES (as in many sports)
  • In LINE (as in compliance or conformance)
  • Out of LINE (as in non-compliance or non-conformance)
  • Scan LINES (as in Television)
  • Front LINES (as in warfare)
  • Family LINES (as in lineage)
  • Noble LINE
  • LINE of a drug (a method of consumption)
  • LINES of Authority
  • Production/Assembly LINE
  • LINES of Authority
  • LINES of latitude or longitude
  • Contour LINES (used in topographic maps)
  • Straight LINES (as opposed to those that curve or arc)
  • LINES (as in a class of merchandise or services
  • To LINE ones pocket (as in money)

Wonder how many you can think of that I did not mention?

Any wonder why English is so confusing ?

The following was sent to me by an old friend.  Nothing like some good, old fashioned, advice….

  • MAKE SURE YOUR FENCES ARE KEPT HORSE-HIGH, PIG-TIGHT, AND BULL-STRONG.
  • KEEP SKUNKS, BANKERS, LAWYERS, AND CAR SALESMEN AT A HEALTHY DISTANCE.
  • LIFE IS MUCH SIMPLER WHEN YOU PLOW AROUND THE STUMPS.
  • BUMBLE BEES, WASPS, AND YELLOW JACKETS ARE MUCH FASTER THAN YOUR JOHN DEERE TRACTOR.
  • THE WORDS THAT SOAK INTO YOUR EARS ARE USUALLY WHISPERED, NOT YELLED.
  • FORGIVE YOUR ENEMIES; IT REALLY MESSES UP THEIR HEADS.
  • WHEN YOU WALLOW WITH PIGS, YOU CAN EXPECT TO GET DIRTY.
  • THE BEST SERMONS ARE LIVED, NOT PREACHED.
  • MOST OF THE STUFF FOLKS WORRY ABOUT AIN’T EVER GOIN’ TO HAPPEN ANYWAY.
  • IF YOU FIND YOURSELF IN A HOLE, THE FIRST THING TO DO IS STOP DIGGIN’.

That’s about it for this month, my friends.  Thanks for the read.

Lord willing, I will be back to most of the same locations next month at this time.

Until then, may you have a wonderful Spring!!

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

Clay’s Corner for March 2019

April 26, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

 

So what happened?  We had wrapped up January with some record breaking warm days.  My lawn was growing to the point that I vowed that the next dry day it was going to get mowed.  The cracks in the sidewalk in front of my place were getting a good crop of bright green weeds.  We all just knew that we were in for an early spring.  Then it happened….We started hearing how it was going to get colder and maybe even have some snow.

Part of what I do is keep an eye on weather at Cougar and West Tiger.  The following graph showed that, indeed, colder conditions were about to set in – Note the top line, freezing level.  A Zero means Sea-Level…Oh Oh!

At this point, little did we know that records were going to be broken.

Those of us that have lived in this area a long time were used to having a dose of snow in the winter.  A few inches that last a couple of days and then are washed away by warm rains.  Not this time.  At first I got about 4 inches. Then, before it could melt, another foot on top of that.  Weeks later there are still pieces of white-stuff in my yard.

Record setting indeed.

  • Sea-Tac Airport set a record for the largest snowfall total for the month of February of 14.1 inches.  This beat the former record set back in 1949 of 13.1 inches.
  • South and higher that Snoqualmie Pass, Crystal Mountain received 7 feet of snow in 7 days.
  • If you really want snow…Then head north to Bellingham (or South for our readers in BC) and go east to Mt. Baker where they have had over 36 feet of the white-stuff.  This is nothing compared to the winter of 98/99 where they received about 95 feet.  If you keep track of ski areas totals, you know that Mt. Baker is near the top in total snow.

If you are as old as I, you remember the winter of 49/50.  We had the snow fall total this time but, thankfully, did not have the temperatures.  I’m sure you can find a lot of information about that winter on-line.  Here are some links to get you started.

https://komonews.com/weather/scotts-weather-blog/just-how-bad-was-the-winter-of-1949-1950

https://q13fox.com/2019/02/11/record-shattered-this-is-the-snowiest-february-since-at-least-1949/

On the personal side, I was a wee lad living in Portland and have many memories.  The high point was that the Columbia River froze over.

And….we got attention elsewhere:

DENVER (CBS4) – When you think of the weather in Seattle you probably picture either fog or rain instead of snow.  But an unusual weather pattern has allowed back-to-back storms to drop record snow across the Pacific Northwest this month.

Since Feb. 3 the airport in Seattle has recorded 20.2 inches of snow, making it the snowiest month in 50 years for Seattle’s official weather station.  Two days (Feb. 8 and 11) have produced more than 6 inches of snow in the city.

