Clays Corner June 2017

June 1, 2017

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

I have long known that if you talk despairingly about a piece of equipment, somehow that item will find out and get even.  Apparently, there are times that this works for weather as well.  In last month’s column, I showed a picture of a big lightning bolt striking a tower and went on to state (foolishly) that this kind of thing rarely takes place in the Seattle area.

When I was at West Tiger Mt. on Monday – May 1st – It was snowing.  The first time many of us have seen May snow up there.  Then a couple days later, on the 4th, as I was doing a late-night/early morning bit of maintenance – it was 67 Degrees at 6 a.m.  Obviously, a big inversion, as it was about 15 degrees cooler in the city which was enjoying thick fog.  This picture was taken from the ‘front porch’ of one of the West Tiger transmitter buildings looking North.  In the distance, you can see Mt Baker.  Below us is that fog bank that kept Seattle from seeing the sun for a good part of the day.

On my way down the mountain I listened to the weather forecast calling for Thunder Storms.  Wow, how could that be right – It was a beautiful day with hardly a cloud in sight except for the layer of ground-hugging clouds below.  For those of us that have lived in this area this means that – maybe – we might see a bolt of lightning and a clap of thunder and that’s all.

Not this time….t’storms started heading our way from the south and, when it was all done, some of them were in the ‘severe’ category.  2500 lightning strikes had been recorded.  Thurston County got the brunt of it, with a lot of downed trees and power lines etc.  Looking at radar during this event, which lasted about 12 hours, we saw a color we rarely see – Purple!  I did not hear of any damage to broadcast facilities…But there were a lot of power bumps to be sure.  The Seattle TV stations were all over this one with lots of time devoted to the impact of this serious of squalls.  Another very rare situation was flooding caused by an incredible amount of rainfall in a short period of time.  Our usual flooding is caused by large Pacific storms or rapid snow-melt.  We don’t generally have downpours with huge raindrops that you get in a microburst around here.  Yes, we get a lot of rainfall, but usually it’s in the gentle category.

All this heavy rain did something else – It broke a 20 year rainfall record.  Our ‘Rain Year’ (some think of it as our monsoon season) starts October first – This year’s, as of the 5th of May, we have received almost 46 inches of precip!!  In the middle of the month the Cascades were getting a foot of new snow.  And, can you believe it?  They are predicting we won’t have a drought this summer.  (Nothing like going out on a limb.)

To help put this into perspective – many states have already been having fire warnings.  IMHO, rain is a whole lot better than fire.

Interestingly, all of our rainfall has dramatically increased the growth of things that will later dry out and become fire material.  More rain means more fires.  In the eastern part of our state, preparations are being made for a bad fire season.  Later in May our fire season started with a fire in the vicinity of Leavenworth.

And as this was not enough, early in the month there was a swarm of earthquakes in the Bremerton area that some feel might be connected to the Seattle fault…a known fault running east-west thru the middle of Seattle that is thought to be able to produce very damaging quakes.  A bunch of little ones is hoped to be a sign that the stresses are being eased a bit at a time…as opposed to something very damaging.

Many of those working for a couple of companies in the Radio business have been wondering what their future holds.  I’m talking about the merger of Entercom and CBS Radio.  Specifically which stations will be spun off and to whom, as part of the process.  Now Television is going thru the same thing with the announcement that Sinclair is buying Tribune.  Unless ownership caps change, it’s not likely that the FCC will permit one company to operate 4 TV stations.  The question then becomes, which stations get spun off and to whom (just like radio).  Entercom has made it clear that they would like to do some trading rather than selling.  Perhaps Sinclair will wish to do the same.  In the mean-time, there are a lot of unanswered questions in both Seattle and Portland, where the two companies operate TV stations.  We will all have to just wait and see how this plays out, with both of these big media deals supposed to close by the end of this year.  While we wait….. Let the rumors fly.

I find one thing about this deal interesting – The amount of Tribune debt that Sinclair will take on – 2.7 Billion Bucks.  When you consider iHeart is $20 billion in debt, the Sinclair obligation looks small.  One has to wonder at what point will iHeart or Cumulus begin to sell off assets.  The possibility exists that we will see a lot of ownership shuffles in this industry ahead.

