Clay’s Corner – Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986
So what happened? We had wrapped up January with some record breaking warm days. My lawn was growing to the point that I vowed that the next dry day it was going to get mowed. The cracks in the sidewalk in front of my place were getting a good crop of bright green weeds. We all just knew that we were in for an early spring. Then it happened….We started hearing how it was going to get colder and maybe even have some snow.
Part of what I do is keep an eye on weather at Cougar and West Tiger. The following graph showed that, indeed, colder conditions were about to set in – Note the top line, freezing level. A Zero means Sea-Level…Oh Oh!
At this point, little did we know that records were going to be broken.
Those of us that have lived in this area a long time were used to having a dose of snow in the winter. A few inches that last a couple of days and then are washed away by warm rains. Not this time. At first I got about 4 inches. Then, before it could melt, another foot on top of that. Weeks later there are still pieces of white-stuff in my yard.
Record setting indeed.
• Sea-Tac Airport set a record for the largest snowfall total for the month of February of 14.1 inches. This beat the former record set back in 1949 of 13.1 inches.
• South and higher that Snoqualmie Pass, Crystal Mountain received 7 feet of snow in 7 days.
• If you really want snow…Then head north to Bellingham (or South for our readers in BC) and go east to Mt. Baker where they have had over 36 feet of the white-stuff. This is nothing compared to the winter of 98/99 where they received about 95 feet. If you keep track of ski areas totals, you know that Mt. Baker is near the top in total snow.
If you are as old as I, you remember the winter of 49/50. We had the snow fall total this time but, thankfully, did not have the temperatures. I’m sure you can find a lot of information about that winter on-line. Here are some links to get you started.
On the personal side, I was a wee lad living in Portland and have many memories. The high point was that the Columbia River froze over.
And….we got attention elsewhere:
DENVER (CBS4) – When you think of the weather in Seattle you probably picture either fog or rain instead of snow. But an unusual weather pattern has allowed back-to-back storms to drop record snow across the Pacific Northwest this month.
Since Feb. 3 the airport in Seattle has recorded 20.2 inches of snow, making it the snowiest month in 50 years for Seattle’s official weather station. Two days (Feb. 8 and 11) have produced more than 6 inches of snow in the city.
Denver has recorded 17.5 inches of snow so far this season at Denver International Airport. Denver’s old weather station in Stapleton has measured 19.1 inches of snow to date.
If we get above average snow in the Seattle area, chances are the same thing happened 50 miles to the East in the Cascades. And boy did they. According to NWS, Feb. 12th broke the 24 hour snowfall total at Snoqualmie Pass with 31.5 inches set back in 1975. Over the period of 3 days, Feb. 10-12 Snoqualmie got over 5 feet of snow – 68 inches to be exact. The result was the pass was closed for several days.
The weather had a major impact on me as well. As I was leaving a restaurant on the 6th of the month, I slipped on ice on the sidewalk landing on my back and head. Bottom line – I was taken to the local hospital where I received 13 stitches in the back of my head and a nasty concussion that still has me experiencing periods of vertigo. Thanks to the suggestion of friends, I now have ice cleats for my feet and the restaurant has since learned that it is their responsibility to clear the sidewalk in front of their place.
The major broadcast transmitter sites were certainly impacted:
• Doug Fisher reported that he was unable to get to South Mountain (home of 3 FM’s) due to 8 foot drifts.
• Cougar Mountain got a good 2 feet of snow. Some remarked they had never seen it that deep there.
• Due to long duration power outages in the vicinity of Cougar, many of the Century Link circuits used by broadcasters went down, as the batteries supporting the telephone equipment expired.
• West Tiger (twice as high as Cougar) got 3 feet of snow. Maintenance on a Generator Fuel System meant that Doug Fisher was called in to transport repair workers to the site in his ‘over the snow’ machine.
I’m sure there are other stories of snow-related incidents involving broadcasting that I’ve not heard. These are the winters that set records and make memories. According to the record keepers, this may go down in history as the coldest February!
To the left is the view out my bedroom window the morning of the 13th.
Here is a picture from the Accelnet Tower Camera at West Tiger on the 13th. In later pictures, you can see Doug’s tracks in the snow. Since then, more snow has all but covered them. It will be some time before anyone ‘drives’ up there with a rubber-tire vehicle (even with chains).
