Clay’s Corner

April 3, 2018
  • Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986

Something that we all hate to hear about is a broadcast tower falling…Worse yet when you hear that someone you knew was killed in the process.     This was the case on April 19th when a very big, 1980 footer, went down in Fordland, Mo.   (Near Springfield)   Killed in the accident was a fellow many of us in the PNW had known for years, Steve Lemay.

Steve and his crew were working near the 100 foot level of the structure, according to some reports, replacing members on the tower to strengthen it for antenna changes related to re-packing, in this case, the TV station was moving from Channel 23 to Channel 16. The tower belongs to KOZK-TV and also housed an FM Antenna.

According to reports, 7 members of Steve’s crew were working on the project when it came down.  3 of them suffered injuries, unfortunately Steve did not survive.

I first met Steve many years ago when we worked for Seacomm.   We probably were involved in a number of projects over the years.   Later Steve formed his own company.   The last job where I was with him was the replacement of the KIRO-FM Antenna at West Tiger on the 4th of July 2016.

Steve will be remembered as an extremely nice, polite, soft spoken guy with a great smile.

The above pictures show Steve helping with the antenna installation for the Voice of Vashon

Below are some related comments –

Voice of Vashon’s low power FM (KVSH-LP 101.9FM) would not be where it is today without the “get it done” spirit of Steve Lemay. After Madison Batt designed our mast he said he’d invite a friend to come along for the install day. That friend — Steve Lemay — became our friend during a long day up top of a million gallon water tank.  Our team of volunteers worked on the tank with Steve and Madison supported by more volunteers on the ground crew. That day we all witnessed Steve take any problem in his stride and calmly solve it….And he did all that work for our dirt poor nonprofit at no charge, taking a day away from his family.

One newspaper article about the Missouri tower collapse describes Steve as a “picture perfect dad.” We learned that day he was just plain picture perfect as a human being.

The cause of the disaster will certainly be investigated, as will the engineering firm involved, TCI Tower Consulting.   The questions to be answered are – Did the tower crew do something wrong, or was it a structural engineering miscalculation?

Another aspect of this is the whole matter of re-packing that is requiring a lot of changes being made to a lot of towers nation-wide over a fairly short period of time.   Whenever you disturb something that’s been standing for years, you open the door for these kinds of things to take place.

This is certainly not the first big tower to fail, you can do an internet search and find stories and, in some cases, videos, of previous disasters.  Interestingly another big tower, not far from this one, collapsed back in 2001.   In that case it was ice accumulation that was the cause.

 

The Sinclair/Tribune story continues to un-fold with announcements of spin-offs around the country …Except for Seattle.    Many are waiting to hear which of the 4 stations will go to different owners.   Rumors still are that Fox will end up with an O&O in this market.  We should know soon.

Gotta hand it to Gates Air as they announced they are going to debut a program to teach RF Fundamentals    I personally think this is a great move.    Gates Air put it this way-

In May, GatesAir will launch a new training program intended to help “younger, IT-educated broadcast engineers” learn to operate and maintain “next-generation TV and radio transmission sites,” the company announced.

The new training program, launching with an “Introduction to Broadcast Transmitter Technology” course, is described by GatesAir as an adjunct to the its existing “RF:101” program, which was designed for trainees with a basic understanding of RF technology. Because “RF:101” participants increasingly lacked a solid foundation in RF, the company developed a “new entry-level RF training course designed to prepare IT professionals for an RF transmission-centered career.”

“Since many new professionals entering the field have IT backgrounds, this new introductory training program responds to our customers’ pressing needs to find qualified engineers that can operate and maintain their next-generation, over-the-air content delivery systems,” GatesAir Vice President of Operations Bryant Burke said in the announcement. “We’re addressing broadcasters’ concerns regarding the shortage of broadcast engineers, and leveraging the current crop of IT-savvy engineers for ATSC 3.0 and other next-generation DTV and digital radio networks.”

The course begins with three webinars and is followed by a four-day, hands-on training workshop at Gates Air’s Quincy, Ill., campus. The first session is scheduled for May 22–25.

The program limits the workshops to groups of 8-10 trainees. It covers fundamentals, including maintenance of liquid- and air-cooled solid-state transmitters, digital modulation schemes and troubleshooting/repair of modular transmission components. After these stages, participants receive a certificate of completion.

The program is open to everyone — including non-GatesAir customers — and costs $2,150, according to the training website, where registration is also available.