While we are tossing about big numbers – How about the sale by Emmis of KPWR in Los Angeles for $82.75 Million?  Granted this is market #2….But that’s a lot of money for just one radio station.

Another bit of interesting transaction action….Saga Communications recently announced they were selling the last of their TV Stations and buying more radio stations.  None of the activity in the west.  Something about getting back to their roots.  Locally, Saga operates a cluster of radio stations in Bellingham.

The end of a broadcast site – recently the 450 foot guyed tower at Indian Hill was dismantled.  For me, I have a lot of history at this site that I’d like to share.  Back in the late 60’s I had just gone to work at KMO in Tacoma and they were making plans to relocate their 5 kW non-directional operation from their long-time location in Fife, to the hill to the North of the Tacoma industrial area.  The Fife area was changing from agricultural to industrial and the station did not own the area where their ground system was located.  The area chosen was marked on a USGS Map as Indian Hill.  One of my first jobs was to hike to the highest elevation I could find in the area and light off a smoke flare so a passing aircraft could take pictures.  Back then, the FCC wanted to see the site in relation to the City of License.  There were no roads in the area…it was all forest.  In 1969 the station moved its relatively new Gates BC5P2 transmitter into a tiny concrete block building and connected it to a 200 foot guyed tower.  It was not long after this that the I experimented with the antenna by converting it to a ‘Unipole’ feed system.  This worked out well and resulted in the tower base being grounded.  Shortly after this an FM station on the air was looking for a site.  The building was enlarged and 103.9 FM went on the air.  (This station later became KBRD on 103.7 moving to a mountain in the Cascades where it operated for a number of years).  The little 103.9 signal really got out from this location, which is on a ridge near the highest elevation location in the city.  It attracted the attention of Clay Huntington who was operating KLAY-FM on 106.1 at another site.  He remarked that this lower powered station covered better than his.  About the same time KMO, in an attempt to overcome the terrible ground conductivity at this site erected a 5/8 wave, 450 foot, tower in 1974.  The 103.9 antenna was moved over to the adjacent tower (about 6 feet away) and a new 6 bay antenna for KLAY was installed near the top of the tower putting the antenna about 950 feet above sea-level.  (The 200 foot tower was removed immediately after the erection of the taller structure).  KLAY operated there with about 25 kW some time.  When the FCC changed the rules and required Class C FM’s to run full power, a couple of things took place at the same time.  The Tacoma News Tribune’s station, KNBQ, was looking for a higher site, and KLAY had been sold, becoming KRPM.  KMO, seeking a yet better location was working on moving their 1360 operation to Browns Point, making it easier to use that 450 foot tower for things other than AM.  In the end, 97.3 and 106.1 were both operating with 100 kW from Indian Hill, both using newly purchased Continental 816R parallel transmitters, with each station running about 34 kW TPO.  KTAC-FM, which had been operating on 103.9, was operating from about 180 feet on the big tower using their little 1 kW Collins, which had moved to 103.7 at 3-Sisters Mountain and became KBRD.  When the Bates Vocational School tower fell during a winter storm, the school made a deal with the then new owner of 106.1 (Ray Court) to purchase the old 106.1 10 kW Gates transmitter.  An antenna was installed on the tower and 91.7 now called Indian Hill home.

In the 80’s, the FCC dropped another shoe, now requiring stations that were Class C’s to increase their transmitting elevation higher than what would be possible at Indian Hill (Tower top there was only 950 feet above sea level).  This started the process that would see Indian Hill become a stepping stone to operation at West Tiger.  97.3 was the first to make the move to the 3000 plus foot site in 1988.  The station installed a different antenna at Indian Hill and maintained that site as an auxiliary for many years, until the Cougar Mountain combined auxiliary site was constructed in 1999.  At that point, 106.1 and 97.3 were operating from West Tiger, and 91.7 was left as the only FM at the site.  I should point out that it was a popular location for RPU receive system with a number of stations using the site for their ‘Marti’ systems.  Entercom sold the site and I was, for the first time, no longer connected with the site that I saw start from scratch.  In later years 91.7 installed new antennas and transmitters and then, they too sought higher ground and moved to the Channel 13 tower on Gold Mt.  During all this time, a number of other, non-broadcast tenants used the site.  King County Public Safety had a big system there for a while.  During the hey-day of pagers and radio-telephones it was a very popular location.  In the last few years the tower has seen little use.  A new 300 foot self- supporting tower was recently erected near to the big tower — one that would hold microwave dishes, etc.  The time has come and this site that has stood for about 43 years on that ridge between Tacoma and Federal Way – Known as Indian Hill, will go away.  The tower had a 42 inch face, 3 inch pipe legs and was built by Commercial Welding in Seattle and erected by AT Service Company.