The yellow item to the right is a Track Hoe that is working on a new tower project, part of the First Net system being installed across the country. Note how you can’t see the tracks on the machine. On the lower right is a Porta-Potty…half buried.
Winter in this area is not consistent. There have been winters that we’ve been able to drive to the transmitter sites at West Tiger without having to put on chains. Then there are those winters that conventional vehicles are useless. A couple of times the road to West Tiger has been plowed, usually due to on-going construction, etc.
Unfortunately, none of the broadcasters have invested in over-the-snow equipment. In the past I tried to interest the first stations at WTM-1 to jointly purchase the required equipment, but was not successful. West Tiger presents some unique challenges that make it not suitable for snowmobiles. The road goes up, then down, then back up on the way to the summit. Often the low place in the middle is a gravel road. In the past, over the snow machines, have been what are called snow-cats. Larger and much more expensive than what is in use today.
Today we have what are called ATV’s, small 4-wheel drive machines, that can be outfitted with ‘Tracks’ that enable them to tackle the job at a fraction of the cost. One of our local Broadcast Engineers, Doug Fisher purchased one of these a few years ago and has put it to good use at locations like West Tiger, South Mountain, Capital Peak and other locations where the ‘white stuff’ can really pile up.
This picture comes from Ralph Sims of Accelnet, taken as they were making their way up to West Tiger. Accelnet owns the webcams that have provided us all with a (warm) ring-side seat of what’s happening at West Tiger. Obviously chain saws are a requirement!
Here’s a picture I got, through the windshield, of one of the more dicey places going up to Cougar. This was after the first ‘little’ snowfall. The problem here is the grade and the fact that it’s paved, making for a very slippery situation.
The recent heavy snow took down a couple of stations (KVIX and KNWP) both on Striped Peak west of Port Angeles. Both of these stations are satellite-fed and employ a C-band dish that was, in this case, overwhelmed by over 2 feet of snow that fell in northern Clallam County.
This was an example of our ‘Lake Effect Snow’ (something that Buffalo, N.Y. often experiences). In this case, the ‘Lake’ was Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the wind source was a strong Fraser River ‘outflow’.
Interesting to read/see stories about heavy snow in Sequim (just east of Port Angeles). Sequim is known for being in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains that tend to keep the area much drier than anywhere else in Western Washington. In this case the winds were from the northeast and the mountains were of no help.
On the other side of Washington State, winter conditions are much different that here on the ‘wet-side’. Many of their transmitter locations are higher and more remote. Example is Mission Ridge (6820ft) and Naneum (6623ft) over twice as high as West Tiger.
My co-workers over there often put to use their snow cat to reach their transmitters and then snowshoe the rest of the way. The following are some pictures forwarded by John McDaniel showing engineers accessing the KQWS transmitter site. The station serves the Okanogan area and is licensed to WSU.
Shown here are Kenny Gibson and Brady Aldrich. John McDaniel is holding the camera. Brady is from this area, having spent early years on Vashon at KOMO. He’s been a frequently visitor to the Seattle Chapter SBE Meetings.
Can’t help but think of the poor fellows that have to access the TV Transmitters on Seattle’s Queen Ann and Capitol Hill. Having to put up with the traffic, etc.
I received an email from now retired Tom Pierson (retired from KIRO Radio) who is residing in Arizona. He wanted to be sure and tell me that it was time to clean his sunglasses. This may be short-lived as the winter storm that produced snow in Las Angeles and Las Vegas was expected to send temps into the 20’s in the Phoenix area. To the north, Flagstaff received a major dump of snow…35.9 inches in one day!
Here is a picture that shows the transmitter tower with its ‘2-Bay’ antenna mounted on the top, left side, of the tower.
To put all of this into perspective, other parts of the U.S. have been dealing with what’s known as a Polar Vortex, where they have been having winter that would bring the Seattle area to a complete stop. (Thanks to a couple of mountain ranges and prevailing winds we will never have to deal with this level of winter.)
Here is a comment posted on a national broadcast engineers’ remailer from a fellow in a location where it really gets cold:
Minus 44F this morning! Transmitter building at 38F with a 25 kW transmitter huffing away inside. It’s just crazy to think of a 115 degree temp differential between outside my house and inside. Propane furnaces are shutting down because propane vaporizes at -44F.
