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До свидания!

Isn’t this where…

If you are reading this, one of two things has happened; either I pulled the plug on the blog, or that great guy up in the sky has pulled the plug on me.  It occurred to me, whilst driving all those many miles year in and year out doing contract engineering, that insurance actuary tables exist for a reason.  Sooner or later, something catastrophic was bound to happen.  Thus I created this post which will automatically publish itself every Monday morning unless I intervene.

It was eight plus years ago that, on a whim, I started this blog.  When I started I knew that all paths cross themselves eventually. We all end were we begin, and so it is with this. Over the last eight years, I tried and sometimes succeeded in describing what it is like to be a broadcast engineer.  Occasionally, I have strayed off topic.  I have written about and struggled with the engineering aspects of the radio business.  Sometimes, I would like to think, my readers were at least entertained, perhaps informed, enlightened, or felt empathy.

The truth is this; at some point I ran out of ways to express myself without turning this into a rant-feast.  Radio is the ultimate legacy consumer technology.  Independent radio stations have the ability to, even today, be a wonderful entertainment medium.  Radio can still serve the community in times of disaster or distress.  However, the absolute soul crushing mediocrity of automated programming is killing the entire industry.  Of course, the cause of this is the equally crushing debt load being carried by the majority of radio station owners.   That reality, intersecting with declining advertising revenue and segmentation of market share, spell the end of the commercial radio business model.  I look upon the sale of tower assets as another sign that the death spiral is deepening.  This is not going to change; debt loads will remain and the business will mediocre itself to death.  People in the business will be forced to accept ever increasing work loads coupled with decreasing salaries.  All of this being supervised by the Sauron like, all seeing corporate eye, thousands of miles away.

In the end, the only thing that could kill radio is radio itself.

I will also take the opportunity to thank everyone that participated, commented, sent me off line e-mails and what not over the years.  Without your input, I would have ended this long ago.

So, this is it.  The blog will stay up and running for as long as the domain and/or hosting remains active.

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34 comments to До свидания!

  • James G.

    Thanks for the times. I enjoyed your site.

  • Hopefully, Paul, if you answer this post, then at least we know it was not the second option.

    I have found this to be an invaluable education as a new LPFM radio operator.

    There is hope for radio – if the conglomerates are forced eventually to break up their large groups and “return” those stations to smaller owners who might reinvest in good radio.

  • Scott Cason

    “the absolute soul crushing mediocrity of automated programming is killing the entire industry” Now that I’ve become a station owner myself, I find it humorous how people want to lump all the radio stations into what Cumulus, Clear Channel and the other consolidators are doing. I had to disagree with you here, but the smaller stations like mine are out there crushing it. Small mom&pop stations still exist. And they are still serving the listeners in the tradition of radio.

    yes, my station is automated with Nexgen. I’d love for there to be a study done on how many small town radio stations would have gone dark had the labor saving device we know as the personal computer not been invented. When done right, it does not sound automated….just like it didn’t sound automated 50 years ago when we were using Gates Carousels and 55’s and Scully reel to reels all being driven by a SMC SSP-3060.

    I hate to see you end the blog, I liked seeing your projects take shape and get a few ideas for my engineering work. But to lump all broadcasters into the same old tired stereotype of the large consolidator is old and tiresome and does nobody any favors, particularly the small time broadcasters who continue to work their asses off to keep the tradition alive. If that’s what the blog was about to become, then it’s just as well you pull the plug on it.

    Scott

  • Paul Thurst

    I am alive and well, I wrote this post about a year ago and should have edited that part out before I let it go this morning.

    In the mean time, I just renewed the domain name at the end of June, so the blog itself will be around until at least June of next year.

  • Dave Dybas

    I’m glad you are continuing the Blog. Many of us in broadcast engineering share your frustration in the direction this field has taken. But we have “radio” flowing thru our veins and many of us will continue to muddle through its evolution until we can’t function any longer.

    For me, as I approach retirement, I still look forward to doing a little work here and there at Mom & Pop stations, mainly because I like the people who run them.

    Please continue to post your tid-bits of wisdom and technology….they are appreciated !

  • Gregg Richwine

    Paul, thanks for the years of sharing your work with us. It has certainly been informative and entertaining.