In the following picture, taken from the East, you can see the tower just before it was taken down.  It’s the tallest one in this picture, between the two self-supporting ones.

Here you can see the tower from the West with a portion of the top section already removed.

When this site was developed, back in 1969, this entire area was nothing but evergreen forest with a bunch of Alder and Madrone as well.  As you can see, houses are now close to the towers.  A situation that is all too common across the country, except for mountain tops.  The removal of the Indian Hill tower marks the end of a major FM broadcast in the Tacoma/Pierce County area.

Apparently the big show in the desert was a success as measured by attendance.  NAB reports there were over 103,000 attendees including over 26,000 from 161 Countries.  Those of you that have been there know well about the international flavor.  In fact, Las Vegas attracts many from around the world even without the NAB.

One of the events I always looked forward to when attending the NAB show was the Wednesday gathering of Ham Radio operators.  A writer for the Las Vegas Review Journal noted in his piece on this event that the majority of the participants were men older than 50.  To which I say – ‘Duh’.  Look at the average age at an SBE gathering.  A lot of gray, or absence, of hair in that group too.  At the event, attendees attach labels indicating their call letters, munch on snacks and wait for their number to be called in a drawing for donated prizes that appears to go on for hours.  I never won anything of significance, but know several that have.  Amateur Radio is a true international hobby with several foreign call letters usually in the house.  One would think that Amateur or Ham Radio would be a dying sport, but this is not the case at all….in fact, the number of those with FCC-issue call letters following their names is increasing.  Coming up June 2, 3 and 4 in Seaside, Oregon is one of our biggest regional gatherings.  I know I’ll be there…if for no other reason than to visit with old friends, many of which are in broadcasting.

Speaking of Ham Radio – recent legislative activity to make touching a cell phone, microphone etc. in the name of distracted driving has created some serious concerns in the world of Amateur (Ham) Radio where mobile operation has been the norm forever.  Hands free is OK like it is used in modern vehicles, with their Bluetooth wireless connections to cellphones that are basically what used to be called ‘speaker phones’.  I noted that some of the major makers of Ham Radio equipment are watching this and are starting to introduce products.  The problem is that this equipment, by its nature, is complicated, with knobs, switches and displays.  (I have to wonder about a headset/microphone used with VOX or perhaps a foot operated transmit switch).  Anyone remember some folks would drive down the road operating Morse with a straight key that clamped onto their leg?

The Amateur community is fighting back, as they should.  Amateur radio operators (Hams) have been operating mobile radio equipment in vehicles for a VERY long time and there have not been issues.

Looking at this issue from another perspective…I can certainly appreciate the danger of driving while texting and feel that it should be against the law….however, I submit that having a law that says you can’t touch your phone is going too far.  There are other things in your vehicle you might just ‘touch’ in the course of driving…What about the headlight or wiper switches?

Then there are some things you might ‘touch’ that the broadcast industry should be very concerned with….like your CAR RADIO!

If we are going to truly go after the distracted driver….Let’s not be selective but really address other things that go on that are certainly a distraction – application of makeup, reading maps or the newspaper, consuming beverages and/or food.  What about those vehicles (like mine) with a stick shift?

While we are at it – let’s stop some of this at the source by closing up all drive up coffee shops and fast-food establishments.  The vehicle makers could help with this by eliminating those distracting cup holders.  My recommendation is that we solve the problem with technology.  In my truck (a 2016 model), I can make and receive phone calls without touching my phone (pretty cool).  When it comes to texting, when I receive a text message my truck announces it and can, using text to speech, read the message for me.  It will display the message, but only if I am stopped (so as keep from looking at the display rather than the road).  Likewise, I see my entire address book on the display, provided I am stopped.