Before all of this there were some real concerns about what’s called our ‘Winter Snowpack’. This fallen snow provides irrigation and drinking water and water for Hydro projects for a large portion of the state. We’ve made up for much of the shortfall this month. According to the National Climate Prediction Center, we have a 50/50 chance of a warmer than normal summer and a 70/30 chance it will be drier.
Ok, enough about our winter weather – and on to other happenings.
Looks like Seattle’s Channel 7, KIRO-TV, will be getting new owners. Cox Media has let it be known this was in the works. Interesting that this is not an outright sale, but rather a type of merger. Apollo Management, an investor group, will be buying a majority interest in Cox Enterprises which involves Radio, TV and Newspaper properties around the country. The new company, like Cox, will be headquartered in Atlanta. Too soon to know how this will impact the operation of their TV Station in Seattle. Apollo has stated that it plans on keeping the existing management in place. Of course, this is a standard announcement with any sale. Time will tell.
Yes, you have heard about Apollo before. The name has surfaced with previous attempts by them to purchase Nexstar and Tribune Media. Obviously Apollo has been wanting to become a major player in broadcast television. Purchasing a big piece of Cox and Northwest Broadcasting which owns stations in Spokane, Yakima and Tri-Cities will help them fulfill their plans.
The FCC continues to relax requirements (nothing to do with the shut-down), announcing that broadcast licensees no longer have to post paper copies of station licenses at specific locations.
A summary of the Report and Order making the change was published in the Federal Register https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-02-08/pdf/2019-01491.pdf and the change was effective immediately.
You may now remove licenses that you may have previously posted (such as on bulletin boards or in notebooks at your transmitter site or control point) pursuant to the rule. However, if you are like me, they will still be there.
One term you hear a lot today is the word ‘Podcast’. So what does it really mean?
Let’s start with Wikipedia (I’ve edited it down a bit):
A podcast is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download in order to listen to via the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.
The word was originally suggested by Ben Hammersley as a portmanteau of “iPod” (a brand of media player) and “broadcast”.
The files distributed are in audio format, but may sometimes include other file formats such as PDF or EPUB. Videos which are shared following a podcast model are sometimes called video podcasts or vodcasts.
The generator of a podcast maintains a central list of the files on a server as a web feed that can be accessed through the Internet. The listener or viewer uses special client application software on a computer or media player, known as a podcatcher, which accesses this web feed, checks it for updates, and downloads any new files in the series. This process can be automated to download new files automatically, which may seem to users as though new episodes are broadcast or “pushed” to them. Files are stored locally on the user’s device, ready for offline use. There are many different mobile applications available for people to use to subscribe and to listen to podcasts. Many of these applications allow users to download podcasts or to stream them on demand as an alternative to downloading. Many podcast players (apps as well as dedicated devices) allow listeners to skip around the podcast and control the playback speed.
Some have labeled podcasting as a converged medium bringing together audio, the web, and portable media players, as well as a disruptive technology that has caused some individuals in the radio business to reconsider established practices and preconceptions about audiences, consumption, production, and distribution. Podcasts are usually free of charge to listeners and can often be created for little to no cost, which sets them apart from the traditional model of “gate-kept” media and production tools. Podcast creators can monetize their podcasts by allowing companies to purchase ad time, as well as via sites such as Patreon, which provides special extras and content to listeners for a fee. Podcasting is very much a horizontal media form – producers are consumers, consumers may become producers, and both can engage in conversations with each other.
OK, got all that?
Sounds a lot like what we have been doing with old Radio Shows for a very long time. There is a long standing fan base for those that want to hear radio shows from the past, Amos and Andy, Lone Ranger etc. What this does is blend the process with modern technology. The movement has really caught on with active involvement by many in and out of the broadcast industry. For example, I read a story recently on how Shari Redstone (yes, the Viacom Redstone) has become a podcast evangelist citing how she sees a big future. Consumers today are increasingly wanting audio (and video) entertainment to be in their personal time zone. Stop and think about it – Cable TV has been doing this for a long time with movies etc. Attention to Podcasting at a high level like this means that lots of money will be following.
