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Clay’s Corner for May 2019

April 28, 2019
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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

 

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)

 

 

 

Clay’s Corner for February 2019

January 31, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner

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

Thus far, except for a couple dandy wind-storms, we have been having a pretty mild winter.  From what some say…It’s because of the Polar Vortex that’s giving much of the country something to shiver about.  The wind storm on January 6th was, thankfully, short in duration…Had it lasted longer there would have been a lot of damage.  Because my power was out…I decided to break out my ‘fiber and carbon based’ computer system (Paper and Pencil) and make some notes –

The Great January 6th Windstorm of 2019

A few, random, thoughts about this ‘big-blow’

  • NWS was ‘right-on’ with their predictions.  Kudo’s to the crew at Sand Point!
  • Winds hit my place, in Auburn, about 1 a.m. as if a switch was thrown.
  • About 1:30 a.m. – My power was out and I could watch flashes of Green, Blue, Amber etc. in the skyline to the South and West (quite the light show)
  • About 2 a.m. my first phone call from a Board Operator at a ‘certain radio station’ telling me there were alarms going off all over! (He may have quoted from ‘Chicken Little’)
  • At 2:29 a.m. received my first message from PSE on my Cellphone

We’re on it! Work will be underway soon to restore power at your location, estimated restoration 4 a.m.

  • At 3:35 a.m. – Another message –

It’s taking longer than expected to restore your power

  • About as quickly as it started, the winds died down, as did the phone calls, and I got some sleep.
  • About 6, I woke wanting information….So I dug out my trusty wind-up Radio and went to the station that bills itself as a ‘news station’….I quickly learned a few things.

1-    They apparently did not plan on this event, or staff up for it.

2-    Information was very sketchy and lacked much detail.

3-    Apparently I was alone in thinking that after a major wind-storm radio would have tons of information about damage, power outages, roads blocked etc.

4-    Soon afterward, the station starting running some canned talk-show (No help).

5-    I decided to tune into another radio station in the area that used to do a lot of news…No help there either as they too were running ‘canned’ talk shows.

6-    I concluded that these radio stations bill themselves as places for news, so long as it fits with their programming.

7-    Sunday mornings, apparently, bad times for bad events.  Had this storm come 24 hours later, they’d probably would have been all over it.

8-    Interesting how the Engineering Department is ‘expected’ to be all over storm related events, but the news department is not?

9-    Not having a Generator, or a wind-up TV Set, I have no idea of what local TV was doing.

  • So I spent the day doing what I usually do after an event like this – Gather Data, make phone calls, visit sites, damage assessments etc.
  • My truck ‘display’ shows signal strength of cell sites (taken from my phone) could not help but notice, as I drove along, there were a number of locations with zero cell signal.  Apparently not all cell-sites have auxiliary power!
  • By about 4 p.m. – I called my wife to see if power had come back on at home…She said no, so I told her to get ready as I was going to stop and pick her up and go out for dinner.
  • At about 735 PM – My power came back on.  Only about an 18-hour outage, but it seemed like days.  We were ready to settle down around our wood-stove for another night.
  • At 739PM I received a text message from PSE  – Power should be back on in your area.

So what’s it like when you are a broadcast engineer and, after the storm, you have to go out and fix it….and your location is on a local mountain?  Often you are called to deal with things that have fallen down.

This from Doug Fisher as he was trying to get up South Mountain:

Of course….Broadcast Engineers are supposed to carry chain-saws!

And this from Arthur Willets as he was trying to go up West Tiger

Further up the road you get into snow.   Here you can see a couple “Broadcast Engineers’ sawing up a downed tree.   This view is looking ‘down’ the road as indicated by the vehicles in the background waiting to get ‘up’ the road.  (Thanks Alex Brewster)

Meanwhile, in the low-lands and big city – The wind had its way with things too.

Gotta love this one – From Mike Brooks of a Porta-Potty he found in the middle of Western Ave. on his way to work at KING-FM.   Hope it was not in use at the time!

From PSE comes this one ..What are the odds that a falling tree would do this?…UGH!

