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Engineer, Apply Thyself

Six iPhone apps that might deserve a place in your smartphone

At a recent SBE meeting of 20 or so participants, I glanced at all the phones sitting on the tables. One thing was clear: Engineers like iPhones.

As I watched people interacting with their devices before the meeting, I wasn’t surprised to see that a majority of people were just checking e-mail.

It’s one thing to use that phone to stay in touch while you’re out of the office. What about when you are on the job? Is that iPhone capable of more than just e-mail and angry birds?

Well it doesn’t take but a few search terms in iTunes demonstrate that there is literally an app for everything, including broadcast engineering.

The daily duties of an engineer sometimes involve a quick calculation that might send you back to your bookshelf digging for the latest edition of an engineering reference text. There are apps to help with just this issue. Sure, you may have a browser nearby, but these make it even simpler to gather the info you need.


Backline Calc, above, a musical calculator from Audiofile Engineering (which also makes the FiRe Field Recorder) offers 32 calculators that engineers will find handy. Convenient calculators for time code, electric (compare power, compare voltage), acoustics (distance to time, SPL, panning) and Files (file size). All of the calculators potentially are helpful, but I found the file size calculator the most valuable. Enter in sample rate (8 kHz–384 kHz), bit depth (8-bit to 32-bit) and length, and the calculator will determine the size of the file in megabytes. When you are pushing a lot packets it is nice to be able determine file size on the fly.



Engineering Calcfrom Agilent Technologies a simple reference consisting of a resistor calculator, capacitor calculator, Ohm’s Law and Smith Chart, things you likely are to be looking up every day; its ease of use and simplicity make it a smart app to have tucked away in a reference folder on your iPhone. Agilient also makes the MicroWave Calculator to assist with measurements, including calculators for directivity error, mismatch error limit and ratio-to-dB.



SignalSuitefrom Faber Acoustical LLC adds a precision signal generator to your phone. There are three advanced, audio-band signal generators to produce various types of periodic signals, broadband noise and frequency sweeps. The app includes three types of white noise and pink noise generators and remembers your signal generator configurations between launches. Pan controls allow different signals to be sent to the left and right output channels when working with the stereo headphone jack or line out. The user provides the cable to interface this with their broadcast equipment, but I found that since I am already carrying a phone throughout the day, this saves me time when I need to get quick tone on the line. The $9.99 price tag may seem a bit steep, but this is a full-featured app.



Toolkit from Chesapeake NetCraftsmen allows engineers to calculate subnets and provides a network calculator and wildcard calculator. With IP audio and networks coming under the direction of many engineers, this is a helpful reference and calculator for configuring network parameters.



Dragon Dictation by Nuance Communications is an easy-to-use voice recognition application. It uses the same technology as Dragon’s Naturally Speaking software that allows you to speak and instantly see your text or to e-mail a message. Not only is this a handy way to provide an almost hand-free e-mail experience, it can be a great tool for taking notes. Documentation is the first thing to suffer when you are busy putting out fires across your facilities. By using an app like Dragon, you can take notes while making changes, or leave yourself or colleague a text or e-mail message with important information as you are working. If you fat-finger the keyboard when typing IP addresses or numbers, just speak them into Dragon, you will get visual confirmation of your text as soon as you finish recording.



Ham Helper — This app isn’t just for amateur radio operators. With Ham Helper, engineers can make quick conversions from frequency to wavelength or wavelength to frequency; SWR to return loss and return loss to SWR; Watt to dBm and dBm to Watt; μV to dBm and dBm to Watt. This basic app provides another helpful application for calculating data on the job, when time and accuracy are equally important.


I’m looking for more engineering-friendly applications to share with RW readers. What apps have you found helpful in your job? Drop me an e-mail with your suggestions care of [email protected].

Broadcast engineer Laura Mir, CBNT, is a board member of SBE Chapter 37.