Denver has recorded 17.5 inches of snow so far this season at Denver International Airport. Denver’s old weather station in Stapleton has measured 19.1 inches of snow to date.

If we get above average snow in the Seattle area, chances are the same thing happened 50 miles to the East in the Cascades.  And boy did they.  According to NWS, Feb. 12th broke the 24 hour snowfall total at Snoqualmie Pass with 31.5 inches set back in 1975.  Over the period of 3 days, Feb. 10-12  Snoqualmie got over 5 feet of snow – 68 inches to be exact.  The result was the pass was closed for several days.

The weather had a major impact on me as well.  As I was leaving a restaurant on the 6th of the month, I slipped on ice on the sidewalk landing on my back and head.  Bottom line – I was taken to the local hospital where I received 13 stitches in the back of my head and a nasty concussion that still has me experiencing periods of vertigo.  Thanks to the suggestion of friends, I now have ice cleats for my feet and the restaurant has since learned that it is their responsibility to clear the sidewalk in front of their place.

The major broadcast  transmitter sites were certainly impacted:

  • Doug Fisher reported that he was unable to get to South Mountain (home of 3 FM’s) due to 8 foot drifts.
  • Cougar Mountain got a good 2 feet of snow.  Some remarked they had never seen it that deep there.
  • Due to long duration power outages in the vicinity of Cougar, many of the Century Link circuits used by broadcasters went down, as the batteries supporting the telephone equipment expired.
  • West Tiger (twice as high as Cougar) got 3 feet of snow.  Maintenance on a Generator Fuel System meant that Doug Fisher was called in to transport repair workers to the site in his ‘over the snow’ machine.

I’m sure there are other stories of snow-related incidents involving broadcasting that I’ve not heard.  These are the winters that set records and make memories.  According to the record keepers, this may go down in history as the coldest February!

Here is the view out my bedroom window the morning of the 13th:

Here is a picture from the Accelnet Tower Camera at West Tiger on the 13th.  In later pictures, you can see Doug’s tracks in the snow.  Since then, more snow has all but covered them.  It will be some time before anyone ‘drives’ up there with a rubber-tire vehicle (even with chains).

The yellow item to the right is a Track Hoe that is working on a new tower project, part of the First Net system being installed across the country.   Note how you can’t see the tracks on the machine.  On the lower right is a Porta-Potty…half buried.

Winter in this area is not consistent.  There have been winters that we’ve been able to drive to the transmitter sites at West Tiger without having to put on chains.  Then there are those winters that conventional vehicles are useless.  A couple of times the road to West Tiger has been plowed, usually due to on-going construction, etc.

Unfortunately, none of the broadcasters have invested in over-the-snow equipment.  In the past I tried to interest the first stations at WTM-1 to jointly purchase the required equipment, but was not successful.  West Tiger presents some unique challenges that make it not suitable for snowmobiles.  The road goes up, then down, then back up on the way to the summit.  Often the low place in the middle is a gravel road.  In the past, over the snow machines, have been what are called snow-cats.  Larger and much more expensive than what is in use today.  Today we have what are called ATV’s, small 4-wheel drive machines, that can be outfitted with ‘Tracks’ that enable them to tackle the job at a fraction of the cost.  One of our local Broadcast Engineers, Doug Fisher purchased one of these a few years ago and has put it to good use at locations like West Tiger, South Mountain, Capital Peak and other locations where the ‘white stuff’ can really pile up.

This picture comes from Ralph Sims of Accelnet, taken as they were making their way up to West Tiger.  Accelnet owns the webcams that have provided us all with a (warm) ring-side seat of what’s happening at West Tiger.  Obviously chain saws are a requirement!

Here’s a picture I got, through the windshield, of one of the more dicey places going up to Cougar.  This was after the first ‘little’ snowfall.  The problem here is the grade and the fact that it’s paved, making for a very slippery situation.

The recent heavy snow took down a couple of stations (KVIX and KNWP) both on Striped Peak west of Port Angeles.  Both of these stations are satellite-fed and employ a C-band dish that was, in this case, overwhelmed by over 2 feet of snow that fell in northern Clallam County.

This was an example of our ‘Lake Effect Snow’ (something that Buffalo, N.Y. often experiences).  In this case, the ‘Lake’ was Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the wind source was a strong Fraser River ‘outflow’.

Interesting to read/see stories about heavy snow in Sequim (just east of Port Angeles).  Sequim is known for being in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains that tend to keep the area much drier than anywhere else in Western Washington.  In this case the winds were from the northeast and the mountains were of no help.

On the other side of Washington State, winter conditions are much different that here on the ‘wet-side’.  Many of their transmitter locations are higher and more remote.  Example is Mission Ridge (6820ft) and Naneum (6623ft) over twice as high as West Tiger.