Here’s a great picture of one of the towers at West Tiger-2 taken by ATC’s Site Manager Joe Taylor….Note the ice covering everything.

The amount of ice on the West Tiger Tower is nothing compared to the following.    From the looks of the antennas, I suspect Europe.   Note the poor guy trying to make it up the climbing ladder.

According to NWS….We have indeed been having some rather warm weather…In fact, on January 11th it broke a record for the warmest on that date – 61 Degrees.  This beat the old record, set back in 1987, of 59.  Guess I should have known…buy new MT’s for the Pickup and – No-Snow!  Guess we have some winter left.

Here’s a nice shot, from the AccelNet camera on West Tiger.  Towers on the right are what we call – West Tiger-2.

In the next picture you can see the top of the easterly tower at WM-2.

At the top, side mounted on the pole that used to be used by KUNS-(TV) prior to their move to Queen Ann Hill, is the temporary KZOK/102.5 Antenna.

Below that is the 4 foot face square tower that housed the FM Master Antenna that burned.

On the left, or West Side, is the new – Temporary- Antenna that will be used until summer when the Master Antenna is replaced.  If you look closely, you can see a man in yellow sitting on the 3rd bay from the bottom.

This antenna is also made by ERI and is what they call an Axiom, consisting of 4-half-wave space, 2 bay antennas.

This temporary antenna is not capable of handling the power of all 6 of the stations at the site, therefore, KBKS/106.1 will continue to operate at the other (West Tiger-1) site until the Master Antenna is restored.

I asked one of the Engineers working at the site recently how the temporary antenna was working, noting that I had not heard any reports…He said he guessed that everyone was just happy to again be able to operate their main transmitter.

This will all happen over again this summer when the Master Antenna is installed.  The temporary antenna will come down and these stations will again be operating from Auxiliary facilities.  There is some consideration being given to installing the present temporary antenna on the other tower at the site providing FM users with an auxiliary antenna should something cause the new/replacement master to fail.

 

How about a complete change to something pretty?

This from old-friend, Dwight Small taken from his home on the Lake – Hard to imagine having to wake up to this view in the morning.

So what’s happening elsewhere –

  • Sirius XM wound up 2018 with 34 Million Subscribers.  Not too bad for a system that many said was doomed to fail when it started.
  • Do you have a Smart Speaker?  Some 8% of Americans received or bought one over the holidays.  It’s estimated that 21% or 53 million Americans now have one.
  • The Federal Government shut-down was impacting the FCC and its relationship with broadcasters.  At least for now, the situation has eased.  At this stage, all the crystal-balls used to forecast things in W.D.C. are out of commission.
  • One of my daily activities is to check the FCC’s Daily Releases…Wow, not much there these days.
  • The recently completed CES in Vegas created a lot of interest in new/fancy electronics for vehicles…From 5G to Voice Commands.
  • Lawmakers, with apparently some time on their hands, have been persuaded to urge the FCC to take what they are calling a ‘balanced approach’ to changes in the ‘C-Band’.  Perhaps as a result of the pressure being brought by broadcasters.
  • I understand that CBS Sports is going to use 4K and 8K cameras for Super Bowel LIII.

In one of those ‘Click-Bait’ items I looked at recently was a list of items that put out to pasture.  Among them was the Rolodex.

I have you know I have one of these just to my left as I type this….I am happy to report that it continues to be used on a regular basis to contain a lot of information I need for my activities.

Anyone else still using a Rolodex?

We recently lost a giant in the world of broadcast engineering with the passing of Warren Shulz, WA9GZX on December 31st.  Warren not only was an EAS Leader in Illinois, but long known as Chief Engineer of WLS.

I first met Warren a number of years ago, when he invited me to Chicago to talk about EAS.  In the last couple of years he and I would be exchanging emails on a regular basis talking about a variety of broadcasting issues.  Warren was an engineer’s engineer, after retirement building amateur radio projects…He loved antennas!

Did you ever wonder where they test those rovers that are on Mars?  Apparently Morocco.

Here’s a picture of Doug Fisher.   He and I were involved in the removal of the Antenna Tuning Units at the 1210 Site East of Auburn recently.  Doug owns Comtech Service.

