Letters Span a Wide Spectrum

Readers react to a wide variety of articles

HAM RADIO WASTELAND

This in response to “Strong Ties Bind Amateurs and Broadcasters” published June 13. The essence of the article was that ham radio provides a pool of talented and motivated employees. That may have been true back as late as the ’60s. The exams have been greatly watered down, the only skill required was Morse code and that was eliminated. All the questions and exact answers are published verbatim.

iStockphoto/noizstocker

My daughter passed the test when she was eight in 1989 (when the test was harder); would you hire her to be a tech at your radio station when she was eight? After all in the article it says, “I don’t think that there is anyone who understands radio science and technology at such as profound a level as hams,” and she was a ham at age eight. Today, even younger hams are licensed.

The article references emergency communications rendered by hams. Few hams ever do a scintilla of any type of public service. I invite the reader to grab a shortwave radio and listen to the ham bands — most weekends they are having 30-second contacts where they give false signal reports.

I got my license at age 14 (K1OIK), 57 years ago, when you actually had to draw a schematic on the exam, and an FCC examiner gave the test, not friends like today, no questions were published, and it did help me get my FCC First Class Radiotelephone license.

Newton Minow, a long-past FCC chairman, once referred to television as a vast wasteland. Today that could be applied to amateur radio.

Burt Fisher

 

SPECTRUM MANAGEMENT

The front-page article on spectrum (mis-)management (“Noise Inquiry Spurs Recommendations,” RW July 5) pushed me over the edge!

I fear that the constantly rising RF noise floor will ultimately put all of us broadcasters out of business. There are just too many unlicensed RF generating devices out there, polluting the spectrum. There are places around greater Boston where you cannot listen to WBZ(AM) because of all the background noise. And I dare say that WBZ has one of the best AM transmitting plants in the nation.

Pandora has been let out of her box, and I don’t see how anyone can get her back inside it.

Ultimately, radiated radio signals will go the way of the buggy whip.

Lewis D. Collins
Retired electrical engineer
Wayland, Mass.
Glendale, Calif.

 

SPORTS BROADCASTS

In a radio industry based on constant change, there are exceptions.

When the WAVU(AM) 630 sports crew in Alabama opened the mic to broadcast the local high school football team Aug. 25 it marked the 70th consecutive season their home town station has aired Albertville High School Aggie football.

WAVU’s commitment to the local team has roots that sprouted even earlier than the first broadcast in 1948. Station owner Pat Courington, Sr., had stepped in to coach the team for a year in 1946. Pat also handled play-by-play duties for the first few radio broadcast, but replaced himself after deciding that he sounded more like a coach reviewing film than a radio announcer.

Regardless of the Aggies’ ups and downs over the years, the broadcast always sells out thanks to loyal sponsors. And through the decades, listenership has remained strong as the station added an FM signal a few years back and last year with the help of the school began simulcasting the games in HD video over the internet.

Tommy Lee
General Manager
WAVU(AM)
Albertville, Ala.

 

WEATHER RADIOS

Thank you for an excellent article in Radio World’s Aug. 2 issue: “EAS is Still Relevant as WEA Works Out Kinks.”

As you are aware, NOAA Weather Radio is the first service to be activated in the cascade of EAS modalities. Despite continued focus on cell phones and the WEA alerts, it is worth noting that NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) continues as a vital alerting service in many areas of our country, including rural areas with sketchy, or non-existent cell phone service.

This was recently highlighted in Gila County, Ariz., where a family of ten was swept away by flash flooding. A severe thunderstorm warning had been issued 90 minutes earlier, but the family was swimming in an area devoid of cell phone service. NWR had the warning and they would have received it had they been carrying a portable NOAA weather radio.

In the Moore and Joplin tornadoes, Hurricane Sandy and the Washington earthquake, cell phone systems were so overloaded that emergency messages could not get through. In Moore and Joplin, cell phone tornado warnings arrived minutes or hours after the tornadoes struck. Following the total destruction of the area’s cell towers by Hurricane Sandy, the Wall Street Journal described Jersey Shore cell phones as “$400 phone books,” whose utility was reduced to being the device upon which you looked up the phone number you proceeded to dial on an old-fashioned pay phone.

If terrorists ever strike NYC again, the gridlock of the phone system will be tragic, and people who rely solely upon their phones for life-saving information will quickly regret that decision. The National Weather Service, the Dept. of Homeland Security, FEMA and the American Red Cross have all recommend a NOAA weather radio for every home, school, and business in America. We need to keep reminding Americans that there is a very well-proven system that provides them with free, immediate and official life-saving information direct from their local National Weather Service office.

If Americans will simply purchase a $30 weather radio, they’ll be directly connected with America’s EAS system at the highest level of the chain.

Thanks for your article, and thank you for supporting “The Voice of the National Weather Service,” NOAA Weather Radio.

Bruce Jones
Meteorologist/Spokesperson
Midland Radio Corp.
Kansas City, Mo.