My co-workers over there often put to use their snow cat to reach their transmitters and then snowshoe the rest of the way.  The following are some pictures forwarded by John McDaniel showing engineers accessing the KQWS transmitter site.  The station serves the Okanogan area and is licensed to WSU.

Shown here are Kenny Gibson and Brady Aldrich.  John McDaniel is holding the camera.  Brady is from this area, having spent early years on Vashon at KOMO.  He’s been a frequently visitor to the Seattle Chapter SBE Meetings.

Can’t help but think of the poor fellows that have to access the TV Transmitters on Seattle’s Queen Ann and Capitol Hill.  Having to put up with the traffic, etc.

I received an email from now retired Tom Pierson (retired from KIRO Radio) who is residing in Arizona.  He wanted to be sure and tell me that it was time to clean his sunglasses.  This may be short-lived as the winter storm that produced snow in Las Angeles and Las Vegas was expected to send temps into the 20’s in the Phoenix area.  To the north, Flagstaff received a major dump of snow…35.9 inches in one day!

The following picture shows the transmitter tower with its ‘2-Bay’ antenna mounted on the top, left side, of the tower.

To put all of this into perspective, other parts of the U.S. have been dealing with what’s known as a Polar Vortex, where they have been having winter that would bring the Seattle area to a complete stop.  (Thanks to a couple of mountain ranges and prevailing winds we will never have to deal with this level of winter.)

Here is a comment posted on a national broadcast engineers’ remailer from a fellow in a location where it really gets cold:

Minus 44F this morning!  Transmitter building at 38F with a 25 kW transmitter huffing away inside.  It’s just crazy to think of a 115 degree temp differential between outside my house and inside.  Propane furnaces are shutting down because propane vaporizes at -44F.

Before all of this there were some real concerns about what’s called our ‘Winter Snowpack’.  This fallen snow provides irrigation and drinking water and water for Hydro projects for a large portion of the state.  We’ve made up for much of the shortfall this month.  According to the National Climate Prediction Center, we have a 50/50 chance of a warmer than normal summer and a 70/30 chance it will be drier.

Ok, enough about our winter weather – and on to other happenings.

Looks like Seattle’s Channel 7, KIRO-TV, will be getting new owners.  Cox Media has let it be known this was in the works.  Interesting that this is not an outright sale, but rather a type of merger.  Apollo Management, an investor group, will be buying a majority interest in Cox Enterprises which involves Radio, TV and Newspaper properties around the country.  The new company, like Cox, will be headquartered in Atlanta.  Too soon to know how this will impact the operation of their TV Station in Seattle.  Apollo has stated that it plans on keeping the existing management in place.  Of course, this is a standard announcement with any sale.  Time will tell.

Yes, you have heard about Apollo before.  The name has surfaced with previous attempts by them to purchase Nexstar and Tribune Media.  Obviously Apollo has been wanting to become a major player in broadcast television.  Purchasing a big piece of Cox and Northwest Broadcasting which owns stations in Spokane, Yakima and Tri-Cities will help them fulfill their plans.

The FCC continues to relax requirements (nothing to do with the shut-down), announcing that broadcast licensees no longer have to post paper copies of station licenses at specific locations.

A summary of the Report and Order making the change was published in the Federal Register https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-02-08/pdf/2019-01491.pdf and the change was effective immediately.

You may now remove licenses that you may have previously posted (such as on bulletin boards or in notebooks at your transmitter site or control point) pursuant to the rule.  However, if you are like me, they will still be there.

One term you hear a lot today is the word ‘Podcast’.  So what does it really mean?

Let’s start with Wikipedia (I’ve edited it down a bit):

A podcast is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download in order to listen to via the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.[1]

The word was originally suggested by Ben Hammersley as a portmanteau of “iPod” (a brand of media player) and “broadcast”.[2][3]

The files distributed are in audio format, but may sometimes include other file formats such as PDF or EPUB. Videos which are shared following a podcast model are sometimes called video podcasts or vodcasts.

The generator of a podcast maintains a central list of the files on a server as a web feed that can be accessed through the Internet.  The listener or viewer uses special client application software on a computer or media player, known as a podcatcher, which accesses this web feed, checks it for updates, and downloads any new files in the series.  This process can be automated to download new files automatically, which may seem to users as though new episodes are broadcast or “pushed” to them.  Files are stored locally on the user’s device, ready for offline use.[4] There are many different mobile applications available for people to use to subscribe and to listen to podcasts.  Many of these applications allow users to download podcasts or to stream them on demand as an alternative to downloading.  Many podcast players (apps as well as dedicated devices) allow listeners to skip around the podcast and control the playback speed.