On the subject of the disassembly of the 1210 night site….here are a coupleof  pictures of that process.  This shows the inside of the 4-Tower ‘Phasor’.  There is some interesting history here.  Notice the 3 holes on the left side of the left cabinet.  This equipment, as supplied by Kintronic back in 1990, was originally a 3 cabinet system designed for a 50 kW Day/10 kW night operation.  That cabinet was disconnected and moved to the other 1210 site on the west side of Auburn where it became part of the 27.5 kW ‘Day Site’.  For many years 1210 operated via this equipment at night.

Whereas AM Directional Antenna equipment is pretty much all custom-built, it was taken apart so that its components (Coils and Capacitors) could be used with some other AM station making changes and/or upgrades.

The Antenna Tuning Units (more Coils and Capacitors etc.) were housed in cabinets at the base of each tower.  Those have been moved from the site where they too will be harvested for component needs.

In taking this apart, I was constantly impressed by the amount of planning and labor it took to create this device.  It’s no wonder that Kintronic has the reputation they do.

I will have to admit that it’s hard to dismantle something that you worked so hard on 30 years ago to construct.

After removal of everything of value….We are left with this.  All the parts are gone and only the skeleton remains that will soon see the scrap dealer.

The facilities equipment racks, shown behind in this picture, are going to move on to become devices to house components for another station.

 

1210 is just one of many AM Stations that are contracting.  In this case, choosing to operate from their Day-Site, at night, with substantially less power.  Some AM’s are also choosing to reduce expenses and operate with less power…while others are throwing in the towel all together.

I’ve read stories about AM’s that have gained an FM Frequency via what’s known as an AM Translator, who have asked the regulators if they can keep the FM Frequency and forever turn off the AM.

Perhaps related to this issue are the tests that are being conducted using all-digital AM.  My guess is that there are many that feel that perhaps the lack of digital AM receivers could be overcome by the potential advantages that an all-digital system could provide.  I guess time will tell.

In the meantime we are likely to see the AM Band begin to resemble what it looked like 50 years ago.  Certainly the Station/Listener ratio is out of balance.  Broadcasting is not exempt from the laws of ‘Supply and Demand’.

Here’s a gem I just had to share – Another example of technology changes:

Remember when you had the cassette deck in your car radio do this?

Geography is something that challenges many – I recently read this one:

‘Nothing is built in America any more…I just bought a TV and it said –  BUILT IN ANTENNA’

I have little time to browse on-line…But once in a while I come across a face I recognize.

In this case, a very serious Ben Dawson.

 

From the look of the items on the workbench and the equipment behind him, I’d say he was deep into a Directional AM Station somewhere.

I was looking through my recent emails to find a chuckle to leave you with this month –

How about what happens when you ask a younger person to use a Dial Telephone?

https://www.facebook.com/DidThatJustHappenDM/videos/243318273233282/

Short on time this month.  Lord willing, I will do it again in a month.

Thanks for the read!

As they say in Amateur Radio, 73

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

Clay’s Corner for January 2019

January 30, 2019
By

Clay’s Corner for January 2019

Clay’s Corner

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

Let’s start the year with a pretty picture!     The following was taken by fellow NWPB engineer, Jason Royals.  He stopped to put chains on all 4 wheels of his truck on his way to a transmitter site on Paradise Ridge which, in this scene, lies under a blanket of clouds in the distance.   Normally you try and avoid the lens artifacts caused by the sun…but in this case…I think the effect is spectacular.

Congratulations to Russ Mundschenk, who is the 15th recipient of the Radio World Excellence in Engineering Award.  Russ is a senior manager of broadcast engineering for Xperi, which owns and promotes HD Radio digital technology.    I’m proud to be among that group of 15.    Like previous years, he will be honored in Las Vegas, in April, during the NAB Show.

 

One of the recipients of this award, back in 2011 was Barry Thomas who, on December 6th passed losing his long fight with Cancer.   I was on the SBE Board with him when Barry found out what he was dealing with in 2008.  He came back with, after major surgery unable to turn his head…but, despite it all …He continued to serve the Society as President and do the work he was called to do for 35 years.  Barry was 56.