Why can’t we take this a step further and, electronically, lock out the ability of the phone to look at its address book or text while the vehicle is in motion?  This would work for the phone that is paired with the car and, presumably, allow passengers to use their devices.  Of course, this would do nothing for those that are driving an older vehicle.

Lawmakers could help the process by – SERIOUSLY – dealing with those that are driving impaired by other means – like alcohol or drugs.  Perhaps laws that would strictly deal with those issues…for instance, confiscation of the vehicle or automatic immediate jail time.

Enforcement of these rules is going to be tough as the cellular industry has flooded the world with hand-held phones and told everyone that you can use them everywhere – including while behind the wheel.  Now to have new laws reversing all those bad habits is going to be tough…not to mention the issue of law-enforcement resources to make it happen.  Let’s hope the Broadcast Industry is carefully watching this issue too.

NAB Announced the 2017 Crystal Radio Award Winners…The 30th year for this recognition event.  The Crystal Award goes to stations that are recognized for their commitment to community service.  Sad to report that no station in the western half of the country made the cut.

There are times that it appears that the FCC is sleeping at the switch and, perhaps, proves that those who contend that the Commish only take action when someone complains are correct.  Recently an LPTV station continued to operate for – 19 years after their license was cancelled for filing a renewal.  Honestly.  What do you want to bet that someone tipped off the FCC?  By the way, the Commish, perhaps a bit embarrassed, proposed a fine of $144,344.

Sounds like the FCC is moving to do away with the old Main Studio Rule.  When I saw old, I mean it!  This rule goes back 70 years.  This is just one step in a process that may eliminate many of the FCC rules.  Certainly Chairman Pai is pro-change.  Washington DC is full of changes these days.  Some may not be so good for the FCC, specifically, proposed budget cuts.

Back to the main studio situation, the contention has historically been that broadcast stations need to have studios in their city of license (COL) to make sure that they are serving the ‘needs and interests’ of the citizens residing there.  The problem is that this rule has been diluted to the point that it’s meaningless.

Let’s use a couple of radio stations in the Seattle market as an example – 106.1/KBSK, 103.7/KHTP, 97.3/KIRO-FM – their City of License is Tacoma yet their studios/offices etc. are in Seattle.  How about 106.9/KRWM – Their studios and offices are in Bellevue yet their City of License is Bremerton.  Or KOMO-FM, City of License-Oakville.  How about Channels 11 and 13 Television…..Yep – Studios in Seattle, City of License Tacoma.  I submit that the same thing is going on across the country.

 

Yes, it’s time that the FCC’s rules caught up with what’s going on and stop all the pretending.  I fail to see how having a studio or office in the city of license of these stations would create anything that would be beneficial to anyone.

The fact is that stations are sandwiched in place these days and are not likely to be able to move to the next town anyway.

I am going to take this a step further –

  • Revise the City of License Requirement substantially.
  • Permit broadcasters to ‘identify’ with any city they wish within their primary service contour.
  • Once accepted by the FCC, their ‘Station ID’ would become – call letters followed by their chosen city of license.
  • Eliminate the need for any kind of studio in a city other than the city the broadcaster wishes to be associated with.
  • Eliminate the need for all paper public files by putting them on-line.
  • Drop the requirement for toll-free numbers from the City of License.  These days, long distance calling areas are no longer applicable, especially in light of the fact that perhaps the majority now no longer have a land-line.

The TV industry is now trying to get it’s head around just what Repacking means.  Here is an overview – (hope I got this right)

  • There are 2074 stations total.
  • 489 are on VHF that are not moving.
  • Here are 1556 on UHF that will remain there, some of which will be changing channels.
  • There are 29 stations that are now on UHF and are moving to high VHF channels.

In last month’s column I provided you with a table showing just who was moving to which channel.  Now the time for the great shuffle to begin.  Perhaps what will add a new ‘wrinkle’ to all of this is the Sinclair/Tribune deal.  We will have to wait and see what it all means.  The surprise for me is the fact none of the Seattle market stations opted to take the money and run.  I honestly thought that some would do so.