Over the years, on several occasions, I’ve mentioned South Mountain in this column. The mountain, named for being the southern-most mountain in the Olympics, was pioneered as a broadcast transmitter location by Greg Smith when he moved his FM Station, KAYO, to the north end of the South Mountain Ridge (locally known as North Mountain). Greg later erected a 400 foot tower on the highest location at the South end of the ridge. Shortly afterward, he sold 99.3 to Bustos Media. This was my introduction to the site, where Nick Winter and I found ourselves installing the equipment for what’s now known as KDDS. Shortly afterward 97.7 went on the air (now known at KOMO-FM) then came 93.7/KLSY. The site is now going to gain a 4th FM with the addition of Jodesha Broadcasting’s KJET/105.7 which will operate as a Class C2 with 1.75 kW…much less than the others at the site.
The view from South Mountain is fantastic. Standing at the base of the tower looking North, you are looking at the Olympic Mountains. Turn Northeast and you see the buildings in downtown Seattle. East is Tacoma, South is Olympia, Southwest (on a clear day) you can see Williapa Bay and the Long Beach Peninsula. Looking West is Grays Harbor and the Pacific Ocean. No wonder the place is popular. Capital Peak, to the South offers similar views, however it’s not as high nor as close to Seattle.
The fact is, broadcasters all want coverage of Seattle for that’s where more people are! South Mountain, as well as Capital Peak, are ideal locations for radio broadcasters who have stations licensed to smaller communities, but whose target is the greater population of the Seattle area. These stations are typically call ‘Rim Shots’. To help put this into perspective – KDDS (The highest one on the tower) operates with 64,000 watts ERP from an elevation of 1033 Meters/3388 feet above sea level and is approximately 50 miles from Downtown Seattle. In much of the east coast, FM Stations are Class B’s meaning their maximum power can only be 50,000 watts at 500 feet. You mention these power levels and elevations to a broadcaster from other parts of the country, they look at you with amazement.
The downside to a site like South Mountain is that the population near the transmitter is very low (not counting Bambi and Boo Boo), therefore a lot of radio signals do very little.
A huge radio deal was announced in the middle of the month. Cumulus Media (who was recently involved with bankruptcy) is going to sell 6 of their FM stations to EMF. What makes this interesting is that EMF, a large Christian broadcaster, is buying two of them for 103.5 million CASH! One is the famous KPLJ in New York City, the other is WYAY in Atlanta. The other part of the announcement is they are trading WHSN in New York and two stations in Springfield, Mass to Entercom for 3 stations in Indy. This will enhance Entercom’s cluster in the bigger East-Coast markets while enhancing the Cumulus cluster in Indy. I recall visiting the Indy stations when I worked for Entercom. The unique part was they were across the parking lot from the SBE headquarters. This swap is much like what you see in professional sports. Players, like stations, being sold and traded, to (hopefully) make for a strong team. Interesting that EMF will also take ownership of some broadcast/tower sites that are reportedly generating $5-7 Million annually. I just love how these executives phrase things.
“These transactions are consistent with our portfolio optimization strategy and both deals are accretive,” Cumulus CEO Mary Berner said in a news release.”
The mega-buck deal is supposed to close in the 2nd Quarter of this year.
Yes, EMF operates stations in the Seattle area, 104.5 from Cougar Mt. and 88.1 from Capital Peak.
We’re saying good bye to the towers that were used for almost 30 years by the 1210 AM Station in Auburn. What is not widely known is that this site was largely built with the able assistance of non-other than the late Arne Skoog who was my assistant during those days at KBSG.
Did you all happen to catch the story about the guy that re-discovered an old Apple IIe and was shocked to find out that it still worked? That brought back a flood of memories for me as I had one of those that I used to prepare this column many years ago. I would send it to the Waveguide Editor at the blazing speed of 300 baud. Apparently many are shocked that it still worked. This underscores the mindset that today’s electronic devices are mostly short-live devices and that failure after a short time is ‘normal’. This all boils down to how the equipment was designed, quality of parts used in their construction and how well they were assembled.
A good case in point, in the picture above, when operation of the site ended, the circa 1980-something Nautel transmitter was faithfully creating the kilowatts. When the West Tiger Mountain Master FM Antenna burned up, several of the stations pressed into service Collins transmitters that were built in the 1970’s, and, to the best of my knowledge, they worked when turned on.
There are a lot of devices that are just plain better designed and built than others. This goes for computers, transmitters or cars. A great example of this is a picture of Edward R. Murrow standing in Pullman next to a Kelvinator refer. That same machine is used daily to this day.