 

Jim Liefer, President of SBE issued this statement

 

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Barry Thomas, CPBE, DRB, CBNE, who died on Dec. 6, 2018. Barry devoted a great deal of his time and talents to the Society of Broadcast Engineers. He joined the SBE in 1986 and served the SBE with involvement in several local SBE chapters and on the national level. His national involvement included two terms on the SBE Board of Directors from 2002 to 2005, and two terms as treasurer from 2005 to 2007. He served as the society’s 25th president from 2007 to 2009 and immediate past president from 2009 to 2011. In 2017 he was elected to serve on the board again, but decided to step down early in his term. In 2011, Barry was elevated to the membership grade of Fellow.

On Barry’s passing, SBE President Jim Leifer, CPBE, said, “Barry served the SBE in many capacities and has been a voice for many engineers in our industry for decades. After hearing this news, I remembered so many occasions where Barry spent time developing younger engineers and being that mentor so many of us talk about. He was a devoted father, son, brother and fellow engineer who will be sorely missed by all.”

After one of the driest Novembers ever….Winter got going in December with some wild weather.  The headline was a, short-lived, but destructive F2 Tornado in Port Orchard on December 18th.    These are pretty rare in this neck of the woods.   Perhaps you recall the F3 in the Vancouver/Portland area back in 1972?   Then, on the 20th we had a nasty windstorm that saw over 300,000 loose power.   Mt Baker got hit with a 117 mph gust.

Apparently things are moving along with the Chapter 11 Reorganization at iHeart Media with over 90% of the creditors and shareholders approving the most recent plan.     This is certainly good news for all concerned.

If you are like me – You have been receiving reminders that the annual trek to the desert is only a couple of months away.   The 2019 NAB Show will be held April 6-11 in Las Vegas.   Whereas I received an award last year…I get free registration for the whole event for the rest of my life…All I have to do is show up.   Pretty cool.   However looking in the mirror, I can tell that they got a bargain.

Periodically someone makes a statement that needs to be repeated.   In this care, Gray Haertig wrote –

 “Never assume a conspiracy when incompetence is sufficient to explain the facts.”

 

One of the blessings of my work is being able to getting away from freeways and traffic congestion and be able to enjoy this wonderful part of country.    Generally, when you see a picture of our scenery it’s taken with clear blue skies and sunshine.  The one I want to share with you today was taken on my way down from Striped Peak (west of Port Angeles)  Below me is thick fog in the valley of SR-112.   Above is typical winter overcast.   In the distance you can see snow on top of the peaks on the northern edge of the Olympics.

 

Thanks to Ralph Sims and the crew at Accel Net, we now have a 24 hour Web Camera at West Tiger.  The camera is always generally pointed east.   I captured this picture just after sunrise (hence the yellows in the picture)  In the foreground you can see construction of the foundation for what will be a new tower (at this writing the concrete has been poured) In the distance you can see the twin-towers at which has become known at West Tiger-2.   The furthest of those towers held the FM Antenna that recently caught fire.     All of us that travel to West Tiger now rely on this camera to tell us what conditions to expect.  This road continues to the West to the Summit of West Tiger where the other broadcast site is located.

So what happened with the FM Antenna that burned?    Well it’s been removed.    The following pictures show some of that process.

Here you can see the big antenna is starting to be taken apart. (Note ropes and cables on the right)

Here 4 of the 32 ‘Bays’ or ‘elements’ have been removed.

 

Here you can see one of the Antenna Bays on the way down.  If you look close you can see that this one is partially burned.

Putting things in perspective –

Note how big these are compared to the worker.

 

With all of the antenna elements on the ground – Quite a collection

 

Looking up the tower now – You see the 4 foot face tower, covered with screen, where the antenna pieces were mounted

Above this is the pole that used to hold the antenna for KUNS-TV .   That was removed a couple of years ago when the station moved its transmitting equipment to the KOMO-TV Tower on Queen Ann Hill.    This pole was put to good use as a means of supporting a temporary antenna for KZOK

This area of the tower where the burned antenna will be used to mount a temporary antenna that all stations can use to get back to broadcasting from the site.   The antenna, an 8-bay ERI Axiom,    Because the temporary antenna will be side mounted, it will not be Omni-directional and will, reportedly, not be able to handle the same amount of power.

