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Who Let the Smoke Out, Uh, Uhhh?

I’m grateful for the hundreds of captions readers sent for our contest a few months back. You have again demonstrated that this column is one of the industry’s best read. Thanks for taking the time to show off your ingenuity.

(click thumbnail)Smoke on the Watt-er
credit: Photo by John Ramsey
Talk about being overwhelmed. I’m grateful for the hundreds of captions readers sent for our contest a few months back. You have again demonstrated that this column is one of the industry’s best read. Thanks for taking the time to show off your ingenuity.

RW’s headline for this photo was “Radio Station Has Blowout Ad Sale.” Your own ideas numbered in the hundreds. Space won’t allow me to print every one, but here’s a taste.

Many entries can be grouped into one of three themes: format, technology and food.

Josh Jones of Red River Broadcasting writes, “This is why nobody plays rock and roll on AM any more.” He also suggested “Station off-air following format change to hip hop.” E-mail contributor Jonry10 proposed, “Well, after all, we are the ‘Smokin’ Oldies Station.’” Steve Tuzeneu, CBT, offered a programming suggestion: “Smokin’ 950 … today’s hottest talk programs.”

Chris Oradat of WCLO(AM)/WJVL(FM) in Janesville, Wis., came up with, “WKRP, with music so hot, our tower can’t handle it!” Chris also labeled the smoking ATU as “theft deterrent for copper thieves.”

Scott Todd at KKMS(AM) wrote, “Marvin the Martian must have gotten really angry at our host’s comments!”

Hot topics

Dennis Graiani is with WRCR(AM) in New York. He suggested, “I told them Hot AC wasn’t a good format for AM.”

Neil Richter, a board operator with WRCR, came up with “Talk radio … nothing but a lot of hot air!”

There were many associated with Don Imus. Rev. Robert Biermann likes “Imus said what?” Bob Pritchard, a broadcast media coordinator, suggested, “Don Imus has just been selected Pope of the Church of Freedom of Speech.” Willie with WFIF(AM) Engineering kept up this theme with, “Looks like Imus is back!”

M. R. Murray is VP/GM for High Country Radio in Colorado; he observed, “Imus must be back on the air.” But Leon Amstutz, CBRTE, of Taylor University suggested a comment from the Big Guy: “Don’t air that language again! …God.”

There were radio and television show themes, too.

Stevie B. at Classic Rock 103.9 suggested a reaction courtesy of Steve Urkel, the television character on the 1990s sitcom “Family Matters” with “Whoops, did I do that?”

We have our share of Trekkies among readers: Remember Kirk’s plea, “Scotty, can you give me any more power?” The caption is the chief engineer’s classic reply: “Captain, I’m giving you all she’s got right now!” suggested by Chuck Woodard of WVOK(AM/FM) in Oxford, Ala.

Bill Spitzer in Rapid City, S.D., is a long time Ole and Lena myth spreader. Referring to the ATU: “Dat’s one fine carp smoker ya got der, Ole.”

(One of Bill’s all-time favorites was when Ole posted a sign in his yard that read “Boat Fer Sale.” His friends chided him, saying, “You got no boat, Ole. All you got is dat old Chon Deere tractor and dat Moleeen manure spreader.”

(click thumbnail)Smoke Pork With Your ATU in 5 Easy Steps!“Yah,” Ole replied, “and dayer boat fer sale!”)

Dan Slentz of WHIZ(AM-FM-TV) in Zanesville, Ohio, suggested “D’oh!” Steve Brown of the Minneapolis Radio Rangers was one of many riffing on old, tired DJ crutches like, “WKRP — the big one for fun, with 5,000 constantly cookin’ watts!”

We received entries from station managers including Carl Lamar of Canyon Media. He joined the DJ crutch suggestions with “We’ve got a smokin’ hot signal here at WKRP!” He added, “Uhhhh … Houston … We have a problem!”

Keeping with the NASA theme, Bob Hughes at the Pentagon suggests, “Five seconds from launch and this happens!” Bob also included a possible classified ad for the Broadcast Equipment Exchange, too: “For sale: Smoke-tested ATU, needs some work but a great ‘fixer upper.’”

Smoke signals

Many, like Mark Voris, emergency coordinator for Dawson County and the president of the Heartland Amateur Radio Association, offered, “What a hot signal” and “factory installed smoke released!”

Buckley Broadcasting’s VP of engineering and fellow RW contributor Tom Ray took to the blackboard: “Students, electronic items run on smoke. As we can clearly see here, when the smoke comes out, the item stops working.”

Ernie Swanson, Wisconsin chief engineer for NRG Media, tells readers, “It’s tuned for maximum smoke now!”