Some have labeled podcasting as a converged medium bringing together audio, the web, and portable media players, as well as a disruptive technology that has caused some individuals in the radio business to reconsider established practices and preconceptions about audiences, consumption, production, and distribution. Podcasts are usually free of charge to listeners and can often be created for little to no cost, which sets them apart from the traditional model of “gate-kept” media and production tools. Podcast creators can monetize their podcasts by allowing companies to purchase ad time, as well as via sites such as Patreon, which provides special extras and content to listeners for a fee. Podcasting is very much a horizontal media[6] form – producers are consumers, consumers may become producers, and both can engage in conversations with each other.[5]

OK, got all that?

Sounds a lot like what we have been doing with old Radio Shows for a very long time.  There is a long standing fan base for those that want to hear radio shows from the past, Amos and Andy, Lone Ranger etc.  What this does is blend the process with modern technology.  The movement has really caught on with active involvement by many in and out of the broadcast industry.  For example, I read a story recently on how Shari Redstone (yes, the Viacom Redstone) has become a podcast evangelist citing how she sees a big future.  Consumers today are increasingly wanting audio (and video) entertainment to be in their personal time zone.  Stop and think about it – Cable TV has been doing this for a long time with movies etc.  Attention to Podcasting at a high level like this means that lots of money will be following.

Over the years, on several occasions, I’ve mentioned South Mountain in this column.  The mountain, named for being the southern-most mountain in the Olympics, was pioneered as a broadcast transmitter location by Greg Smith when he moved his FM Station, KAYO, to the north end of the South Mountain Ridge (locally known as North Mountain).  Greg later erected a 400 foot tower on the highest location at the South end of the ridge.  Shortly afterward, he sold 99.3 to Bustos Media.  This was my introduction to the site, where Nick Winter and I found ourselves installing the equipment for what’s now known as KDDS.    Shortly afterward 97.7 went on the air (now known at KOMO-FM) then came 93.7/KLSY.  The site is now going to gain a 4th FM with the addition of Jodesha Broadcasting’s KJET/105.7 which will operate as a Class C2 with 1.75 kW…much less than the others at the site.

The view from South Mountain is fantastic.  Standing at the base of the tower looking North, you are looking at the Olympic Mountains.  Turn Northeast and you see the buildings in downtown Seattle.  East is Tacoma, South is Olympia, Southwest (on a clear day) you can see Williapa Bay and the Long Beach Peninsula.  Looking  West is Grays Harbor and the Pacific Ocean.  No wonder the place is popular.  Capital Peak, to the South offers similar views, however it’s not as high nor as close to Seattle.

The fact is, broadcasters all want coverage of Seattle for that’s where more people are!  South Mountain, as well as Capital Peak, are ideal locations for radio broadcasters who have stations licensed to smaller communities, but whose target is the greater population of the Seattle area.  These stations are typically call ‘Rim Shots’.  To help put this into perspective – KDDS (The highest one on the tower) operates with 64,000 watts ERP from an elevation of 1033 Meters/3388 feet above sea level and is approximately 50 miles from Downtown Seattle.  In much of the east coast, FM Stations are Class B’s meaning their maximum power can only be 50,000 watts at 500 feet.  You mention these power levels and elevations to a broadcaster from other parts of the country, they look at you with amazement.

The downside to a site like South Mountain is that the population near the transmitter is very low (not counting Bambi and Boo Boo), therefore a lot of radio signals do very little.

A huge radio deal was announced in the middle of the month.  Cumulus Media (who was recently involved with bankruptcy) is going to sell 6 of their FM stations to EMF.  What makes this interesting is that EMF, a large Christian broadcaster, is buying two of them for 103.5 million CASH!  One is the famous KPLJ in New York City, the other is WYAY in Atlanta.  The other part of the announcement is they are trading WHSN in New York and two stations in Springfield, Mass to Entercom for 3 stations in Indy.  This will enhance Entercom’s cluster in the bigger East-Coast markets while enhancing the Cumulus cluster in Indy.  I recall visiting the Indy stations when I worked for Entercom.  The unique part was they were across the parking lot from the SBE headquarters.  This swap is much like what you see in professional sports.  Players, like stations, being sold and traded, to (hopefully) make for a strong team.  Interesting that EMF will also take ownership of some broadcast/tower sites that are reportedly generating  $5-7 Million annually.  I just love how these executives phrase things.

“These transactions are consistent with our portfolio optimization strategy and both deals are accretive,” Cumulus CEO Mary Berner said in a news release.”

The mega-buck deal is supposed to close in the 2nd Quarter of this year.

Yes, EMF operates stations in the Seattle area, 104.5 from Cougar Mt. and 88.1 from Capital Peak.

We’re saying good bye to the towers that were used for almost 30 years by the 1210 AM Station in Auburn.  What is not widely known is that this site was largely built with the able assistance of non-other than the late Arne Skoog who was my assistant during those days at KBSG.