Installing the Temporary Antenna, this time of year, is problematic, due to the sites elevation (very close to that of Snoqualmie Pass) and, of course, the weather.   Everyone is now hoping for what we call a ‘Weather Window’ so the job can be done.

ATC’s announced plans are for replacing the damaged Master Antenna…Sometime in the Spring when the weather is conducive for this kind of work – Usually late April at the earliest.  They are considering mounting the Temporary Antenna on the other tower at the site providing the site with a permanent auxiliary antenna.

In the following  picture you can see the tower crew putting together the temporary KZOK/102.5 Bext Antenna.

Here is a close-up of the above antenna mounted on that pole.

The Beacon Light, seen here on the top of the pole, has not worked since the fire due to damage to its wiring

Meanwhile, Entercom installed a new antenna for 94.1 on the West Tiger-1 Tower (Red Arrow) along with a transmitter that will function as a back up to their, presently in use auxiliary facilities on Cougar Mountain.

 

Many moons ago I helped a fellow get started in broadcasting.    In chatting with Lowell Kiesow recently, he said that Nick Winter has officially retired.   In my last conversation with Nick, he said he may continue to do some contract work, but is now looking forward to doing what he wants to do going forward.    Congratulations Nick on achieving this milestone.

For those of us that live in northern latitudes, we have come to expect short days this time of year.  I found the following to be quite interesting –

The winter solstice is the shortest day. It offers the shortest period of daylight. But, unless you live close to the Arctic Circle or Antarctic Circle, your earliest sunsets aren’t on or even near the solstice itself. Instead, your earliest sunsets will come before the winter solstice. The exact date of earliest sunset depends on your latitude. If you live in the southernmost U.S., or a comparable latitude (say, around 25 or 26 degrees N. latitude), your earliest sunsets are in late November. If you’re farther north – say, around 40 degrees N. latitude – your earliest sunsets are around December 7.

After what seems like a very long wait – Locally based T-Mobile has announced they hope to close the deal with Spring in the 2nd Quarter of 2019.   I have to give T-Mobile credit for one aspect of their marketing effort ….Adopting the color Magenta.    As I was driving by one of their locations recently, at night, their location was known, some distance away.   Can’t think of another brand or product that has achieved this – Note the following –

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/02/10/court-says-t-mobile-owns-the-color-magenta/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9e3d6cd5a777

It happens this time of year – Dictionary.com is out with their 2018 ‘word of the year’

Misinformation

Dictionary.com defines misconception as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.    If they had rated the 2018 Phrase….Wonder if it would have been ‘Fake News’?

Another one for the record books for 2018 has to be the epidemic of Robo-Calls.   Recently my home phone rang with a Robo-call…and within a minute my Cellphone received the same call –Same message, same voice.

In the past month I have received a number of emails that appear to come from me.   One is a message telling me how my computer has been hacked with a request to send money using Bit-Coins.   They go on and on telling me how they have been watching what I do while on-line using a web-camera.   This is funny, because I don’t have one.   I carefully scan my computer on a regular basis using a variety of tools…Nope, they have not gotten into my system, what they have done is spoofed my email address.   Just like they spoof phone numbers when they call your cell.

Here’s an interesting one – I was driving along when my vehicles display lit up announcing I was receiving a call from ‘Clay Freinwald’.   Knowing that I am unlikely to call myself on the phone while driving I did not answer.   What was interesting is the displayed Phone Number (see below).  In this case they are able to send a string of Zero’s for the number and Spoof my name

Later I took this picture of my phone to share with you –

Has this ever happened to you?

 

Staying ahead of us, just bit – NHK has announced that it will launch its 8K channel in Japan with a broadcast of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”    Over there they are calling 8K ‘Super Hi Vision’.  A lot of their source material are films that were shot in 70mm which they claim is close to 8K quality.