Probably the biggest issue is there is little demand for something that will run a long time today. Reliability and projected length of service (or mean time between failures) is a secondary consideration in this fast paced world of creating new and more exciting features.
There are many positive attributes to the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) principle. Unfortunately today’s mindset is to sacrifice reliability for ‘Bling’.
This column would not be complete without a couple of pictures from the new home of Dwight Small.
In the past couple of months we have been visited by Jim Leifer in his official role as Senior Manager for Broadcast Operations for American Tower. In both cases, he was here due to the failure of the FM Master Antenna on West Tiger.
Here’s Jim taking the oath of office from Chris Imlay. Jim is also the President of SBE.
Guess it’s that time of year again:
• People standing on street corners hawking tax preparation services (US Only).
• The Mike and Key Club annual Electronics Show and Swap Meet is just around the corner on March 9th.
• Plans being made to attend the NAB show in Las Vegas, April 6-11 this year.
• Just received my invitation to attend the Seaside, Oregon SEA-PAC Ham Convention, May 31, June 1 & 2.
Often a measure of an area, SeaTac Airport is a very busy place. In fact, it’s the 9th busiest airport in the country with 49.8 million flyers gracing its concourses last year. All that and it’s been recently named the third most relaxing airport. Not sure how the earned both.
Once again, a significant contribution to this column from Michael Brooks of KING-FM. I’ll let you come up with your own caption.
Once again it’s time for me to take a look at the latest Nielsen Radio ratings for the Seattle area and list, what I feel, are the high-points.
• The area continues to grow. According to Nielsen, there are 3.863 Million of us over 12 in Market #12.
• KUOW continues to prove you can be non-commercial and do very well. They topped the list with a 7.4.
• Hubbard’s Movin came in #2 with a 7.0.
• KIRO-FM is #3 (Wonder what the lack of Ron and Don will do in the future?).
• Not a lot of ‘daylight’ between stations in the top-10 with 3 ties.
• Of the big owners, Entercom has 4 of theirs in the Top 10.
• Surprisingly KNDD is the top Entercom Station, beating KISW.
• Sports-Talk KIRO-AM continues to be the top AM in 14th place.
• Not far behind is all news KOMO.
• When Entercom pulled the plug on long standing KMPS, Hubbard quickly rolled out their own country formatted station to take on Entercom’s The Wolf. Looks like Entercom is able to hold off the challenge with KKWF Tied with KISW at # 7…Far ahead of KNUC.
• I recently wrote about the entry of an HD-2 in the list of popular choice. KNKX’s Jazz-24/HD-2 is still there, however they have been joined by two stations Streaming on-line, KSWD and KISW. Perhaps proving that the completion for OTA (Over the Air) audience is indeed real.
• Looking at the bottom part this long list are found a number of Non-Commercial stations as well as those that are not exactly within the market signals.
Just for fun, here is a look at our neighbor to the south, Market #22, Portland, Oregon.
• Population is shown as 2.354 million (about 1.5 Megapeople less than Seattle).
• Much like Seattle the #1 Station is News/Talk KOPB operated by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
• Also like Seattle, you have to go down the list to #19 before you find an AM station. In this case, historic KEX with a Talk format.
• Unlike Seattle, Portland has 3 stations with HD Channels. One of them, IHearts KFBW-HD3 doing quite well with a Classic Country format.
• One station’s ‘Stream’ is in the race.
• If you wondered where the call letters KMTT, long associated with Entercom’s 103.7 ‘The Mountain’ in Seattle are now, they are being used by Entercom in Portland.
On the sad-side, this past fall, legendary Wenatchee broadcast engineer George Frese passed. The following was recently distributed via AFCCE and was posted on the Seattle SBE-16 Remailer from which followed a number of comments by those that have fond memories of George. Read on:
“George Melvin Frese, Wenatchee, WA
Condensing 97 years of a full life for an amazing man into a few paragraphs, is nearly an impossible task, for he is more than the sum of the milestones of his life. But, in an attempt to honor George Melvin Frese, we will do so.
George was born in Spokane, WA, on June 5, 1921, to Fred and Sadie (Penner) Frese. George’s father was a City of Spokane police officer. George told stories of an adventurous childhood growing up in Spokane in the 1920’s.