    It’s nice to see examples of stuff done right, with a little Yankee ingenuity rolled in, like the toolbox ATU project.

    Best wishes as you move forward.

    Gregg

  • Mike Chmiel

    Paul,
    As a younger engineer, your blog has been inspiring and has taught me much. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories and insight over the years.

  • Larry Doe

    Dear Paul,

    I knew, upon reading your ‘dead man switch’, the timely information contained within it was proof of your survival. It was the “rant feast” which has kept me a loyal subscriber to your blog! I agree entirely with your salient points! Most of your followers are not aware of the fact that I was an employee of the ‘contract engineering firm’ which has employed you since 2010. You have filled the space I vacated with utmost competence! Your training as U.S. government property in the U.S. Navy has made you a far better engineer than I ever was!

    For ten years, I worked in the position which you eventually filled. During this time, I became cognizant of the trends in the broadcasting industry which you have so aptly articulated in your blog!

    I am now retired and not be accessible at the Vassar.edu domain from which I last contacted you. I am answering emails sent to my msn.com address which was entered at the header of this reply.

  • Rob

    Thanks for writing what you wrote. Your efforts have been greatly appreciated! Best wishes for wherever your journeys take you.

  • Matt

    I have loved reading your site, and look forward to every time I saw that little heart in my feed reader. I truly appreciate seeing this stuff, as I am in the amateur radio world, and seeing the “big boys” was always so interesting.

    Thank you again. If you ever decide you’d let someone host this to allow the legacy to live on, please feel free to reach out.

  • Steve

    Thank you for the HARD work and sharing your world. It’s been great!

  • Keith

    I’m not in the business and have no actual ties to the radio industry, but I’ve always had a fascination with the technical aspects of broadcasting. Your blog has always been interesting to me and I’ve learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of sending out a signal.

    Thank your for all your insights. I’ve really appreciated it.

  • Chuck Gennaro

    Take a break but come back later? Resources like this are invaluable for people just entering the profession or interested in doing so. Not to mention those of us who are not new but are always looking for better ways to do something.
    I forget how many times I’ve read something here and thought “that’s Genius!”
    There is SO little hands-on information out there, losing this would be enormous. Your efforts have done immeasurable good. And there’s nothing wrong with a good rant either.

    ii) Stop working for mega radio, it kills your soul. There are plenty of employers like mine (10 stations, family owned) that still serve their communities, do hours of daily call in and interview shows, have local news staffs and do it all with live, local talent. I know several starving for engineering help and willing to pay a decent buck to get it. It isn’t entirely hopeless.

  • Edward Susterich

    “Thank You” is not really enough– the sharing of your knowledge and experience over the years is greatly appreciated. The quantity of the knowledge that you shared with us is surpassed only by the quality of your effort.

  • Paul,

    If you don’t feel like renewing the costs of webhosting for next year to keep this blog online, then let me do it. You have put way too much time, energy, and effort into a resource that is invaluable to everyone here. I don’t want to see it go. I would be more than happy to keep your blog alive on my resources, so the material doesn’t disappear.

    With that said, I hope you decide to come back sometime. I really enjoy this blog a lot, and all the love you’ve given my site over the years.

    — Mike

  • Scott Gardner

    Paul
    Thanks for the Blog over the years. I have learned so much from your Blog. I was practically born in a radio station and been in one my whole life and have never understood how the Antenna Tuning Unit worked until your Blog on it.
    For that I thank you bunches and wish you would continue the blog and see what else we can learn from you.
    Scott

  • Adam Wade

    I do hope this is only a temporary departure. I have enjoyed reading your posts for years. I still enjoy looking through the “archives”. While it can be a thankless job I for one am very appreciative of the work you have put into this blog over the years.

    If it is goodbye, then I wish you the best in future endeavors. Your blog was and is appreciated.

