Clay’s Corner for Sept 2014
Welcome to FALL ! For most of you the autumnal equinox is officially Sept 22nd…but for those of us in the PNW Labor Day is just about it. Why else would the Seattle celebration of ‘Bumbershoot’ occur now? Actually we’ve had a wonderful warm and sunshine filled summer for which we are all thankful. From this point on our periods of warm and dry will be replaced by increased periods of cool and wet. Retailers are putting out their Halloween items already! As I write this column on Aug 30th, the sky is back to its normal light-gray and rain is falling and the air is un-believably fresh and wonderful smelling. For those of you reading this in drought stricken locations…..This is just one of the reasons that I choose to live here.
Remember that KUNS TV Antenna on the tower at West Tiger that they were trying to figure out when and how to take down. Well the decision was finally made to do the work on a succession of nights starting Sept 15th. Not totally sure why it was not taken down during our dry period. Seacomm will be doing the job.
Meanwhile down in Portland, Oregon…They have had a huge mess at what’s called the Stonehenge tower. My sincere thanks to Kent Randles of Entercom Portland for much of the following.
For those of you that are familiar with the towers on the West-Hill of Portland, you have likely seen this structure, looking much like Seattle’s Space Needle, without the saucer –
That pointy thing on top is a Jampro, spiral, master FM antenna, very much like the one at the Ratelco Site on Cougar Mt near Seattle (Home of 93.3, 95.7 and 105.3). In Portland’s case, this antenna, first put on the air in 1991, is fed with a big Shively Combiner which is connected a considerable number of high powered FM station transmitters.
Despite having a lightning bolt catcher on the top…The antenna became the ‘connection point’ for a sky-bolt back in July. There is a lot of hardware that connects that big combiner to the antenna. Now quoting Kent-
It’s fed with 9” line, inside the tower’s 6’ diameter center tube there’s a 3-way power divider with 4” outputs and two “trombone” phase-matching sections. 4” Heliax feeds 3 power dividers inside the antenna, one at the top of each bay. There are 2 more, smaller, “trombone” matching sections for two of the three spirals. The spirals are grounded at the bottom end. Lots of parts, but no exposed flexible lines.
It got hit by lightning on Sunday July 13th. After sweeping it they replaced damaged parts feeding the bottom section of the antenna, which took almost 2 weeks.
It was back on the air the 25th and it worked for about 36 hours and then all the high-power users VSWR’d off.
More sweeping, some disassembly then complete disassembly and cleaning of all transmission lines and power-dividers. They replaced almost all of the bullets and the center 4” in 3” out 3-way power-divider.
They have been pulling in almost every available tower worker in the Northwest, and have been working 6 or 7 days a week on the tower and 7 days a week on the ground cleaning parts.
When it gets completely back together and sweeps OK they will replace two of the spirals that have become damaged through the years. The spirals have de-icing heater elements inside of them.
They hope to have it back on the air by the middle of next week, about 9/3.
Here’s a picture showing a closer view of the antenna with a number of workers on it. Note the lightning dissipation array on the top (looking like flowers). The antenna on the left is a single bay antenna used by one of the stations at the site not connected to Combiner or Master Antenna.
During this time all the stations connected to the Master Antenna have been forced to use side-mounted antennas mounted lower on the structure. Due to the large size of the tower, their coverage has been considerably compromised.
Kent sent along a picture of one of the sections of transmission line that was damaged. UGLY ! Takes a lot of power and heat to do that.
I should note that Robert Rodgers of Broadcast Tower Company has been assisted by Joe Harrington of Harrington Tower from Seattle in this work.
This is yet another example of the importance of having not only adequate, but robust, back up facilities for major broadcast station transmitter facilities….especially those that use Combiners and Master Antennas where a lot of ‘eggs’ are in one basket.