His most told stories included his early experiences of listening to the radio with his mother on a crystal set, tuning into programs from around the country. George developed a fascination with the technology that enabled you to hear a person speaking hundreds of miles away. In his own words, “My number one ambition became to learn how this worked.” At the age of four, George began making crystal sets by dismantling old radios and using spare parts given to him. As his curiosity grew, so did his radios. In junior high and high school, he developed short-wave radio receivers, transceivers, and transmitters with increasing power and sophistication. As a junior in high school, he discovered that VHF radio waves reflected off of airplanes, allowing him to calculate how far away an airplane was, how fast it was traveling, and in what direction, naming his system “The Airplane Detector.” Eager to share this incredible technology, he naively wrote to the U.S. government and was disappointed when they did not respond. He then decided to share his “invention” with the government of England instead, believing it could be useful in their defense against the German Luftwaffe. This letter resulted in a visit from the FBI and the eventual military testing of his “Airplane Detector”.
George’s expertise in broadcast engineering led him to Washington State University to continue his education, graduating with a degree in Engineering. He was a proud Coug, able to belt out the Cougar fight song on command.
George met his first wife, Mollie, while in Pullman, WA. In May of 1944, George entered the Army, attended Basic Training and then Officers Candidate School. While stationed at Fort Monmouth, their first child, Joan, was born in November of 1944. His second daughter, Suzette, arrived in April of 1946. George’s military career was filled with unusual experiences and circumstances. Many are explained in his autobiography “Lost History and a Bizarre Mystery.” Following his military service, their son, Glen, and daughter, Lorene, were born.
George worked for KPQ as a radio engineer early in his career. George ventured out on his own, becoming a sought after engineering consultant of radio and television stations around the country. He is regarded as the father of modern broadcast audio processing for his invention of the Frese Audio Pilot, which was a pioneering breakthrough and improved the sound of a radio station’s broadcast signals. He obtained his first Amateur Radio “C” License in junior high. He was a proud and active Ham radio operator all of his life, with an Amateur Extra license, call sign AA7H.
In 1961, George married Rosemary Crimmins. Rosemary’s children: Richard, Linda, and Laurel Jacobsen joined the family. They were happily married for over 56 years. They were members of Central Christian (Cornerstone) Church most of their married life. George was an avid student of the Bible, having read it many times.
All of these milestones were the framework of a life well lived. But what made George special were the moments in between. He was goofy. He told us some of the dumbest “George and Joe” jokes, over and over, making us laugh. He truly cared about his family and friends. He worried about them and he prayed for them. He had more uses for duct tape than you can possibly imagine. He once gave Rosemary 100 numbered greeting cards, placed around the house as an apology. He was amazingly intelligent and could hold his own on just about any subject. He loved to exercise, playing organized softball and badminton into his 80’s. He was a master popcorn maker, enjoyed playing the violin, and playing classic music very loudly. He could “engineer” almost any device he needed. He was a good man, father, grandfather, and friend. He will be missed.
George died on November 23, 2018. He is survived by his son, Glen Frese (Sue); daughters: Joan Frese Lazarus (Jonathan), Suzette Frese Harkin (John), Lorene Frese Woody (Mike); step-son, Richard Jacobsen; step-daughters: Laurel Jacobsen Fife (Jim), and Linda Jacobsen Stuart; and his first grandchild, Tami Jacobsen Gurnard (Joe), whom he raised as his own. He also is survived by numerous grandchildren; great-grandchildren; and treasured friends. George was preceded in death by his father, Frederick; mother, Sadie; sister, Shirley Frese Woods; and his beloved wife, Rosemary.
A Service will be held on May 4, 2019 at Jones & Jones-Betts Funeral Home, Wenatchee, WA. Please express your thoughts and memories on our online guestbook at jonesjonesbetts.com. Arrangements are by Jones & Jones–Betts Funeral Home, Wenatchee, WA.
The posting of this announcement brought forth a number of comments that were also posted:
I never met George, but I was familiar with his work. He built the old KUTI 980 studio in Yakima. Beautiful wiring. And the documentation was excellent, clear, hand-drawn diagrams.
Several years ago I happened to be listening to KPQ when I was driving over the pass when they interviewed him about the history of the station. Very entertaining. Something about cutting the engineering shop loose in a flood to save the transmitter building.