A couple of weekends ago we made a trip to Boise to visit with our Kids, and their kids…Our Granddaughter (who is very technosavvy) has an Amazon Echo….She has learned how to use this clever device for entertaining her one year old Son (our Great Grandson) by asking it to play various Songs etc.    I asked her if she ever used to play a radio station.   She said no, she had not.   So I asked Alexa to play KIRO-FM…almost instantly, a Seattle radio station was playing in Boise.   She immediately asked Alexa to play 103.5 and there it was.  I did not ask her if she knew their call letters, however, it apparently did what she wanted.   This leads me to believe that are thousands of the Echo’s out there with owners that had no idea they would function as a radio.  It times of emergency this knowledge might be handy.    Wonder how many in the radio broadcast industry understand and are addressing this issue?

There is a Seattle side of this story too – Amazon reportedly owns 2/3 of the smart speaker market.   Not a bad market share !!    It should be noted that over 1/3 of all homes have one.

It’s too bad that these devices do not include the ability to be a public warning device.   Seems to me that by including that feature a lot of lives could be saved….So would making sure that radio stations direct their EAS equipment to their streams.

The announcement that KEXP is going to be receiving a $10 million donation raised a lot of eyebrows.   According to news reports this is the largest single donation to a public radio station in history.   Pretty impressive when you consider that this is a relatively small, Class C3 station operating with only 4.7 kW using a directional antenna from their site on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

Looks like the FCC is going to be making changes in the way they deal with interference complains involving FM translators.    This will be a good thing, if not a bit overdue in light of the number of these things being licensed these days

Nielsen is working on a new PPM device – the new one will reportedly be smaller.

Amazon has reached he size that it’s time to start ‘bashing them’   Even the President has joined the chorus.     Seems like a repeat of a few years ago….

Remember when the little ‘East Side’ software outfit was just starting off?

Everyone was thrilled with the success of MS-DOS (Back when CP/M and others were in the race) Apple came out with the Mac and it’s Icon/mouse driven system – (many thought that MS/DOS machines were dead) Then that little local company hit it big with Windows….Not long after that the critical comments started to roll in The Federal Government was annoyed because they had the gall to include a browser (what people wanted) Soon, in the minds of many, Microsoft was too big, was killing its competitors ..The feds were making strong demands

Now, apparently,  it’s Amazon’s turn.

According to Nielsen, the two most listened to radio formats are – County and News/Talk, but they are very close.    Looking at the big stations in Seattle – The top new/talkers are KUOW with a 6.3 and KIRO-FM with a 5.6. (11.9 Total) On the Country side – KKWF has a 3.6 and KNUC a 1.6 (5.2 Total).  Appears there are far more listening to News/Talk than country in this area.   Not to too surprising when you consider that Seattle is, in many ways, unlike other markets.

One thing I’ve never quite understood….How is it that many churches are involved with Pirate Radio?   One of the latest stations to be shut down by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau was a pirate operating on 93.3 from the Gospel Tabernacle Church of Jesus Christ in Irvington, N.J.

But then again, you periodically hear about other wrong doings connected with houses of worship.

Amador Busto’s continues to develop his operations – The FCC recently approved the assignment  of the license for the Oak Harbor licensed 103.3 to Bustos Media Holdings.  Meanwhile I note that Bustos has applied for an FM Translator for his KMIA-AM in Auburn to be on 101.1

Questions remain in the matter of the Bankruptcy of iHeartMedia…..Namely, are they going to spin off some of their radio stations?     Some are saying yes, the company is apparently saying nothing.   Typically firms become leaner when faced with this sort of situation.   Cumulus has recently sold off several.   Of course iHM became bigger here in Seattle by trading some stations with the new, larger, Entercom.  One has to assume that this deal factored in the overall financial health of the company.  Certainly there are those that would be eager to pick up some additional broadcast properties, especially if they are going for bargain prices.

David Field, CEO of Entercom, recently weighed in on the situation with iHeart and Cumulus saying that the industry will be healthier because of what’s taking place. Certainly investors are not exactly excited about an industry where two of the biggest players are in this mode.

I love it when my readers are led to contribute to my column.    Thanks to Buzz Anderson for this jewel –  Try spraying some of this around your favorite coffee shop, explaining that you are just trying to help speed up their WIFI (Note the reference to its scent)

It appears that the translator sought for the Puyallup AM on 94.5 may have overcome some of their objections as the FCC recently reinstated their application for Construction permit.  The folks at 94.5 in Shelton are obviously concerned.

I recently ran across a picture of a person that should be familiar to many of us who have worked in this market for a long time.    None other than Garnet Drakiotes.   Drak, was he was known to his friends, was Chief Engineer of KUBE way back when.

Here’s an eye-catcher –

Shortwave Supports Secure Digital Communications

The Ampegon Group is promoting the use of shortwave (HF) broadcasting as a means for providing high-speed, secure data transmission.  In their ads, they state the world needs real-time secure communications between centralized locations and receivers located at great distances.   Uses include, transfer of business communications, dissemination of warnings etc.

