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December 2014
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Friday Funnies; malaise edition

Remember when there was actual competition between radio stations for the coveted #1 bragging rights?  That was way back in the day when talented air persons were sought and compensated for their performances.

These days, when thinking about certain owners and their money men, a certain Fat Boy Slim album cover comes to mind:


Ahhh, the 90’s, I never thought I’d miss you.

Village seeks repayment from Energy Onix

This saddens me a little bit.  Apparently, the Village of Valatie, NY is seeking repayment of a $500K loan from Transmitter Manufacturer Energy Onix.  Since the passing of Bernie Wise, the company has basically folded.

The village may foreclose on the building if necessary, said Mayor Diane Argyle.

Located at 1306 River St., Energy-Onix was founded in 1987 by broadcast pioneer Bernard Wise, who is known for bringing the “grounded grid” to radio broadcasting. The company designed, manufactured and sold radio transmitters and tubes.

More from the Columbia-Greene Register Star.

Sadly, there goes support for many Energy Onix and CCA transmitter still in the field.  I know of several of those old CCA transmitters that are still cranking away, 40 or more years after they rolled out of the factory in Gloucester, NJ.   I have tried, several times, to call Energy Onix since Bernie passed last year and the phone goes unanswered.  I wonder if we could pick up the the field support and service for these units.  I wonder if there are any spare parts left at the old factory building?



Longest tube life?

We may be going for a record here; this Broadcast Electronics FM20T was placed in service on June 6, 2001:

Broadcast Electronics FM20T, WYJB, Albany, New York

Broadcast Electronics FM20T, WYJB, Albany, New York

The original 4CX15000A tube is still in use.  I wrote about this a few years ago in this post: Longevity.

I thought by now, we would have changed out that tube.  A few quick calculations shows that the tube has been in use for 118,289 hours or 4,929 days or 13 years 6 months and 3 days.  Anyway you look at it, that is a long time for one tube in nearly continuous use.  I noticed the hour meter is lagging a bit:

Broadcast Electronics FM20T hour meter, WYJB, Albany, New York

Broadcast Electronics FM20T hour meter, WYJB, Albany, New York

Reads 113051.24, which is 5,238 hours different than what I calculated from the maintenance log.  I noticed a slight discrepancy in hours two years ago and attributed it to various off air periods.  However, between then and now, this transmitter has not been off at all.  Thus, the hour meter is wearing out before the tube.  I would say that this is because of excellent filament voltage management,  but I think we simply have a really good tube.

Has anyone else had a tube that lasted this long or longer?

Transmitter Haiku

I wrote a little Haiku about Thanksgiving dinner:

Telephone rings
Old transmitter beckons
Dishes get cold

Not exactly the 5/7/5 of a traditional haiku, but close enough.  This year, it was the nearly 30 year old Broadcast Electronics FM35A at WEBE.   A set of readings from the remote control reveal; zero forward power, zero plate current and 12.8 KV plate voltage.  My first assumption was some sort of drive issue; a failed exciter or IPA driver.  After starting the backup transmitter and making sure that it was running stably, I spoke with the program director and told him we would be out next morning.

Upon arriving at the transmitter site, I found the BE transmitter had no filament voltage.  An obvious clue, I began working backwards from the tube socket until I found this:

Broadcast Electronics FM35A filament voltage regulating transformer

Broadcast Electronics FM35A filament voltage regulating transformer

This is the auto-transformer that regulates the filament voltage.  Schematically, it is noted as T204 and it is in series with one side of the filament transformer.  This one is burned open.  The bad news;  Broadcast Electronics does not stock this part, it is a special order item, the replacement part costs $2,800 dollars and it will take a few weeks to get here.  The good news, after digging through our stock of old transmitter parts, I found an exact replacement:

Replacement part, T204, BE FM35A

Replacement part, T204, BE FM35A

Replacement part name plate, T204, BE FM35A

Replacement part name plate, T204, BE FM35A

We will be installing it on Monday morning.


The quick disconnect LNB:

C-Band LNB

C-Band LNB


No food or drink in the studio

This is a rule that I always find difficult to enforce.  Since switching into contracting mode, I am often at any particular studio once per week or less.  It seems to me, no matter what signs are posted or what words are spoken, the DJ seems to hear; “It is okay to eat and drink in the studio.”