You have probably all looked at a guyed radio tower and noticed the insulators in the guy wires.  This is to isolate the cables that keep the tower erect from the tower, which is the antenna.  Bet you’ve never seen insulators like these.  Sent to me by an old friend in the Chicago area.  If you look really closely, you will recognize some of the parts used in a unique manner.  I love pictures of broadcast equipment that the vast majority will never see close-up.

Do you recall those that were predicting that Satellite Radio was nothing but a flash in the pan and that no-one would pay for something that they have historically received for free?  The first Quarter 2017 figures from SiriusXM speak very loudly of how successful this business has become.  Q-1 revenue increased by 8% to a total of $1.3 Billion.  Income was announced at $207 million.  Subscriber numbers are equally impressive – During Q-1 they added almost 260,000 bringing their total to over 31.5 Million.  Not too shabby.

As a reminder of the ‘pecking order’, a translator was ordered off the air due to complaints of interference.  As you know this took place here in Western Washington when Saga turned on an AM translator in Bellingham operating co-channel with KIRO-FM on 97.3.  In this case, Saga moved the operation to another frequency.  Had no frequency been available, they may have faced the same situation as this station did in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.  In that case, a translator was causing interference to listeners to WLUS.  The station submitted comments from listeners and, as expected, there was a degree of back and forth between the station and the translator operator.  In this case, the FCC gave the translator operator a fixed time (30 days) to resolve the complaints.  The Commission’s rules are pretty clear here – The FCC rules that say an FM translator station cannot continue to operate if it interferes with listeners’ ability to receive an authorized broadcast station’s off-the-air signals.  In the end, the FCC sided with the primary station and ordered the translator off the air.  I’ve not heard whether or not they were able to find an alternative frequency.  The bottom line is that there is certainly a risk involved with translators.  With the FM Band getting increasingly crowded, things are going to be tougher.  Oh yes, the FCC is about to open yet another filing window for translators, certain to add more pressure.

In recent columns, I have pointed out how much of a giant Amazon has become.  News in mid-May underscores how huge this Seattle-based firm has become.  One measure is their Market Cap which now stands at $459 Billion.  How big is that?  It’s twice as big as Walmart.  In other words, Amazon is worth TWO Walmarts.  Who would have ever thought this would take place?  Mr. Bezos certainly has made his mark.  In the event you’d like to own some of this success story, their stock price continues to increase.  At this writing it was just over $995 a share.

In greeting visitors to this area, during our conversations, the matter of our ‘floating bridges’ usually comes on with most wanting to see them.  I have to stop and think that this concept is pretty rare, apparently we are the only place with them.  We simply call them floating bridges, the other term used is Pontoon Bridge.  I can’t resist asking the visitor if they know why we have floating bridges as opposed to more common other types.  Rarely do I receive the correct answer.  Now we have another first to talk about, the first time trains will be running on a floating bridge as part of the Sound Transit expansion to areas on the East side of Lake Washington.

A bit of apprehension at the non-coms these days, with the release of the 2018 White House Budget showing that they want to defund CPB and the National Endowment for the Arts.  This could have quite a negative impact for both Radio and TV.  It seems like this item comes along frequently as policy makers look for ways to cut the budget.  At lot of well organized opposition is expected.  Of course, this is only a proposal.  Congress will decide.  Together NEA and CPB total about $600 million.  If they are successful in eliminating Federal funding of public radio/TV I would hope they would remove restrictions to other sources of revenue that would off-set the loss.

The following is a new addition to my collection of wonderful warning signs.  Unfortunately, even those that can read often don’t.

 

On the FM front, translators are the current rage, with much of the interest coming from AM broadcasters that are accepting the FCC’s offer to achieve at least some FM coverage.  Underscoring this are the prices that are being paid for these systems.  Hubbard recently shelled out 1.8 Megabucks for a 250-watter at the Phoenix South Mountain Antenna farm.  Obviously, the relationship between radiated power and price is not linear.  Those that have translators that will work for well-healed AM owners have suddenly been handed a windfall by the FCC.