Recent news shows that house prices (finally) are dropping in the Seattle area…In fact, faster than anywhere else in the country.   Reports show they went down 1.3% in September.   Unfortunately, for those of us that own our homes, this will not mean an immediate drop in property taxes.      It’s nice not having a mortgage and no debt, however, I like to say that we ‘lease’ our lot from the County.   A comment like that often results in some push-back.   I go on to explain that our lease payments are made twice a year to the County.    If you think you own the land your house is on…Think again!   Stop making those ‘lease payments’ and you will quickly find out who owns that property.

Got this picture of some old gray-bearded broadcast engineers recently – That Terry Spring (ION Media) on the left and Rob Purdy (Hubbard) on the right.

 The following are comments recently posted on a national broadcast engineers remailer by Greg Muir of Great Falls Montana who writes about how so much of today’s electronic equipment is no longer repairable in the field.

Oh, there will be a time when people will no longer

dabble in fixing archaic electronics.  That time will be

when us legacy engineers with considerable knowledge

in detailed circuitry workings eventually perish and give

way to those who only have the need to know how to

plug-n+IBk–play commercial modules purchased from

a manufacturer.  The need to learn circuit theory will be no

more since nearly piece of equipment will only be serviceable on a modular

basis or by sending the entire unit back to the manufacturer who only uses

proprietary components and holds all circuit details closely to their chest.

If it breaks, put it in a box with postage.  It’s not your problem.

 

We are now faced with broadcast management having to cough up large sums of

money to replace an entire assembly or unit since the manufacturer no longer

will provide detailed support but, instead will gladly sell you a rebuilt

subassembly for thousands of dollars instead of letting you replace that +ACQ-10

part – if it is even replaceable.

 

We now see consumers (i.e. our listeners and viewers) facing the age of

+IBw-disposable electronics+IB0- since repairability is virtually no more.  It is

cheaper to throw things away and purchase new sending the broken item over

to a foreign country to pollute their land instead of ours.  And, besides

that, why try to fix anything since it is better to get instant

gratification by buying the latest and greatest (I often refer to those

users as being constantly +IBw-technologically optimistic+IB0-), plugging it in and

making it work.  Heck, if you can fight problems by only having to sit

behind a keyboard or sliding your finger over the face of a phone or tablet,

you now have the world by the tail.

 

Aside from gritting my teeth and having to occasionally purchase a new piece

of very expensive test equipment for the lab, a portion of our inventory

still consists of 20-30 year-old equipment that still functions and is as

accurate as new equipment that is purchased today.  And it is fixable+ACEAIQAh-

 

End of rant.  It+IBk-s time to get back to working with my vacuum tubes and

transistors+ICY-.

 

I think about this topic often as I drive by a, now vacant, TV repair shop in my home town…’Colortronics’  how TV Sets and much of consumer electronics are no longer repaired but are simply thrown away when they no longer function.    Just for drill, I Googled Colortronics in Auburn, WA. ….Yes their Web Site is still there as if they were up and running.

Proving yet another point…Don’t trust Web Sites to be taken down when a business goes away.

I’m much like Greg, I went to school to learn how to repair electronic devices down to the smallest part.   And, to support this effort, I collected a large number of electronic parts and pieces which, only recently, I have been (reluctantly) throwing away.    Today I will, if the opportunity comes along, actually build something using a lot of those parts.   Repurposing a piece of equipment that I ‘rescued’ from the dumpster is in my blood I guess.   In today’s world the attitude seems to be if you can’t buy something ‘off the shelf’ from someone to resolve an issue – It can’t be done.    Being from the old-school, we looked at these needs as a challenge to design something, build it, install it and admire our handy-work.     Have to hand it to guys like Don Winget who was able to escape being a broadcast engineer in Seattle for Skagit County where his love of creating solutions was turned into a business.  Today you find Broadcast Tools equipment everywhere.    Don is one of the lucky ones!

I recently got into a discussion about the use of the term Translator in Radio – Translators that ‘translate’ or re-broadcast FM Stations are called ‘FM-Translators while translators that translate AM Stations on FM are called ‘AM-Translators.