Did you all happen to catch the story about the guy that re-discovered an old Apple IIe and was shocked to find out that it still worked?  That brought back a flood of memories for me as I had one of those that I used to prepare this column many years ago.  I would send it to the Waveguide Editor at the blazing speed of 300 baud.  Apparently many are shocked that it still worked.  This underscores the mindset that today’s electronic devices are mostly short-live devices and that failure after a short time is ‘normal’.  This all boils down to how the equipment was designed, quality of parts used in their construction and how well they were assembled.

A good case in point, in the picture above, when operation of the site ended, the circa 1980-something Nautel transmitter was faithfully creating the kilowatts.  When the West Tiger Mountain Master FM Antenna burned up, several of the stations pressed into service Collins transmitters that were built in the 1970’s, and, to the best of my knowledge, they worked when turned on.

There are a lot of devices that are just plain better designed and built than others.  This goes for computers, transmitters or cars.  A great example of this is a picture of Edward R. Murrow standing in Pullman next to a Kelvinator refer.  That same machine is used daily to this day.

Probably the biggest issue is there is little demand for something that will run a long time today.  Reliability and projected length of service (or mean time between failures) is a secondary consideration in this fast paced world of creating new and more exciting features.

There are many positive attributes to the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principle.  Unfortunately today’s mindset is to sacrifice reliability for ‘Bling’.

This column would not be complete without a couple of pictures from the new home of Dwight Small.

 

 

In the past couple of months we have been visited by Jim Leifer in his official role as Senior Manager for Broadcast Operations for American Tower.  In both cases, he was here due to the failure of the FM Master Antenna on West Tiger.

 

Here’s Jim taking the oath of office from Chris Imlay.  Jim is also the President of SBE.

Guess it’s that time of year again:

  • People standing on street corners hawking tax preparation services (US Only).
  • The Mike and Key Club annual Electronics Show and Swap Meet is just around the corner on March 9th.
  • Plans being made to attend the NAB show in Las Vegas, April 6-11 this year.
  • Just received my invitation to attend the Seaside, Oregon SEA-PAC Ham Convention, May 31, June 1 & 2.

Often a measure of an area, SeaTac Airport is a very busy place.  In fact, it’s the 9th busiest airport in the country with 49.8 million flyers gracing its concourses last year.  All that and it’s been recently named the third most relaxing airport.  Not sure how the earned both.

Once again, a significant contribution to this column from Michael Brooks of KING-FM.  I’ll let you come up with your own caption.

Once again it’s time for me to take a look at the latest Nielsen Radio ratings for the Seattle area and list, what I feel, are the high-points.

  • The area continues to grow.  According to Nielsen, there are 3.863 Million of us over 12 in Market #12.
  • KUOW continues to prove you can be non-commercial and do very well.  They topped the list with a 7.4.
  • Hubbard’s Movin came in #2 with a 7.0.
  • KIRO-FM is #3 (Wonder what the lack of Ron and Don will do in the future?).
  • Not a lot of ‘daylight’ between stations in the top-10 with 3 ties.
  • Of the big owners, Entercom has 4 of theirs in the Top 10.
  • Surprisingly KNDD is the top Entercom Station, beating KISW.
  • Sports-Talk KIRO-AM continues to be the top AM in 14th place.
  • Not far behind is all news KOMO.
  • When Entercom pulled the plug on long standing KMPS, Hubbard quickly rolled out their own country formatted station to take on Entercom’s The Wolf.  Looks like Entercom is able to hold off the challenge with KKWF Tied with KISW at # 7…Far ahead of KNUC.
  • I recently wrote about the entry of an HD-2 in the list of popular choice.  KNKX’s Jazz-24/HD-2 is still there, however they have been joined by two stations Streaming on-line, KSWD and KISW.  Perhaps proving that the completion for OTA (Over the Air) audience is indeed real.
  • Looking at the bottom part this long list are found a number of Non-Commercial stations as well as those that are not exactly within the market signals.

Just for fun, here is a look at our neighbor to the south, Market #22, Portland, Oregon.

  • Population is shown as 2.354 million (about 1.5 Megapeople less than Seattle).
  • Much like Seattle the #1 Station is News/Talk KOPB operated by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
  • Also like Seattle, you have to go down the list to #19 before you find an AM station.  In this case, historic KEX with a Talk format.
  • Unlike Seattle, Portland has 3 stations with HD Channels.  One of them, IHearts KFBW-HD3 doing quite well with a Classic Country format.
  • One station’s ‘Stream’ is in the race.
  • If you wondered where the call letters KMTT, long associated with Entercom’s 103.7 ‘The Mountain’ in Seattle are now, they are being used by Entercom in Portland.