Of course, with that attitude, the inevitable is bound to happen:

RS-18 Millenium console on/off button membrane

RS-18 Millenium console on/off button membrane

To make things worse, this was spilled on the main mic on/off buttons.  These button membranes come in groups of six and are not inexpensive.  The complaint was “The main mic will not turn off.”  Ah well, I am paid to fix things after all.  The DJ’s are only inconveniencing themselves at this point.


Here in the good ole’ US of A, today is election day. I try to stay away from politics, that is not what this blog is about.  However, once in a while, a good public service announcement is required.  So, this year, if you are a citizen and eligible to, go vote.  People say, “Oh but it is a midterm election, it does not matter.”  Horse hockey, every election matters.  Think of it this way; for 364 days out of the year, the politicians are fucking you.  You get one day to return the favor.  I suggest you use it wisely.

Whatever happened to the CFA?

Remember way back when, perhaps in high school or college, you met this really cool person who seemed to be wonderful in every way? Yeah, then you got to know them a little better and, well, those first impressions changed a little bit.

Crossed Field Antenna, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Crossed Field Antenna, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Crossed Field Antenna (CFA) sort of reminds me of my first prom date.  There was a lot of promise there, but plans fell through.

From a 1999 Radio World article:

Imagine an AM antenna one–fiftieth of a wavelength long, that needs no radial ground system, occupies a small parcel of land, produces little or no RFI (Radio Frequency Interference), has great bandwidth and performs better than a full–sized vertical radiator.

This potential new antenna was all the rage during the early 00’s or whatever you call that decade.  I remember thinking to myself; I will believe it when I see the test results.  At one point, there was a battery of tests run in the installation in Egypt and China.  The test results are spotty at best, however, none of these installation performed up to expectations.  While it looks like a cool idea, and it would have been great to see it succeed, it seems that sheer will power alone will not make a particular system work outside of the laws of physics.  There are a few of these still in operation out in the wild, mostly in Egypt.

Fixing small problems

This happened recently at an AM station we were doing work for. It seems the modulation monitor was not working when connected to the backup transmitter. A quick check of the RG-58 coax showed that I had the correct cable plugged into the monitor selector relay.  Another check with an ohm meter showed the cable was okay.  Then I looked at the connector on the monitor port of the transmitter and saw this:

BNC connector pin  improperly located

BNC connector pin improperly located

Looks like the pin is too far back in the connector. This is an old style BNC connector with a solder in center pin:

BNC connector center pin

BNC connector solder type center pin

The center pin has a blob of solder on it, preventing it from seating properly in the connector body. I could have lopped it off and applied a new crimp on connector, but my crimp tool was in the car. I didn’t feel like walking all the way through the studio building, out into the parking lot and getting it. Therefore, I used a file and filed off the solder blob then reassembled the connector:

BNC connector

BNC connector

The transmitter was installed in 1986, I think the connector had been like that for a long time.

It may seem like a small detail to have the modulation monitor working on the backup transmitter, however, the modulation monitor is also the air monitor for the studio.  Switching to the backup transmitter but not having a working air monitor would likely have caused confusion and the staff might think they are still off the air.  I know in this day and age, a lot of station do not even have backup transmitters, but when something is available, it should work correctly.

I like my cool network analyzer and all that, but sometimes it is the Mark 1, Mod 0 eyeball that gets the job done.

Network Security, part II

With the spate of ransomware and crypto virus attacks on automation systems, perhaps a quick review of network security is in order:

  1. Isolate the automation system on a separate network from the general office network and do not allow internet access on the automation system’s work stations or servers.
  2. Use a separate switch for all automation network connections.
  3. install a small router between the automation network and the office network.  On the router, the WAN port faces outward toward the office network, make the WAN port non-pingable.  Grant access from the office network for certain users; e.g. traffic, music director, etc via access lists.  Open up a few ports for VNC or RDP on the router so technicians can remotely access machines to do maintenance and troubleshooting.
  4. Use supported and up to date operating systems.
  5. Use separate admin and user accounts, make sure that admin rights are removed from user accounts and keep machines logged in as users.  This ensures that some errant DJ or other person does not install any unauthorized programs.
  6. Install and keep up to date a good antivirus program.
  7. Back up the data and test the backups.

The office network is more vulnerable because of the human element.  Internet access is require, of course.  Click on a pop up, sure!  Hey, that photograph has a funny file extension, lets open it and see what it is.  I never heard of this person before, but look, they sent me an executable!

Much of the office network security will rely on the quality of the router connected to the internet and the antivirus software installed.  Of course, the network users have a good deal of responsibility also.