Here’s an item that only an Engineer could appreciate.   At the end of pieces of Flanged Rigid RF Transmission line are often found plastic covers.    Not wishing this item to be thrown away..

I waited for a better use to come up.    It took a while, but finally happened one day as I was waiting for a returned phone call.   3-Transmisson line bolts and PRESTO!  I had the perfect container for paper clips on my desk.   Something that perhaps only broadcast engineers that deal with transmitting equipment could appreciate!  🙂

 

Once again bidding wars are the name of the game for some TV assets….In this case-  regional sports networks belonging to Fox, Tribune and WGN.    Look for some big-names and big-money in this one.   Some of those seeking these properties are names that are not normally associated with Broadcasting.

Other big deals to be announced are for the Tribune  and  Cox Stations.    All of which will have a certain impact on operations in the Seattle area.

Other deals in the works are a reported sale of Nielsen (The firm that provides media ratings)

Another picture to share .   I was recently joined by, now retired from WSU, Don Eckis as I inspected the operation of the NWPB Radio Translator on Green Mountain east of Kalama.   Don is now back living in Vancouver

 

Another local AM on the decline story – In this case, the AM Station licensed to Auburn, WA.

This station started life in 1958 as KASY running 250 watts, day-time only on 1220.   The station was started by Ed Garre and his wife June operating out of a little house in downtown Auburn (Torn down a few years ago to make way for a large apartment building)  The call letters were a natural as Auburn was, and to a degree, still is, at Railroad town. (Casey was the legendary railroad engineer).  At some point the station increased power to 2500 Watts Daytime only on 1220 using a directional pattern and two towers.    The station later increased power to 10kw Day and 1Kw night Non-Directional and moved to 1210 when the Clear Channels were opened up.  Later, they received a construction permit to increase power to 50kw Day and 10Kw night at a new location.    About that time, in the late 80’s,  Viacom had purchased 97.3 FM (then KNBQ) and was changing formats to oldies and figured having a simulcast AM would be a good idea.  They purchased the station (and this is where I came in).   The late Arne Skoog and I embarked on building the transmitter site on the east side of Auburn.   After initial testing it was determined that this was not a good location.   So the station continued to operate for a while with its transmitter operating 10Kw Day and 1Kw night.    It was eventually determined that the towers (once used for the 1220 directional system near the Valley Freeway on the west side of Auburn) would work for 1210 during the day with 27,500 watts.     Viacom made the decision to operate during the day at the old West Auburn location and operate, at night, with 10,000 watts at the newly constructed site on East Side of Auburn as KBSG-AM.    The station was purchase with 97.3 by Entercom and continued to operate using various formats and call letters.   Entercom sold the station to Bustos Media where the format was changed to Latino using, again, various call letters.  This two-site operation continued until just a couple of weeks ago as KMIA.

The present owner of the station, Amador Bustos, wanting to reduce expenses, decided to abandon the 10,000 watt 4-Tower directional night site in favor of operating with a fraction of that power, using the same antennas and location as used for Daytime.     Whereas the property for the night site was leased, it made a great deal of economic sense.

In looking at the files I pulled a copy of the Viacom purchase order for the towers that I signed back in 1989…..A flood of memories overtook me for a moment as I was involved in the birth and death of a transmitter site.    By the first week in January all the equipment will have been removed and the towers made ready for removal .

Unlike many AM Stations the site did not become too valuable to continue to be used for broadcasting…It was a simple matter of economics where AM stations don’t produced the revenue they once did and retraction is a viable option. Prior to being a AM transmitter site the property was used for a 3-hole golf course – Now it will be used for who knows what.   The property remains in the Garre family who have reportedly put it up for sale.  For me it means less work – and, as Martha would say….That’s a good thing.

I have this feeling that I will, again in this coming year, write about another AM that is either downsizing or is throwing in the towel.    Like a lot of things, they have life-cycles…just never thought that AM Radio would be one of them, as viewed from 50 years ago.

Then there is this –

Media Contact:

Brian Hart, (202) 418-0505

brian.hart@fcc.gov

For Immediate Release

FCC PLAN FOR THE PARTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

WASHINGTON, December 22, 2018—Brian Hart, Director of the FCC’s Office of Media Relations, issued the following statement regarding the FCC’s plan for the partial government shutdown:

“Because of available funding, the Federal Communications Commission plans to remain open and pay staff at least through the close of business on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, despite the partial government shutdown.”