More grumbles about the technophobes that give us the news – –
Earlier in the Month someone turned over a bus in Israel ….An apparent terrorist act. Listening close I came away with yet another example of where news story writers and reporters are at a complete loss when it comes to heavy equipment. If it’s yellow and has tracks – Call it a Bulldozer. If you listen to the story on various networks you get the feeling that they all are listening to each other as the description of the machine seemed to evolve over the next few hours. Some started calling it a ‘
Tractor’…..Then I heard the term ‘Back-Hoe’ (They still were not getting it)….One cable network settled in on ‘excavator’ ….However, I never heard the term ‘Track-Hoe’. Reminds me of the description used by this crowd for something that is used to roll freshly laid asphalt ….STEAM ROLLER. When was the last time one of these machines was powered by STEAM? Google is not much better…When you enter Steam Roller you get pictures of Diesel Powered machines…..Geeeesh !
This, my friends, is a picture of a STEAM roller – Next time you hear some say ‘Steam Roller’ show them this picture and ask them…”Like this?”
The October issue of Consumer Reports has an interesting piece called –“Navigating the electronics maze’. Here are a couple of items that caught my attention –
Talking about a survey of what drivers are using in their vehicles –
“ FM Radio is still the most popular, with 71% of respondents reporting they frequently tune in while driving …”
I found it interesting that this piece mentioned a number of other audio sources, Smartphones, Satellite Radio, CD’s, MP3 Players etc…But the letters “AM” don’t appear. We’ve long known that it had not been for the car-radio – Radio, as we know it, would likely have died a long time ago. Perhaps this is another verification of the apparent free-fall in the popularity of AM Radio.
In another paragraph they write
“Survey respondents had high praise for HD Radio, which came as a bit of a surprise to our auto testers. The vast majority of those who use it said they found it better than a regular FM radio signal in terms of sound quality and signal reception.. That doesn’t reflect our experiences while driving test cars,, with our staff often reporting unreliable HD Radio signals that frequently come and go, resulting in echoes and other annoying effects, even in suburbs near New York City”
Let me submit that this, perhaps, reflects very unfavorably upon those that own and operate these radio stations? There are a couple of solutions that can, and should, be deployed here –
1- The majority of FM Stations can (and should) increase their HD Power level ASAP. With zillions of new cars coming out with HD built in, what are broadcasters waiting for? Seems to me that now is the time to do their part of make HD work the best possible. I keep thinking about how impressive the HD2 performance is from our local KMPS-FM…AFTER they increased HD Power. Meanwhile those that have not taken this step sit on their butt and bitch about the performance of HD compared to FM (Geeesh!)
2- Echo’s ??? This is caused by lack of attention to time alignment between the FM and HD1 Signals and is easily corrected. Perhaps this is a manifestation of a lazy engineering department ?
On the topic of HD Radio –
Earlier this week I took my pickup into the dealer for some needed maintenance. The loaner they provide (a little Scion XD) had Pioneer HD Radio. This was my first time to play with a factory installed HD radio – and I was impressed. Here are a couple pics of the display- First looking at the KMPS HD-2
And this one, looking at KPLU’s HD-1
My first impressions –
Ø The display is very quick in displaying all you see when tuning in a station.
Ø The display of the station call and which HD Channel is cool – You instantly know if a station is Multicast (Multicast lights up) and you know how many HD channel there are to listen to.
Ø I did not play with the Tag or Text buttons as I only had it for a short time.
Ø I did drive from Auburn to South Center and back and the HD was solid (as I guess it should be)
Ø I did not like the change in EQ when it switched to HD however. The HD sounded great, but made the FM sound really bad, perhaps the HD Audio was overly EQ’d
Overall – Quite impressive.
There has been a thread going on one of the remailers about people taking their car back when they lose HD2 thinking that the radio is broken – I don’t know what this radio does in that case. A display of ‘lost signal’ etc. would certainly help that problem. Again, if other stations would follow the lead of CBS and increase their HD Power levels, many more would be able to enjoy HD Radio’s potential. I guess it’s hard to fathom that any broadcaster would not want to maximize their coverage…..Oh-Oh…I forgot…This has happened before with FM. If you are old enough to remember when FM stations starting coming on the air….Many of them were at relatively low transmitter sites running modest power. In many cases it took FCC action to force these broadcasters to move to higher elevations and run higher power. Come to think of it, we have a number of stations in this market that never did maximize what their channel would have permitted…Dare I mention 93.3, 94.9,95.7, 105.3, 106.9?