I worked with George frese for a little bit on a project at a radio station in Tri-Cities when I first got into the business some 35 years ago. It was on his audiopilot audio processor. we had one at the station and it didn’t work very well so I called him up to talked to him about it, we probably spent a good hour on the phone talking about it and other things,, he was a really smart sharp audio and RF engineer, rest in peace George.
Bill Wolfenbarger wrote:
Was that the class IV on 1340? Part of the problem with that station was that the transmitter didn’t have the headroom. The transmitter used tetrodes, I think it may have been a Wilkinson.
George came to Seattle with an Audio Pilot, installed it at KOL. The deal was always that it was a trial and if you didn’t like it, he’d take it out. So when George hooked it up, our GM (Dick Curtis) reported “it sounds like a 10 dB increase!”. The purchase (as expensive as it was at $1,500) was not questioned. Aside from the fact that it used lot of tubes and relays, the Audio Pilot really was ahead of its time. George had thought of every little thing that would make things louder, including absolute control of negative peaks, float clipping, 100:1 compression ratio, polarity switching so that asymmetrical voices were louder, etc.
One problem that came up was new FCC rules on positive peaks. Clay will remember this, we made changes in the Collins 21E transmitters to give them more headroom. And as someone else reported, “Frese and Kaping” were meticulous with their wiring. Because the Statute of Limitations has run out, I can now say that I felt a certain amount of pride when KOL received a letter from the local FCC office. In part it said that KOL “positive peaks regularly exceeded 125%, and “not infrequently exceeding 200%”. It later turned out that the commish was tipped off by the Program Director at KING.
Rest in peace, George…
Andrew Skotdal wrote:
Clay, you may choose to mention that the pre-cursor to the Kinstar was created by George and is on the air at KAPS 660 right next to the freeway. Lockwood knows the name of the particular AM antenna, but there are only two in America, the other is in Hawaii, and I’m not sure if it is still on the air.
George put KRKO on the air from the Larimer Road location in Everett in 1958/59. We have photos of him with his FIM, and he helped us for several years after I became GM in the 90’s.
George was recruited by opponents to the KRKO/KKXA antenna system on Short School Road and he actually testified against us in hearings. He ultimately turned out to be OUR greatest opposition asset. Sadly, the opposing council recruited George by splitting language and saying that our argument was we needed our AM antenna system to “be near water on a shoreline.”
After we won, I flew to Wenatchee to meet with George and find out why he worked for the opponents. He brought a friend to the meeting because he initially had a concern that I was going to “throw a pie in his face or something.” Instead, I was actually there to tell him it was all ok. What the opposing council never explained to George was the County designated the entire floodplain as “shoreline” for jurisdictional reasons. Opposing council let him believe we were trying to be too close to the river because we wanted to have the antenna system in the water. When he finally learned the meaning behind the language of “shoreline” he apologized and said he was led to believe the “shoreline” was different than the farming soil which was so important to AM transmission. He conceded AM had to be in the Snohomish River Valley afterward and that was why he put KRKO in the valley back in 1958…also in the “shoreline.”
He took me to his workshop that afternoon. His QSL collection was massive and historically meaningful. I hope they didn’t get tossed. There were some treasures in his boxes. And, his workshop was its own sort of museum to broadcasting. George and his former engineering partner, Dwayne, were terrific people who cared a great deal about broadcasting. He was saddened to see KGA-A downgraded from 50kW to 10kW to give an incremental boost to 2.5 kW for a Bay Area station. I think he may have helped put that one on the air, but I know he helped reign it in from time to time, and I think he helped to move it.
Marty Hadfield added:
The KAPS ND short antenna system is a “PARAN”.
Rest In Peace, George.
Stephan Lockwood added a link for addition information on the PARAN Antenna.
Dwight Small posted this –
Somewhere I have a copy of an article from the late 40’s that came from the Western Electric magazine. It’s the story of how George floated the KPQ transmitter building when the Columbia river flooded. He used surplus Army rafts and placed them under the building, disconnected what was necessary and floated the building when the water rose. I believe he used
a longwire to keep the station on the air. Very creative engineer. RIP
And from Tom McGinley-
There are few NW engineers who didn’t know about George Frese and his remarkable achievements and contributions to our craft. The lucky ones got to work with him on a project or 2. I recall working with George and Dwayne back in 1982 when I was hired to implement a DA-2 5 kW power increase for KGEZ 600 Kalispell, MT. George did the 301 app and the GM at the time there and I did the tune up and proof with George’s sage assistance on the phone providing background info. KGEZ was still running their Frese Audio Pilot at the time and was making 150% positive peaks with their new 5 kW McMartian tx running at 1 kW.