 

My old friend, Dwight Small sent me the following picture –

How many of you that work in TV remember the name CONRAC ?    Long before flat-screen and Multiview displays where TV Monitors made by this firm.   Whereas I worked in TV stations where a lot of equipment was purchased from RCA – They were always painted Dark Umber.

I wonder how many remember Conrac? A 6080 with a code date of 68-09.

https://picclick.com/RCA-6CG7-6FQ7-for-Conrac-Vacuum-Tubes-Used-182983184173.html

Sad to report on the passing of another in our business.    Jeff Nordstrom left us around Christmas.    For those of you that have been working in Broadcasting in the Seattle area for a long time that name might sound familiar.   Jeff worked at 1590/102.5 back in the 60’s.    I recall, at the time, I would buy tubes from him that would no longer work in the 1590 transmitter that would work just fine in my modified transmitter at KMO.    Jeff left the area to work in Satellite Distribution and later Harris Allied when they were selling equipment.    I would, occasionally, run into him at NAB.    He had an infectious personality, and a big smile and always a story to tell.   In recent years, Jeff was living in Wisconsin.   When I got the news, I let Marty Hadfield and Dwight Small know…They both remember him …Perhaps you did too?

And then, thanks to Century Link  – We all received a variation of this one –

 

EAS and WEA went nuts trying to let us know that calling 911 was not going to work etc. etc.  In the end, on the 31st….We all heard that the problem was traced to a gizmo in Denver that was reportedly sending out bad data.    Just how a problem in Denver would cause our local 911 system to crash is creepy.     One would think that these systems would be geographically isolated and not be inter-dependent.   I was always taught to avoid SPOF’s (Single Points of Failure).    It appears that Century Link does not subscribe to this ‘old school’ thinking.   One of the local TV Stations ran a story on how one county in this area chose another vendor the last time this happened and how C-Link got fined.    I suspect that this time, it could be worse for them as interest has risen to very high levels.

 

 

Well now, as we start a new year – Some items that will, hopefully, bring a smile –

From the ‘something to ponder’ department

Did you every give the number ‘Zero’ much thought?    Many have not – https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/7/5/17500782/zero-number-math-explained

This all leads me to ask –

  • is dead air Zero?

 

  • Can there be degrees of nothing?

 

  • What about the difference between – aught, naught and nought?

 

  • When in TV you ‘fade to black’ how can you state there is no picture when black is simply a dark color?

 

  • If you were to assign numbers to colors – if White is Zero would Black be infinite?

And from the Questions with few answers department

Ø If poison expires, is it more poisonous or is it no longer poisonous?

 

Ø Which letter is silent in the word “Scent,” the S or the C?

 

Ø Why is the letter W, in English, called double U? Shouldn’t it be called double V?

 

Ø Every time you clean something, you just make something else dirty.

 

Ø 100 years ago everyone owned a horse and only the rich had cars. Today everyone has cars and only the rich own horses.

 

Ø If you replace “W” with “T” in “What, Where and When”, you get the answer to each of them.

 

Ø Why is there a ‘D’ in fridge, but not in refrigerator?

 

Ø Who knew what time it was when the first clock was made?

 

Ø Wonder why the word funeral starts with FUN?

 

Ø Why isn’t a Fireman called a Water-man?

 

Ø If money doesn’t grow on trees, how come Banks have Branches?

 

Ø How do you get off a non-stop Flight?

 

Ø Why are goods sent by ship called CARGO and those sent by truck SHIPMENT?

 

Ø Why is it called ‘Rush Hour’ when traffic moves at its slowest then?

 

Ø How come Noses run and Feet smell?

 

Ø Why do they call it a TV ‘set’ when there is only one?

 

Ø What are you vacating when you go on a vacation?

 

With that….It’s clearly time to end this column for this month.

 

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

Until then – May you have a wonderful new year !

 

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member for over 50 years, #714.

 

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