Under the headline of Changes at the top at Nautel comes word that Peter Conlon has been replaced by Kevin Rodgers as CEC of the company. Kevin has been with Nautel for a very long time as customer service manager and his move to the top spot is interesting in that, generally, folks in the sales department are the ones that get that chance. I’ve had a lot of conversations with Kevin over the years and even was his sponsor for SBE Certification. I sincerely wish him the best.
Another change coming, this time closer to home. Mark Allen who for many years has been the Washington State Association of Broadcasters (WSAB) president and CEO, has announced he will be retiring Dec 31, 2015. Talk about giving a lot of notice! I’ve had the privilege of working with Mark on our SECC (EAS Steering Committee) since the beginning of that work. Found it interesting how Mark got his start….Working at KASY in Auburn.
The recent earth quake in California presented (to some) another wake-up-call. Unfortunately , to others, another reason to snooze as they deny what is predicted to certainly take place. Take a look at this map – The Orange Area means that we are very likely to have a severe quake in this area.
In the aftermath of this event citizens of this area are going to be seeking information and, unfortunately, I fear that broadcasters will not be there to provide it for the simple reason that they don’t consider providing post- earthquake information a priority….After all who can sell spots during that time anyway. Business restoration is a very un-used concept in broadcasting. My challenge to the SBE Chapter in Seattle – Form a committee of Radio and TV broadcasters to educate station management on what they need to do to survive this predicted event.
It is interesting to note that a relatively new earthquake warning system was tested with the Napa Valley event. However it only provides a few seconds of warning. But here’s the big question – How to you translate a very short, let’s say 10 second warning, into a public warning message that everyone would receive. Just what kind of system would that require. WEA, EAS ? I doubt it as there is way too much through-put delay. …What then? And, of course, who is going to pay for it?
Here’s another area where many of our broadcast operations are asleep at the switch – Copper theft.
The day will certainly come that a broadcast operation will be put out of commission due to the fierce demand for this stuff. Once in a while someone gets caught – and only because the owners of the place were prepared. (Hint-Hint). Recently a dispatcher for SNOPAC 911 in Snohomish county noticed something out of place on one of their security cameras….A man with bolt-cutters. Fortunately surveillance cameras had been installed following a number of break-in’s in the County. She was in the right place as it was easy to dispatch officers to the scene and take into custody two dudes caught on TV breaking into a communications site used by several fire, police and military agencies. According to the story, scrap metal thefts cost about a billion dollars annually. Now I ask you…How many broadcast facilities have taken precautions to prevent this from happening to them?
When you get older a couple of things start happening –
Ø You get more questions asking when you are going to retire
Ø People start making remarks about aging (as if it will never happen to them)
Ø Your friends and co-workers start departing.
Thankfully while chatting with some folks at the recent celebration of life for Gary Engard it occurred me that getting older is a real blessing, especially in light of those that will not have the privilege. As if it were planned, I received an email from a friend who sent me this –
The advice of – take care of yourself – is ringing loud and clear. Just how long that old car will last has a lot to do with its design and so it is with us when you consider the role genetics have on our life-span. In the same way – the older that rig gets the more important preventative maintenance is required…aka tests and checkups. The bottom line is that life if finite …Make the best of it while you are here.
Looks like we will have some new LPFM’s coming to the area. 94.1 in Bellingham running 80 watts. Just enough to clobber the bonus coverage from Seattle’s KMPS who is co-channel. And then a new one on one of pirate radios favorite frequencies – 100.3 in Kent. Meanwhile another Seattle station will have a new co-channel neighbor with the CRTC approval of a new 107.7 to be located in Surrey….and a First Adjacent to KING-FM on 98.3 in Vancouver. Neither of the BC stations will be very high.
Dwight Small submitted this item –International Rectifier, who has given us many great products over the years, has been purchased by the German semiconductor company, Infineon for the tidy sum of $3 Billion. IR has been around almost as long as I have – started back in 1947.
Speaking of large amounts of money. We’ve all seen large antenna systems associated with broadcast systems…But what amount a boat-load of money on an antenna devoted to Amateur (HAM) radio?