Considering the fact that HF or Shortwave systems are no longer a popular as it once was, this is certainly a unique ‘pitch’ for those making high powered HF Transmitters.  If you want more info, go here-  http://www.ampegon.com

Here we go again – A survey of the –Least Affordable Markets for Homebuyers from Zillow –

  • San Jose, CA – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 46.1%
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 41.6%
  • San Francisco, CA – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 40.6%
  • San Diego, CA – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 34.7%
  • New York, NY – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 26.3%
  • Sacramento, CA – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 26%
  • Riverside, CA – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 25.6%
  • Seattle, WA – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 24.9%
  • Portland, OR – Share of Income Spent on Mortgage: 23.6%

Here’s some more – In March the median home sale price in Seattle rose to $819,500.  Seattle home prices are up 17% in the last year…with the King County increasing 15%.   Looking for something less expensive – Condos are going for just over $525,000 in Seattle and $466,500 for King County.   However, Condo prices are increasing faster than homes.   Perhaps the bottom line is what kind of money do you have to make to be able to live here?

Here’s a great motto – Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan.

If you live here in the PNW, you know that we are not lacking for rainfall this year…Not so for other areas of the U.S. however –

There are likely many high tech firms that want to claim that they were the first to intoduce Tablets…..Well, perhaps not –

In response from last months Column where I wrote about all the Nautel 50,000 Watt Transmitters on Vashon. Here’s a list of the stations and Nautel models – (North to South)

1000/ KOMO – XR60

710/KIRO-   ND50, NX 50

1090/KFNQ –  NX50, Ampfet 50.

The Seattle area has  9 AM radio stations that are operating 50,000 Watts during the day and various powers at Night –  Here is a table – (Power levels are in Kilowatts)

Frequency Call Day Power Night Power Antenna Location Notes
710 KIRO 50 50 DN-A Vashon
770 KTTH 50 5 DA-2 Vashon  Shared with 1090
 820  KGNW  50  5  DA-2  Vashon  Shared with 950
 880  KIXI  50  10  DA-2 Bellevue
 950  KJR  50  50  DA-2  Vashon  Shared with 820
 1000  KOMO  50  50  DA-N  Vashon
1090 KFNQ  50  50  DA-2  Vashon  Shared with 770
 1300  KKOL  50  3.2  DA-2  Bainbridge  (Construction Permit)
 1380  KRKO  50 50  DA-N Everett Shared with 1520
1520 KKXA 50 50 DA-N  Everett  Shared with 1380

All but 4 of these stations operate 50 kW at night.

DA-N means the station operates with a non-directional antenna during the day and a Directional Antenna system at Night

DA-2 means the station operates with a different Directional Antenna system day and night.

You are getting OLD if you recall when this was the way you moved data between a telephone and a computer!  (Note the rotory dial)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes in the Engineering Department at Entercom in Seattle:

Out is Matt Green…                                                          In is Phil Van Liew

Another big voice is lost –

 

Longtime, late night, radio host, Art Bell passed recently.  He was 72.      As you can see from this picture, Art was not only on the air on many radio stations but on Ham Radio as well with this impressive array of equipment.    He was quoted as saying that he loved radio…lt was his life.

 

 

 

At last it appears that Spring has finally arrived at West Tiger.  picture was taken on March 26th using our precision snow depth measurement device.

 

A certain iHeartMedia engineer asked me recently when it was going to stop snowing at West Tiger

 

 

 

 

While I was working on installing some equipment at KIRO-AM on Vashon Island recently I spent a couple of minutes taking pictures of some of Steven Allens wonderful collection of legendary broadcast equpment.    What hit me hard was the fact that I’ve used this stuff!

First is a Nems Clark Phase Monitor.  This was used with a 2-Tower directional AM Station.

 

Who recalled that Ampex, maker of Audio and Video tape equipment, also made a radio receiver?   Here’s a picture of a portion of the front panel.

 

 

 

 

Back in the days….When TV repair was even possible….You might have had one of these –

A device for generating Color Bars for setting up a TV Set.

 

 

 

This item really grabbed my attention. It was on the bottom of a loudspeaker.   The inventory lables were on a long sheet that was inserted into a typewriter.  You set the ribbon so it was not used and typed in the letters and numbers.   What hit me hard was the fact that – I MADE THIS LABEL , likley in the early 70’s

 

 

This item, an AM Audio Processor. Made by the late George Frese in Wenatchee.  The Audio Pilot would transform any AM station using it into the loudest station on the dial.  This was long before CBS Labs introduced their equipment.    George incorporated some features that have never been duplicated to this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a classic radio – Take a close look at the FM Band frequencies – This was prior to the FM band we know today (88-108 mHZ)

How about the push-buttons –

KIRO-710 –

KXA -770- Now KTTH

KJR – 950

KOMO- 1000

KRSC – 1090 – Now KFNQ

KOL – 1300 – Now KKOL

Want to buy an AM Transmitter Site ?