Cox Radio’s Paul Reynolds asked, “All right … who let the smoke out?” Roger Arnold of Hall Radio suggested “tune for maximum smoke.”

Jim Lotspeich is a ham and a retired chief, originally from El Paso, Texas. He spends his days on Lake Travis in Lago Vista. His submissions included a favorite: “What size cap did you say to put in the ATU?”

To our ATU invaders: “Best snake trap around!” And, typical among retired engineers, “I miss letting out the smoke.”

Speaking of varmints, Bob Seaberg W3MDM likes, “Mouse ‘house-warming,’” where a rodent built a house in a warm inductor, or courtesy of Donald Trump, “You’re fired!” Bob then writes, “Now tell us ‘the rest of the story.’”

Charlie Brown at Clear Channel Engineering in Hartford commented, “Well … it’s not gonna work now ‘cause all the smoke’s been let out.”

Hal Williams is technical facilities manager at Salem Communications in Camarillo, Calif. His play on words: “Great Murphy’s Ghost!”

Richard Miller is with KUAU(AM) 1570 in Maui, Hawaii; he offers, “Time to spend money. It’s not FM, so who cares?” and “Darn. It was very loud, for a short time!”

Steve Runck is a staff engineer in Fargo, N.D. He wrote, “First-Year Engineering Intern Tunes for Maximum Smoke and Wins Vacation” or in a salute to RF safety, “OK, Charlie, everything’s off now. … Charlie? … Charlie, where are you?”

George Corso is regional director of engineering for Beasley in Miami; he offered, “A security breach at the smoke factory.”

“Dude, like, how is it that we put the magic smoke back in?” was Alan Fisher’s entry from Clear Channel Richmond, Va. And Salem Communications’ Scott Horner writes: “Ahh, I can here the music playing now: ‘Who Let the Smoke Out … Uhhh … Uhhh … Uhhh … Uhhh … Hoo … Who Let the Smoke Out?’

The answer’s easy

(click thumbnail)RF 1, Snake 0Consulting engineer Bob Culver of Lohnes and Culver wrote, “John, such an easy task. The ATU is on fire, the station is off the air, the GM is heading your way and you are just standing there taking a photo of all this? The caption is a no-brainer. Use the universal exclamation, short and to the point: ‘Oh, $#*@!’”

Another “been there, done that” caption came from Tom Holmes, CE for Cumulus in Columbia, Mo.: “Darn, now I know where I left that screwdriver” and Mitch Rakoff asked, “Anyone seen my Channel Locks?”

From Italy comes a suggestion from hardware-firmware Developer Mario

Kenneth Jones of WATZ(AM)/FM in Alpena, Mich., suggested: “One Fired-up ATU!”

“Look ma! Lightning does strike twice!” comes from B. J. Patton, traffic director at Clear Channel’s WTVN(AM) in Columbus, Ohio. Tom Bruce said, “The accountants ordered the 1 kW unit instead of the 50 kW unit because it was cheaper.” (He also risks starting something with his alternate caption, “Aggie engineering!”)

Tracey Liston, chief for Ohio AMs WOBL, WDLW and WWMK, offered one of many HD references: “Many AM antenna systems may not pass the HD signal without broadbanding.”

Gary Morgan from North Carolina suggested, “I just knew I shouldn’t have bought that new ATU from Wal-Mart.”

You’ve got to love Jeff Gallatin’s “I’m not calling him!” “You brought the marshmallows, right?” and “I saw this at a concert once!” Jeff is with WZXV(FM) in Syracuse, N.Y.

In defense of air talent, many contributed, “Can’t blame this one on the jocks.” And William Sullivan, DOE for Mega Communications, observed, “Smoke signals: another form of wireless.”

Supply side

Terry Hollenberg of Harris continued the tuning theme: “What you should expect when tuned for maximum smoke.” He added another favorite, “Complete hybrid technology: AM, HD and Smoke Signals.”

From Javier Castillo, VP of international sales for LBA Technology, comes, “I asked for the non-smoking section.” Thomas Mead of Register Data Systems also asked, “Who let the magic smoke out!?”

My associate on the West Coast, BE’s Ellis Terry, and former FCC maven John Reiser both suggested, “There’s got to be an easier way to get rid of hornets,” while Eventide’s Richard Factor complained, “I told you to rub the lamp, not the amp!”

Harris’s Terry Cockerill experienced a similar situation at 5 in the morning in Japan. While tuning up an AM stereo facility years ago, Terry reported, “I think there’s a problem in the ATU.” Everyone was inside the transmitter building including the antenna engineer, his hands crossed in front of him; he replied sternly, “Antenna is OK.” The picture, Terry says, is what everyone saw when they went outside.