On the sad-side, this past fall, legendary Wenatchee broadcast engineer George Frese passed.  The following was recently distributed via AFCCE and was posted on the Seattle SBE-16 Remailer from which followed a number of comments by those that have fond memories of George.  Read on:

George Melvin Frese, Wenatchee, WA

Condensing 97 years of a full life for an amazing man into a few paragraphs, is nearly an impossible task, for he is more than the sum of the milestones of his life. But, in an attempt to honor George Melvin Frese, we will do so.

George was born in Spokane, WA, on June 5, 1921, to Fred and Sadie (Penner) Frese. George’s father was a City of Spokane police officer. George told stories of an adventurous childhood growing up in Spokane in the 1920’s.

His most told stories included his early experiences of listening to the radio with his mother on a crystal set, tuning into programs from around the country. George developed a fascination with the technology that enabled you to hear a person speaking hundreds of miles away. In his own words, “My number one ambition became to learn how this worked.” At the age of four, George began making crystal sets by dismantling old radios and using spare parts given to him. As his curiosity grew, so did his radios. In junior high and high school, he developed short-wave radio receivers, transceivers, and transmitters with increasing power and sophistication. As a junior in high school, he discovered that VHF radio waves reflected off of airplanes, allowing him to calculate how far away an airplane was, how fast it was traveling, and in what direction, naming his system “The Airplane Detector.” Eager to share this incredible technology, he naively wrote to the U.S. government and was disappointed when they did not respond. He then decided to share his “invention” with the government of England instead, believing it could be useful in their defense against the German Luftwaffe. This letter resulted in a visit from the FBI and the eventual military testing of his “Airplane Detector”.

George’s expertise in broadcast engineering led him to Washington State University to continue his education, graduating with a degree in Engineering. He was a proud Coug, able to belt out the Cougar fight song on command.

George met his first wife, Mollie, while in Pullman, WA. In May of 1944, George entered the Army, attended Basic Training and then Officers Candidate School. While stationed at Fort Monmouth, their first child, Joan, was born in November of 1944. His second daughter, Suzette, arrived in April of 1946. George’s military career was filled with unusual experiences and circumstances. Many are explained in his autobiography “Lost History and a Bizarre Mystery.” Following his military service, their son, Glen, and daughter, Lorene, were born.

George worked for KPQ as a radio engineer early in his career. George ventured out on his own, becoming a sought after engineering consultant of radio and television stations around the country. He is regarded as the father of modern broadcast audio processing for his invention of the Frese Audio Pilot, which was a pioneering breakthrough and improved the sound of a radio station’s broadcast signals. He obtained his first Amateur Radio “C” License in junior high. He was a proud and active Ham radio operator all of his life, with an Amateur Extra license, call sign AA7H.

In 1961, George married Rosemary Crimmins. Rosemary’s children: Richard, Linda, and Laurel Jacobsen joined the family. They were happily married for over 56 years. They were members of Central Christian (Cornerstone) Church most of their married life. George was an avid student of the Bible, having read it many times.

All of these milestones were the framework of a life well lived. But what made George special were the moments in between. He was goofy. He told us some of the dumbest “George and Joe” jokes, over and over, making us laugh. He truly cared about his family and friends. He worried about them and he prayed for them. He had more uses for duct tape than you can possibly imagine. He once gave Rosemary 100 numbered greeting cards, placed around the house as an apology. He was amazingly intelligent and could hold his own on just about any subject. He loved to exercise, playing organized softball and badminton into his 80’s. He was a master popcorn maker, enjoyed playing the violin, and playing classic music very loudly. He could “engineer” almost any device he needed. He was a good man, father, grandfather, and friend. He will be missed.

George died on November 23, 2018. He is survived by his son, Glen Frese (Sue); daughters: Joan Frese Lazarus (Jonathan), Suzette Frese Harkin (John), Lorene Frese Woody (Mike); step-son, Richard Jacobsen; step-daughters: Laurel Jacobsen Fife (Jim), and Linda Jacobsen Stuart; and his first grandchild, Tami Jacobsen Gurnard (Joe), whom he raised as his own. He also is survived by numerous grandchildren; great-grandchildren; and treasured friends. George was preceded in death by his father, Frederick; mother, Sadie; sister, Shirley Frese Woods; and his beloved wife, Rosemary.

A Service will be held on May 4, 2019 at Jones & Jones-Betts Funeral Home, Wenatchee, WA. Please express your thoughts and memories on our online guestbook at jonesjonesbetts.com. Arrangements are by Jones & Jones–Betts Funeral Home, Wenatchee, WA.

 

The posting of this announcement brought forth a number of comments that were also posted:

 

I never met George, but I was familiar with his work.  He built the old KUTI 980 studio in Yakima.  Beautiful wiring.  And the documentation was excellent, clear, hand-drawn diagrams.