Arne Skoog removed an Audio Pilot used at KKOL 1300 back in the 80s and stuck it in the SEA CBS Radio basement bone yard. I always wanted to fire it up again and watch it play before I left in 2016 but the box went out to the KIRO-AM Radio Museum on Vashon under the superb curatorship of Steve Allen.
From John Price:
I first met George in 1977 when he came to KGY 1240 in Olympia to do the annual audio proof of performance. He pulled up late the night of the ‘Proof’ in a Jeep Wagoneer full of ammo boxes he used to cart around his test gear. He set his gear up, had a few questions and away we went. George came back again in 1978 to do the proof that year too. I had replaced the on-air console since his last visit; he found a couple of bugs that time, but they got cleared up. I was the KGY afternoon jock and ‘punk’ Chief Engineer from February 1977 until the first week of January 1979, and never had the opportunity to see, talk to or work with George again.
KGY had an Audio Pilot that was not operational when I got there. The previous CE Don Jones wanted to get it running when we put the MW1 on the air in early 1977. I fed some audio to it and had it running in standby mode. What I remember is the clicking of the Audio Pilot’s relays. It was in a half rack sitting in the small room behind the two transmitters and equipment racks, and you could hear the relays when you were in the adjacent on-air studio. I think we put it on the air once to test it, but in the end decided not to use it instead of the existing CBS Audimax and Volumax.
Looking back at all of George’s experiences and accomplishments, I wish now I had taken the opportunity to sit down and talk to him. I’m sure I would have learned a lot. May you rest in peace sir.
And from Walt Jamison:
I am sorry for Georges poor health and death. I first heard of George in the early 1960″s when he built an intermodulation filter for a friend at a station in Yakima. My first contact with him was at a SBE meeting when he described his Audio Pilot. Several discussions with him at SBE Equipment Shows. Bob Holcomb and I showed him through the KOMO Vashon plant, I think during the 1990’s. He was interested in the RCA BC 50F Transmitter. My favorite story of his was the description of building that station in Kellog Idaho. Because of the narrow steep valley the two towers were on opposite sides of the highway. Convincing the FCC that it was not possible to make the usual close in field intensity measurements on the cliffs was a major problem. Apparently the ‘flat landers’ there did not understand the Kellog geology.
I was sadden to learn of George’s passing last fall. Both Wil Voss now in Bellingham at Cascade Radio group and I worked with George for many years in the early 70’s. Wil officially took over as the chief engineer for Duane Lee since George had left KPQ-AM & FM a few years before. I left the Wenatchee area in 73, and George shared with me a master copy of both the AM-FM version of the audio pilot. I also have a master copy of the Parin antenna that he designed for KAPS-AM 660 due to a very limited ground plane issue. KAPS still uses this antenna today in part to Steve Lockwood after it was damaged in a wind & lighting storm several years ago since George’s health would not allow him to travel and perform a major repair. I first meet George after I returned to the Wenatchee area after my father took ill in Alaska. The call AA7I and AA7H were George and Duane. That is where I got started before high school when George helped me get ready for the novice exam that I later passed and earned the call: WN7EUE. This later changed over time to WB7EUE. George was a great teacher and he inspired me to continue my studies into the engineering field. George had many stories but the one I enjoyed the most was when the Columbia River flooded the antenna site and George floated the transmitter building and placed several small boats in line to suspend the RF cable to a long wire to the South Tower.
Rest in peace my friend.
Allow me to add an item. One encounter with George took place by telephone. Out of the blue one day he called me on the phone. I was CE of KMO in Tacoma at the time and he knew it. He wanted to inform me that he had been hired to do an application for a new station in Hermiston, Oregon that would also be on 1360 and wanted to be the first to inform me that this would in no-way interfere with KMO. His attitude could best be described as being ‘hat in hand’. George was a ‘Class Act’.
I always like to try and end this column with a bit of humor. This time, Cartoon type comments about winter weather seem appropriate.
Oh yes, one more thing – THINK SPRING !!!!
As they say in Amateur Radio, 73
Clay Freinwald, CPBE, K7CR, SBE Member # 714 (2-5-68)