A friend put the answer in the form of an mathematical formula –
Ham Radio + Insanity + Infinite Wealth = http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~kan1/newmonsterantenna2.html
New List Server – For several years we have had a list server (aka Remailer) dedicated to those that maintain things at West Tiger. Now, thanks to the efforts of Stephan Lockwood at Hatfield and Dawson we have a new system for email communication for those involved with Cougar Mt. For more information , contact Stephan at H&D – 206 783 9151.
In a recent column I wrote about the demise of KKDZ (ex KTW) on 1250. Andy, of KRKO fame, submitted the following –
KTW (now KKDZ) is one of only five radio stations in the Puget Sound region still in continuous operation since 1922…perhaps not for long. KGY was first, KJR (on different frequencies than now), KMO, KTW, and KFBL (now KRKO) were all licensed in 1922 in that order.
As for AM radio being ‘dead’…when a radio station is given zero marketing, zero local air staff, has virtually no local sales force, and engages in no promotions with the community, you might as well plan to kill it. ABC laid the blueprint for station execution and followed the plan into a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Audio fidelity aside, the chicken and egg argument still exists…and I would argue the current challenges facing the senior band are largely self-inflicted (without reference to all the mistakes the Commission has made along the way to flood the marketplace with frequencies, diminish protections, etc.). Music is what most people want. They can also be passionate for a person/personality. All the music moved to another band. Most groups ceased promoting or caring about the content on their AMs. An AM that is cared for and that has a committed core staff can work, though the economics will be more difficult than FM. Culling the heard may be the greatest benefit to the AM band. I’d love to see 50% or more of AM signals go away entirely.
What …A new CB Band ? – Reports that the comment period for establishing a new citizens band radio service at 3.5 GHz has been extended. The new band would be between 3.550 and 3.700 MHz The Commish is thinking more about networking computers than ‘working DX’. Not likely to see this gear in a Kenworth on the Interstate….But then again?
Alan Robinson whose snow-cat had transported many of us up South and Tiger Mountains has retired. The little Imp and related equipment now belongs to Wiztronics.
Well time for few questions to keep those gray cells active –
1. Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May.
…What was the third child’s name?
2. There is a clerk at the butcher shop, he is five feet ten inches tall and he wears size 13 sneakers
..…What does he weigh?
3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered,
….what was the highest mountain in the world?
4. How much dirt is there in a hole
…that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?
5. What word in the English language
…is always spelled incorrectly?
6. Billy was born on December 28th, yet his birthday is always in the summer.
….How is this possible?
7. In California, you cannot take a picture of a man with a wooden leg.
8. If you were running a race,
…and you passed the person in 2nd place, what place would you be in now?
10. Which is correct to say,
…. “The yolk of the egg are white” or “The yolk of the egg is white”?
11. If a farmer has 5 haystacks in one field and 4 haystacks in the other field,
…how many haystacks would he have if he combined them all in another field?
Here are the Answers
1. Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?
Answer: Johnny, of course
2. There is a clerk at the butcher shop, he is five feet ten inches tall, and he wears size 13 sneakers. What does he weigh?
3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?
Answer: Mt. Everest; it just wasn’t discovered yet. [You’re not very good at this are you?]
4. How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?
Answer: There is no dirt in a hole.
5. What word in the English language is always spelled incorrectly?
6. Billy was born on December 28th, yet his birthday is always in the summer. How is this possible?
Answer: Billy lives in the Southern Hemisphere
7. In California, you cannot take a picture of a man with a wooden leg. Why not?
Answer: You can ‘t take pictures with a wooden leg. You need a camera to take pictures.
8. If you were running a race, and you passed the person in 2nd place, what place would you be in now?
Answer: You would be in 2nd. Well, you passed the person in second place, not first.
9. Which is correct to say, “The yolk of the egg are white” or “The yolk of the egg is white”?
Answer: Neither, the yolk of the egg is yellow [duh!]
10. If a farmer has 5 haystacks in one field and 4 haystacks in the other field, how many haystacks would he have if he combined them all in another field?
Answer: One. If he combines all of his haystacks, they all become one big one.
That’s it for this month – enjoy Autumn – Catch you a month closer to Winter –
Clay, K7CR, CPBE