Entercom has announced that the afternoon show on KISW “The Mens Room” is going to be going national on the Westwood One system.

Here’s a nice picture of the Cascades and Mt. Rainier taken by Arthur Willets (CE of the local Daystar station) from the WTM-2 site on West Tiger.  The big tank in the foreground feeds a number of big diesel generators at the site.

Samsung, known for a lot of innovation, has released their Galaxy S8 DeX.  This gizmo turns your smart phone into a computer…Just add a mouse, monitor and keyboard.  Yet another example of how these smart phones are indeed getting smarter.

 

In another move demonstrating that Belden is not just a wire and cable company, they recently announced that they are going to purchase ‘Thinklogical’.  Never heard of them.  This is what Belden is telling us about the deal:

 

Headquartered in Milford, Conn., Thinklogical is a developer and manufacturers of high-performance, fiber-optic-based video and switching equipment.  The company’s products are used for real-time enterprise video management (including switching and transmission of high-quality video and peripheral signals) across a variety of end markets, including military, command and control, broadcast, etc.

 

For many, reading is something that older people do.  Recently I came across this item that brought a smile:

In a related move – Amazon, the Seattle based mega-giant, recently opened what’s called a ‘Brick and Mortar’ store in NYC.     Guess what they will be selling ………………BOOKS!  Is it not where they started?

I thought I’d take a look at a word that is very commonly used to describe a vocation….ENGINEER.  Before I get started, I should point out that this term is not without controversy, as some who have that term associated with their occupation resent others who also use it that do not share the same background or recognition by an educational institution or organization.  Therefore to simply use the name Engineer without a qualifier can lead to some misunderstanding and, in some cases, difficulty.  For example – Locomotive Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Broadcast Engineer etc.

Doing some quick, on-line, research yielded some interesting results – (My comments are underlined below.)

Dictionary.com:

  1. A person trained and skilled in the design, construction, and use of engines or machines, or in any of various branches of engineering: a mechanical engineer; a civil engineer.
  2. A person who operates or is in charge of an engine.
  3. Also called locomotive engineer. Railroads. a person who operates or is in charge of a locomotive.
  4. A member of an army, navy, or air force specially trained in engineering work.
  5. Digital Technology. a person skilled in the design and programming of computer systems: a software engineer; a web engineer.
  6. A skillful manager: a political engineer.

I see…..So a person driving a motor vehicle, powered by an ‘engine’ is an engineer?  (Wait until I tell my wife.)  And your boss (assuming they are skillful) is a political engineer.  I can just see that label being placed on the door of a certain manager in the middle of the night.

Merriam-webster:

  1. A member of a military group devoted to engineering work
  2. Obsolete: a crafty schemer: plotter
  3. A designer or builder of engines: a person who is trained in or follows as a profession a branch of engineering:  a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance
  4. A person who runs or supervises an engine or an apparatus

In the case of #2 – Perhaps it’s a good thing that #2 is obsolete.

Cambridge dictionary:

  1. A sound engineer
  2. As an engineer, he was a disaster.
  3. He started his working life as an engineer but later became a teacher.
  4. A top German engineer has been appointed to troubleshoot the cause of the accident.
  5. The engineer soon got the air-conditioning up and running again.

Cambridge approaches this a bit differently by simply giving some examples of how the term is used.

Wikipedia:

Engineers design materials, structures, and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost.  The word engineer (from the Latin ingeniator) is derived from the Latin words ingeniare (“to contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”).  The foundation education of an engineer is typically a 4-year bachelor’s degree or in some countries, a master’s degree in an engineering discipline plus 4-6 years peer-reviewed professional practice culminating in a project report or thesis.

The work of engineers forms the link between scientific discoveries and their subsequent applications to human and business needs and quality of life.

Roles and expertise

Design

Engineers develop new technological solutions.  During the engineering design process, the responsibilities of the engineer may include defining problems, conducting and narrowing research, analyzing criteria, finding and analyzing solutions, and making decisions.  Much of an engineer’s time is spent on researching, locating, applying, and transferring information. Indeed, research suggests engineers spend 56% of their time engaged in various information behaviours, including 14% actively searching for information.