 

WHY THE FIRST PHONE MATTERED

Responding to “The Demise of the First Phone,” read at radioworld.com, which originally appeared in a print version of the magazine in 2006.

I was licensed, with a first class radio ticket (as they used to call them). It was your ticket to work. I had been a radio telephone operator) in the military, in Vietnam, which required a strong back. A “PRC 25” weighed 28 pounds plus extra batteries. Along with ammunition, C-rations, water, claymore with blasting cap remotely located; in case the radio set it off, and all kinds of extras like bandages, mosquito repellent, poncho liner, socks, foot powder. TP and whatnots.

When I was growing up, I had crystal radios and tinkered with all the new stuff like TV, Ham radio and, I even had a Morse code merit badge when I was in the Boy Scouts. Hell, I was high tech.

After the Army, I really wanted to be a broadcaster (DJ), the only way to do that was to get your ticket. You needed your ticket, because to begin in broadcasting you had to go to some small market (mine was Carson City, Nev., KPTL Capital Radio) and be bad. If you could have heard it, you would have said this guy is terrible. The entire collage of personalities was astounding: the old guy, George Webb, was in the bag (he had a drinking problem), but he knew radio,and he knew broadcasting. It was like a scene from “Mash” or “Taxi.”

Radio guys used to have a profile. In the Navy they called the radar guy “Sparks” because he worked on Spark Gap radio, a way of raising the signal to a higher frequency, this predated TWT (traveling wave tube and reflex oscillators, which were a mini klystron). In a lot of the old movies, there was always a “Sparks.”

The other thing a radio guy was known for was the wiring in a radio shack, usually at the top of a mountain where no one ever came to look, there would always be some kind of Kluge on the wall almost pure bread boarding without the ICs. Radio kind of had that way — recluses tweaking on things at the top of a mountain.

The reason you needed a First Class license was, when you would do your bad radio broadcasts at night, you were alone at the station. To run a station, which essentially was what you were doing, you had to have a first class license. The main part of running a station was an AM radio, which has a big ionosphere skip, so at night the power is cut in half. Only the station master and or a First Class licensee could change the power.

To get your ticket, you had to pass the FCC exam and the exam for First Class, which I remember was all about, dip the plate peak the grid, O-scope video signal characteristics, transistors, federal law and all calculations, were done with a slip stick (slide rule) the best of which were made of bamboo. After that experience, I was very careful changing things or doing anything that would jeopardize my license. To me, a station log was like signing a pact in blood.

After my first job in Carson City, I moved to KNTV in Reno, Nev., where they changed the format of the radio station (KPTL) from easy listening (Frank Sinatra and other pop hits my parents liked) to country western. When a station would change its format, they cleaned house on the talent side of the house.

I moved from radio to TV because they paid an engineer more than talent, and it had more job security. I kind of lost my first love in all of that. I really wanted to just talk on the radio. I went from TV to microwave at the phone company, and then onto PBX, datacom, onto the whole world of VoIP and servers, and really it has become dismal and no fun. IT is an overmanaged process, which renders science to opinion and budget. I was never a bean counter.

I won’t comment on the latest events, with internet and big business; the only footnote here is, when I was at the phone company I worked on ARPANET and the underpinnings of the internet. I worked on echo canceling for satellite communications; I saw the dawning of voicemail, and now the sun has set on that media, and so much more, which was all because of a little thing called a First Class Radio License.

Now, I always try to see where the future is going and jump on board as a first adopter…but like remembering your first girlfriend, the old days of radio and TV were very exciting to me.

G.Ridge

 

MAN-MADE NOISE

I read with great interest the article by Tom King and the measurements that he and Jack Sellmeyer made (“Steps to Lower Noise Floor and Revitalize AM Radio,” RW July 5). I’m glad to see folks of this stature taking up the cause and demonstrating the realities of the problems caused by the increase in man-made noise.

For years, I’ve been saying this noise affects a lot more than just the AM broadcast band, but for some reason a lot of people seem to pooh-pooh that fact. Now they’re learning the truth.

Years ago, I had a situation on Mt. Wilson where a transformer that was breaking down in an underground vault was creating serious grunge in a 450 MHz radio system as well as a 7 GHz broadcast TV STL system. The problem disappeared when the transformer finally burned up.

Most of us have seen sparklies on analog TV from arcing power line insulators. With digital you don’t see that — it just refuses to decode properly, or it may often pixelate or freeze. Those of you who think digital is the panacea of all the noise problems, think again.

The only thing I would like to have seen Tom and Jack do different is to use a field meter that shows quasi-peak and/or peak reading, rather than just the RMS value of the noise. The peak value reading better demonstrates the truth and its destructive nature and shows just how serious the problem is.

A few years ago, I made a video of power line noise caused by loose hardware on a 77 KV line about a quarter mile away. I compare the RMS and peak values using a Stoddart NM-25T, which has RMS, quasi-peak and peak reading capabilities. You can see the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBdYV3IFRfw.

Burt Weiner
Burt I. Weiner & Associates



Receive regular news and technology updates. Sign up for our free newsletter here.

Share This Post