Several years ago I happened to be listening to KPQ when I was driving over the pass when they interviewed him about the history of the station.  Very entertaining.  Something about cutting the engineering shop loose in a flood to save the transmitter building.

 

Terry Spring

Chief Engineer

KWPX TV

 

I worked with George frese for a little bit on a project at a radio station in Tri-Cities when I first got into the business some 35 years ago.  It was on his audiopilot audio processor.   we had one at the station and it didn’t work very well so I called him up to talked to him about it,  we probably spent a good hour on the phone talking about it and other things,, he was a really smart sharp audio and RF engineer, rest in peace George.

 Dave Ratener.

Bill Wolfenbarger wrote:

Was that the class IV on 1340?  Part of the problem with that station was that the transmitter didn’t have the headroom.  The transmitter used tetrodes, I think it may have been a Wilkinson.

 

George came to Seattle with an Audio Pilot, installed it at KOL.  The deal was always that it was a trial and if you didn’t like it, he’d take it out.  So when George hooked it up, our GM (Dick Curtis) reported “it sounds like a 10 dB increase!”.  The purchase (as expensive as it was at $1,500) was not questioned.  Aside from the fact that it used lot of tubes and relays, the Audio Pilot really was ahead of its time.  George had thought of every little thing that would make things louder, including absolute control of negative peaks, float clipping, 100:1 compression ratio, polarity switching so that asymmetrical voices were louder, etc.

 

One problem that came up was new FCC rules on positive peaks.  Clay will remember this, we made changes in the Collins 21E transmitters to give them more headroom.  And as someone else reported, “Frese and Kaping” were meticulous with their wiring.  Because the Statute of Limitations has run out, I can now say that I felt a certain amount of pride when KOL received a letter from the local FCC office.  In part it said that KOL “positive peaks regularly exceeded 125%, and “not infrequently exceeding 200%”.  It later turned out that the commish was tipped off by the Program Director at KING.

  

Rest in peace, George…

 Wolf 

 

Andrew Skotdal wrote:

Clay, you may choose to mention that the pre-cursor to the Kinstar was created by George and is on the air at KAPS 660 right next to the freeway.  Lockwood knows the name of the particular AM antenna, but there are only two in America, the other is in Hawaii, and I’m not sure if it is still on the air.

 George put KRKO on the air from the Larimer Road location in Everett in 1958/59.  We have photos of him with his FIM, and he helped us for several years after I became GM in the 90’s. 

 George was recruited by opponents to the KRKO/KKXA antenna system on Short School Road and he actually testified against us in hearings.  He ultimately turned out to be OUR greatest opposition asset.  Sadly, the opposing council recruited George by splitting language and saying that our argument was we needed our AM antenna system to “be near water on a shoreline.” 

 

After we won, I flew to Wenatchee to meet with George and find out why he worked for the opponents.  He brought a friend to the meeting because he initially had a concern that I was going to “throw a pie in his face or something.”  Instead, I was actually there to tell him it was all ok.  What the opposing council never explained to George was the County designated the entire floodplain as “shoreline” for jurisdictional reasons.  Opposing council let him believe we were trying to be too close to the river because we wanted to have the antenna system in the water.  When he finally learned the meaning behind the language of “shoreline” he apologized and said he was led to believe the “shoreline” was different than the farming soil which was so important to AM transmission.  He conceded AM had to be in the Snohomish River Valley afterward and that was why he put KRKO in the valley back in 1958…also in the “shoreline.”

 He took me to his workshop that afternoon.  His QSL collection was massive and historically meaningful.  I hope they didn’t get tossed.  There were some treasures in his boxes.  And, his workshop was its own sort of museum to broadcasting.  George and his former engineering partner, Dwayne, were terrific people who cared a great deal about broadcasting.  He was saddened to see KGA-A downgraded from 50kW to 10kW to give an incremental boost to 2.5 kW for a Bay Area station.  I think he may have helped put that one on the air, but I know he helped reign it in from time to time, and I think he helped to move it.

 

Marty Hadfield added:

 

The KAPS ND short antenna system is a “PARAN”.

Rest In Peace, George.

Sincerely,

Marty Hadfield

Stephan Lockwood added a link for addition information on the PARAN Antenna.

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/158669

Dwight Small posted this –

Somewhere I have a copy of an article from the late 40’s that came from the Western Electric magazine. It’s the story of how George floated the KPQ transmitter building when the Columbia river flooded. He used surplus Army rafts and placed them under the building, disconnected what was necessary and floated the building when the water rose. I believe he used

a longwire to keep the station on the air. Very creative engineer.   RIP

 

DS

 

And from Tom McGinley-

There are few NW engineers who didn’t know about George Frese and his remarkable achievements and contributions to our craft. The lucky ones got to work with him on a project or 2. I recall working with George and Dwayne back in 1982 when I was hired to implement a DA-2 5 kW power increase for KGEZ 600 Kalispell, MT. George did the 301 app and the GM at the time there and I did the tune up and proof with George’s sage assistance on the phone providing background info. KGEZ was still running their Frese Audio Pilot at the time and was making 150% positive peaks with their new 5 kW McMartian tx running at 1 kW.