On Apr 1, 2018, at 18:18, Andrew Skotdal via SBE16-Seattle <sbe16-seattle@sbe16.org> wrote:

FWIW, please feel free to circulate to the community of Hams that KRKO is listing the 7115 Larimer Road, Everett, WA. transmitter site for sale since we no longer need it.  The site has two, 179’ towers (above the base insulator), and the 1956 Gates BC-5 is in place, ready to be converted.  The Continental Power Rock can come with it, too.  The building has been rehabilitated and could serve as a club facility complete with a kitchen and two bathrooms.  The site has eight acres.  If you know of a HAM operator or club that would like to buy the site, please have them contact Dan Gunderson, dgunders@windermere.com

 

In the same category as the Internet Path Conditioner – is BLINKER FLUID.

Blinker fluid is the stuff which makes the turn indicators on cars work – usually the amount the car is supplied with from the factory is enough, but sometimes it needs topping up.

Sometimes people put too much in – you may have seen cars where the blinkers are flashing unusually fast? That’s the problem.

 

 

On the serious side for a moment.   As most of you know I was recently the recepient of an award from NAB.    (That’s me, the old guy in the middle)

What you may not know is that I was being recognized for my work with the Emergency Alert System here in Washington State, something I have been working on for the past 22 years.

Perhaps the best part is that this is recognizing work I have done without compensation.

They asked that I supply my acceptance remarks, in advance, so they could load it on their prompter  – Here is what I said in accepting this award –

TO SAY THE LEAST – I AM FLATTERED AND HONORED TO RECEIVE THIS AWARD…..

THOSE THAT KNOW ME… KNOW THAT I AM NOT A MAN OF FEW WORDS, HOWEVER…..A COUPLE OF THINGS I’D LIKE TO SHARE

OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE LOOKING AT WHAT’S CALL A –SENIOR – GETTING HERE HAS TAKEN A LOT LESS TIME THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD!

OLD AGE IS A BLESSING GRANTED THE VERY FEW…IF YOU ARE BLESSED WITH IT – MAKE THE MOST OF IT

I, FIRMLY, BELIEVE THAT OUR MAKER WANTS US TO HAVE A PURPOSE THROUGHOUT OUR LIVES THIS GIVES US FULFILLMENT

IT’S BEEN SAID THAT IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO….YOU WILL NEVER WORK A DAY IN YOUR LIFE.   I HAVE,  INDEED,   BEEN BLESSED TO BE ABLE TO EXPAND MY EARLY LOVE OF HAM RADIO INTO A VOCATION THAT CONTINUES TO INSPIRE ME TO THIS DAY.

DO SOMETHING WHERE YOU CAN ‘GIVE BACK’.  SOMETHING WHERE YOUR COMPENSATION IS KNOWING THAT YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING FOR THE GOOD OF THE ORDER.  PERHAPS SOMETHING THAT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO SAVE LIVES.  THIS IS WHAT KEEPS ME WORKING TO IMPROVE OUR PUBLIC WARNING SYSTEMS

THANK YOU AGAIN, FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART, FOR APPRECIATING WHAT I HAVE DONE, AND CONTINUE TO DO.

As most older people do – We enjoy looking back – In this case, looking back at something much older than me!    The year is 1917, just over 100 years ago.   Wow what a difference a century makes !

  • The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
  • Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores only.
  • Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.
  • Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.  (We may be getting back to that level again)
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph. (Sounds like Seattle at Drive Time)
  • The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
  • The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.
  • The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
  • A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year.
  • A dentist $2,500 per year.
  • A veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year.  (A vet making more than a Dentist!!)
  • And, a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
  • More than 95 percent of all births took place at home
  • Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!
  • Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as “substandard.”
  • Sugar cost four cents a pound.
  • Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
  • Coffee was fifteen cents a pound. (Yes,  this was before Starbucks)
  • Most women only washed their hair once a month, and, used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.
  • The Five leading causes of death were:
    • Pneumonia and influenza
    • Tuberculosis
    • Diarrhea
    • Heart disease
    • Stroke
  • The American flag had 45 stars ..
  • The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.
  • Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet
  • There was neither a Mother’s Day nor a Father’s Day.
  • Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write.
  • And, only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  • Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at local corner drugstores.
  • Back then pharmacists said, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach, bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!” (Shocking?)
  • Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
  • There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.!

One of the blessings of doing my work with NWPB/WSU is traveling.    I could not help but stop and take a picture of this sign.   Just off Frogner Road, north of Crego Hill, site of KSWS and several other Radio/TV stations.

Sometimes you are convinced that our educational efforts have failed.

Well, my friends, that’s it for my Column for this month – Lord willing, I will be back with more next month.

73, Clay, K7CR, CPBE, SBE Member for over 50 years, #714

(2018-05)