Clay’s Corner for January 2019

January 30, 2019
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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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