SCMS’s Bob Mayben offered, “Hot Rocking, Flame Throwing W-K-R-P!” Bob also came close to a winning entry with, “Don’t ever play ‘Smoke on The Water’ again.”

Nicotine fix

For the smokers among our readership: “Since the station began their new policy that smoking is only permitted in an old transformer box, only the die-hard smokers haven’t kicked the habit.” Contributed by Alan Rauchwerger.

Richard Edwards of CityScape Consultants observed, “It’s getting harder and harder to find a place to smoke a cigarette.”

Mark Heller, WGBW in Two Rivers, Wis., wrote, “No smoking in the studios, no smoking in the sales office, no smoking in the bathroom … we’ve gotta find a place where nobody goes, and light up. I need my nicotine fix.”

Food entered the picture starting with our contingent out of the south, “Does anyone smell barbeque?” submitted by Austin Stinnett, CE for JWS Broadcasting, Cookeville, Tenn. Another favorite was a do-it-yourself show, “Smoke Pork With Your ATU in 5 Easy Steps!” sent by Greg Armstrong, staff engineer with RadiOhio in Columbus.

Mike Rabey, chief for the Entercom Indianapolis cluster, wrote, “Andy quickly discovered the downside to grilling chicken in the ATU coil,” and in keeping with still more varmints, “Rocky Raccoon really liked his new crib … until the next morning, when the AM station signed on.”

Z100 NY’s Chief Engineer George Marshall suggested a classified ad: “For Sale: One slightly used smokehouse. Best offer.” Contract Engineer Allen Branch wrote, “I told you Martha Stewart wouldn’t work on AM radio” and how about, “Mouse fricassee!”

“Snake. It’s what’s for dinner” was contributed by Mark Whitehead, CE of KTTX(FM)/KWHI(AM) in Brenham, Texas. Nathan Miller, CE for Albuquerque’s KWFL(FM), asks, “Hot dogs anyone?” D. Gill observes that our picture proved the “mice cookout gets out of control.”

David Robinson, an engineer at FBN, called the photo, “One ‘hot’ dog house … where we smoke ‘em and you get ‘em while they’re hot.”

Marc Mann from San Diego had a reminder, “Tell the guys in sales they can’t use the transmitter site to smoke the ribs for the company picnic,” and he writes (don’t groan too loudly), “It looks like they finally chose a new FCC commissioner!”

Kevin Thomas, a content provider in Las Vegas, suggested, “Maybe we should just boil the hot dogs.” And WTVT(TV)’s Frank Berry wrote, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ….”

Who’s to blame?

R. Sparks Scott is a contract engineer in Florence, Ore.: “Soon after the corporate chief adjusted the audio processing, the staff began noticing artifacts from the higher levels of compression and limiting.”

Bill Hurne, chief for WRMB(FM) in Boynton Beach, Fla., blames it on programming: “What did the PD do this time?”

The contributor of the photo, contract engineer John Ramsey, sent suggestions of his own: “This is what happens when you let the PD be CE,” “This is what happens when you let the GM’s son-in-law be CE” and finally, “This is what happens when you don’t have a CE.”

Anyone who’s done contract engineering can relate to a conversation between a GM and his contract guy, “What do you mean you don’t have a spare ATU in your truck?”

You can tell when engineers have been around the block a time or two: “When I got my CB license and the GM made me CE, I never knew I’d have to fight a fire,” or another common favorite, “RF 1, Snake 0.”

The picture is the result of an RF contactor’s solenoid overheating. Some GMs might say, “Heck, we didn’t need that contactor anyway. The station gets out much farther at night without it.”

Another caption we can relate to: “Hello, can I speak to Tom King please?” (Tom is president of phasor and ATU manufacturer Kintronic Labs.)

Henry Royse is the president and chief engineer of Royse Radio in Glasgow, Ky. His submission was more like a creative news release: “AM IBOC HOT TOPIC: Smoke billows from the antenna coupling unit of a local AM radio station following repeated switching between digital and analog signals. Whether or not to authorize full-time digital or limit digital to daytime hours has been a topic of heated debate, with several unresolved issues still smoldering. Parties on both sides urge a timely resolution, before the entire AM band goes up in smoke.”


The NAB Store has provided T-shirts for our winners. We thank NAB and encourage you to check out their fun selection of “radio wear,” including engineering themes, at under the Merchandise tab.

In third place is Eric Kehew’s caption: “Pop-Pop, Fizz-Fizz, Another Late Night It Is!” Second place goes to Honorary Engineer David Gleason of Univision Radio in Los Angeles for “The ribs look done, but the brisket needs higher positive peaks.”

And our winner came up with a cute play on words. Ron Kocher is president of WFBO(LP) in Flagler Beach, Fla., who said: “Smoke on the watt-er!”