 

Arne Skoog removed an Audio Pilot used at KKOL 1300 back in the 80s and stuck it in the SEA CBS Radio basement bone yard. I always wanted to fire it up again and watch it play before I left in 2016 but the box went out to the KIRO-AM Radio Museum on Vashon under the superb curatorship of Steve Allen.

 

From John Price:

 

I first met George in 1977 when he came to KGY 1240 in Olympia to do the annual audio proof of performance. He pulled up late the night of the ‘Proof’ in a Jeep Wagoneer full of ammo boxes he used to cart around his test gear. He set his gear up, had a few questions and away we went. George came back again in 1978 to do the proof that year too. I had replaced the on-air console since his last visit; he found a couple of bugs that time, but they got cleared up. I was the KGY afternoon jock and ‘punk’ Chief Engineer from February 1977 until the first week of January 1979, and never had the opportunity to see, talk to or work with George again.

 

KGY had an Audio Pilot that was not operational when I got there. The previous CE Don Jones wanted to get it running when we put the MW1 on the air in early 1977. I fed some audio to it and had it running in standby mode. What I remember is the clicking of the Audio Pilot’s relays. It was in a half rack sitting in the small room behind the two transmitters and equipment racks, and you could hear the relays when you were in the adjacent on-air studio. I think we put it on the air once to test it, but in the end decided not to use it instead of the existing CBS Audimax and Volumax.    

 

Looking back at all of George’s experiences and accomplishments, I wish now I had taken the opportunity to sit down and talk to him. I’m sure I would have learned a lot. May you rest in peace sir.

 

JP          

 

 

And from Walt Jamison:

 

I am sorry for Georges poor health and death.  I first heard of George in the early 1960″s when he built an intermodulation filter for a friend at a station in Yakima.  My first contact with him was at a SBE meeting when he described his Audio Pilot.  Several discussions with him at SBE Equipment Shows.  Bob Holcomb and I showed him through the KOMO Vashon plant, I think during the 1990’s.  He was interested in the RCA BC 50F Transmitter.  My favorite story of his was the description of building that station in Kellog Idaho.  Because of the narrow steep valley the two towers were on opposite sides of the highway.  Convincing the FCC that it was not possible to make the usual close in field intensity measurements on the cliffs was a major problem.  Apparently the ‘flat landers’ there did not understand the Kellog geology.

 

   walt, W7PRB

 

 

 

I was sadden to learn of George’s passing last fall. Both Wil Voss now in Bellingham at Cascade Radio group and I worked with George for many years in the early 70’s.  Wil officially took over as the chief engineer for Duane Lee since George had left KPQ-AM & FM a few years before. I left the Wenatchee area in 73, and George shared with me a master copy of both the AM-FM version of the audio pilot. I also have a master copy of the Parin antenna that he designed for KAPS-AM 660 due to a very limited ground plane issue. KAPS still uses this antenna today in part to Steve Lockwood after it was damaged in a wind & lighting storm several years ago since George’s health would not allow him to travel and perform a major repair. I first meet George after I returned to the Wenatchee area after my father took ill in Alaska. The call AA7I and AA7H were George and Duane. That is where I got started  before high school when George helped me get ready for the novice exam that I later passed and earned the call: WN7EUE. This later changed over time to WB7EUE. George was a great teacher and he inspired me to continue my studies into the engineering field. George had many stories but the one I enjoyed the most was when the Columbia River flooded the antenna site and George floated the transmitter building and placed several small boats in line to suspend the RF cable to a long wire to the South Tower.

Rest in peace my friend.

Michael Gilbert

 

Allow me to add an item.  One encounter with George took place by telephone.  Out of the blue one day he called me on the phone.  I was CE of KMO in Tacoma at the time and he knew it.  He wanted to inform me that he had been hired to do an application for a new station in Hermiston, Oregon that would also be on 1360 and wanted to be the first to inform me that this would in no-way interfere with KMO.  His attitude could best be described as being ‘hat in hand’.  George was a ‘Class Act’.

I always like to try and end this column with a bit of humor.  This time, Cartoon type comments about winter weather seem appropriate.

Oh yes, one more thing –
THINK SPRING !!!!

As they say in Amateur Radio, 73

Clay Freinwald, CPBE, K7CR
SBE Member # 714  (2-5-68)