Engineers must weigh different design choices on their merits and choose the solution that best matches the requirements.  Their crucial and unique task is to identify, understand, and interpret the constraints on a design in order to produce a successful result.

Analysis

Engineers apply techniques of engineering analysis in testing, production, or maintenance.  Analytical engineers may supervise production in factories and elsewhere, determine the causes of a process failure, and test output to maintain quality.  They also estimate the time and cost required to complete projects.  Supervisory engineers are responsible for major components or entire projects.  Engineering analysis involves the application of scientific analytic principles and processes to reveal the properties and state of the system, device or mechanism under study.  Engineering analysis proceeds by separating the engineering design into the mechanisms of operation or failure, analyzing or estimating each component of the operation or failure mechanism in isolation, and recombining the components.  They may analyze risk.

Many engineers use computers to produce and analyze designs, to simulate and test how a machine, structure, or system operates, to generate specifications for parts, to monitor the quality of products, and to control the efficiency of processes.

Specialization and management

Most engineers specialize in one or more engineering disciplines.  [1] Numerous specialties are recognized by professional societies, and each of the major branches of engineering has numerous subdivisions. Civil engineering, for example, includes structural and transportation engineering and materials engineering include ceramic, metallurgical, and polymer engineering. Mechanical engineering cuts across just about every discipline since its core essence is applied physics.  Engineers also may specialize in one industry, such as motor vehicles, or in one type of technology, such as turbines or semiconductor materials.

Several recent studies have investigated how engineers spend their time; that is, the work tasks they perform and how their time is distributed among these.  Research[8][13] suggests that there are several key themes present in engineers’ work: (1) technical work (i.e., the application of science to product development); (2) social work (i.e., interactive communication between people); (3) computer-based work; (4) information behaviours. Amongst other more detailed findings, a recent work sampling study[13] found that engineers spend 62.92% of their time engaged in technical work, 40.37% in social work, and 49.66% in computer-based work. Furthermore, there was considerable overlap between these different types of work, with engineers spending 24.96% of their time engaged in technical and social work, 37.97% in technical and non-social, 15.42% in non-technical and social, and 21.66% in non-technical and non-social.

Engineering is also an information-intensive field, with research finding that engineers spend 55.8% of their time engaged in various different information behaviours, including 14.2% actively seeking information from other people (7.8%) and information repositories such as documents and databases (6.4%).

The time engineers spend engaged in such activities is also reflected in the competencies required in engineering roles. In addition to engineers’ core technical competence, research has also demonstrated the critical nature of their personal attributes, project management skills, and cognitive abilities to success in the role.

Types of engineers

There are many branches of engineering, each of which specializes in specific technologies and products. Typically engineers will have deep knowledge in one area and basic knowledge in related areas. For example, mechanical engineering curricula typically includes introductory courses in electrical engineering, computer science, materials science, metallurgy, mathematics, and software engineering.

When developing a product, engineers typically work in interdisciplinary teams. For example, when building robots an engineering team will typically have at least three types of engineers. A mechanical engineer would design the body and actuators. An electrical engineer would design the power systems, sensors, and control circuitry. Finally, a software engineer would develop the software that makes the robot behave properly. Engineers that aspire to management engage in further study in business administration, project management and organizational or business psychology. Often engineers move up the management hierarchy from managing projects, functional departments, divisions and eventually CEO’s of a multi-national corporation. Management Engineers also work in management consulting firms in the area of strategic management of change in engineering-driven organizations.

In 1960, the Conference of Engineering Societies of Western Europe and the United States of America defined “professional engineer” as follows:

A professional engineer is competent by virtue of his/her fundamental education and training to apply the scientific method and outlook to the analysis and solution of engineering problems.  He/she is able to assume personal responsibility for the development and application of engineering science and knowledge, notably in research, design, construction, manufacturing, superintending, managing and in the education of the engineer.  His/her work is predominantly intellectual and varied and not of a routine mental or physical character.  It requires the exercise of original thought and judgement and the ability to supervise the technical and administrative work of others.  His/her education will have been such as to make him/her capable of closely and continuously following progress in his/her branch of engineering science by consulting newly published works on a worldwide basis, assimilating such information and applying it independently.  He/she is thus placed in a position to make contributions to the development of engineering science or its applications.  His/her education and training will have been such that he/she will have acquired a broad and general appreciation of the engineering sciences as well as thorough insight into the special features of his/her own branch. In due time he/she will be able to give authoritative technical advice and to assume responsibility for the direction of important tasks in his/her branch.

Whew!!  Is there any wonder why the term ‘engineer’ is so confusing?  I recall, some years ago, mentioning the term Broadcast Engineer to someone whereby they asked – ‘what do they do?”  The best answer was they engineer broadcast systems.  The bottom line is the term ‘Engineer’ is very broadly used and has, over time, become somewhat more vague than many would like.

Shifting gears back to more broadcast related things.  One result of the re-packing of the TV channels has been the renewed call to expand the FM Radio band to the spectrum immediately below it.  There have been some that have been making a renewed call for TV Channel 6 to be replaced with radio stations.  Looking at the data from the FCC it shows less than a dozen TV stations will be using Channel 6….and some of them are low powered operations.  I’m not sure how practical that would be for the same reason that HD Radio has been so slow to start….lack of receivers.  Generally, no receivers has a huge impact on the desire of broadcasters to invest money on equipment (for good reason).

This picture shows why a UPS system decided to quit working.  What you see here is a very corroded terminal on one of the batteries.  I took this picture after scraping away a ton of debris.  Note how the terminal (on the left) featured blackened connectors.  UPS batteries have a life cycle and when you try and push them a bit longer, things start to go wrong.  In this case there was more than just the bad battery connection keeping this system from functioning.  The batteries were swollen to the point that mechanical alterations had to be made to the unit to just get them out.  The good news is the connector and batteries were replaced and the unit is now back in service.  Does this mean that I ‘engineered’ a solution?

So is the shift to CFL and LED Lamps really making a difference?  The answer appears to be yes.  Electricity use, after rising every year for the past 60, has begun to fall.  Energy-efficient light bulbs now comprise 80% of all sales and that is calculated to mean an energy savings of 50 million megawatts a year.  Whether or not the consumption curve will continue to go down or not is to be determined.  With so many devices now left plugged in, each consuming small amounts of power, perhaps not.

Job Openings –

Been a big scramble going on for those radio stations that have been receiving program content from AMC-8.  On June 30th – The bird will go to sleep and all this programming will come from a different place, AMC-18.  In some cases, it’s found that the dish that was used for AMC-8 cannot simply be re-aimed due to closer satellite spacing in the new neighborhood.  This is forcing some users to have to purchase better antennas.

In the interest of – full disclosure – I want everyone to know that I stole the following image from the KING5 website – (I just could not resist).  This is a very cool picture taken of the Northern Lights and the Tacoma Narrows Bridges the night of May 27th when mother nature put on a beautiful show.

 

 

Well that’s about it for this month.  Before I go, some additional ‘educational material’ in the form of funny definitions that will, hopefully, bring a smile to all that read it.

BEAUTY PARLOR –  A place where women curl up and dye.

CHICKENS –  The only animal you eat before they are born and after they are dead.

COMMITTEE –  A body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.

DUST – Mud with the juice squeezed out.

EGOTIST – Someone who is usually me-deep in conversation.

HANDKERCHIEF – Cold Storage.

INFLATION –  Cutting money in half without damaging the paper.

MOSQUITO – An insect that makes you like flies better.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS –  A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority.

RAISIN –  A grape with a sunburn.

SECRET – A story you tell to one person at a time.

SKELETON – A bunch of bones with the person scraped off.

TOOTHACHE – The pain that drives you to extraction.

TOMORROW –  One of the greatest labor saving devices of today.

YAWN – An honest opinion openly expressed.

WRINKLES – Something other/older people have….similar to my character lines.

OLD – In youth, the days are short and the years are long.  In old age, the years are short and days long.

And finally these item from a reader –

 

 

 

 

OK —– I quit –

Enjoy Summer – Remember that this is indeed our shortest season.

Clay Freinwald, CPBE – K7CR