  • Paul,

    As someone who has filled the chief engineer shoes for several AM and FM stations and as a freelance engineer I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughtful insight as well as the many insider views of the studios and transmitter sites you’ve shared with us. Like you, I’ve become disenchanted with the radio landscape here in the Northeast. I limit myself to very few freelance gigs and only permanently keep my hands in a station or two that I’ve been associated with since my youth. I do hope you might reconsider sharing your further adventures in radio engineering down the road, but I do understand. It was great to see mention once in awhile about Pete Partenio, as remember him being the chief at the New York’s former B106/SuperStation back during the time I was engineering Connecticut’s WMMM/WCFS-AM and providing engineering coverage for WGCH-AM, WREF-AM and WEBE-FM.

    Many at my HobbyBroadcaster.net forum are presently or formerly involved in the broadcast industry and realize that today’s radio is become more cookie-cutter than creative. Sure, a few little 100-milliwatt pea-shooters might not change the world, but they very well may bring happiness to a small neighborhood. Reflecting on almost six decades of broadcast radio it’s quite sad that things aren’t necessarily better these days.

    I wish you the best in your future endeavors and perhaps we’ll run across each other down the road apiece.

  • Alan in DC

    Thanks for letting me post here over the years, Paul. You’ve just hit the same wall I experienced in 2004 when I let “The World According to ARP / From The Trenches” (Radio World) wither and end.

    Radio is a better place for your participation in it.

  • Mark Esbjerg

    Thanks for the blog Paul.
    It was reassuring to know that there are other people experiencing what I am experiencing after 44 years in the business. Your photos of your work and the sometimes sad state of stations were very impactful. It has always been surreal to me that folks like you who have the knowledge and ability you have, are thought of as glorified custodians. I have a lot of respect for custodians. I’ve noticed that I will not even get a phone call anymore, but will get a TEXT, with the same urgency, whether the station is off the air, or the toilet is stopped up.
    I may not be an “engineer”, but I find myself not correcting people anymore when the confuse me with one.
    It is a great compliment.
    Take care, and for one final time, here is our legal ID,
    WVWA Poundridge – NINE!!!
    Mark

  • Louis Wilen

    Please keep your blog going. Consider selling advertising to cover the cost. Your blog is one-of-a-kind and it would be sorely missed if it were to shut down.

  • Kent Teffeteller

    Paul, it will be sad to see your blog go. I have enjoyed reading this for quite some time, learned my fair share from Engineering Radio. You’ll be sadly missed.

  • Carlos Alvarez

    dear Paul

    I really enjoyed reading your blog during these years. . I feel sad that this will end, but being realistic your words are the truth. It has really been very stimulating to read and see from here (almost at the end of the world) your repair and maintenance broadcastings tasks . And delight your accurate and subtle writing . I hope someday you’ll get back on the air again…. Greetings from Uruguay- South America.

  • Jim Seaman

    Paul, It’s been a great ride. I, among many, would love to see you regain your Mojo to continue, but I realize that everything has a beginning, an end, and sometimes a resurrection. I thought I would be a lifer, but left radio engineering with some disgust just before the great wave of consolidations started in 1993, occasionally dabbling in it for old times sake. Thanks for sharing your workplace experiences, and letting me engage in a little bit of nostalgia.

    All the best,

    Jim Seaman
    Germantown, Maryland

  • Tom Osenkowsky

    Experience is so often the best teacher and I have your blog to thank for learning a lot. I contributed when I believed I had something constructive to add.
    I am alive for now but not well. As some of you know I met with my oncologist on July 3, 2017 and given the state of my blood test results and the lack of available options I terminated my cancer treatments. I am now in the care of Regional Hospice and will remain at home for the time I have left. The word ‘months’ has been used.
    I have no regrets, no dependents and enjoyed the years I dedicated to the broadcast engineering profession. There have been many changes in all aspects of broadcasting. The Tom Osenkowsky who always asked “What do you need?” or “How can I help?” no longer exists. Today I sold a massive amount of broadcast gear and I was unable to lift boxes and equipment. Sitting and watching was never my style. Going up a flight of stairs is a challenge. I am not used to being weak but this is my reality now.
    I do not have a blog myself but I do enjoy helping and answering questions whenever I can. Paul, I have to say “Thank You” for your time, effort, expertise and attention in maintaining this blog. It has been very educational and helpful. Best of luck in the future!

  • Henrik

    Puh,, that was an excellent but scary dead-man alarm system lol

  • KC

    Paul, thanks for all of the work that has gone into your blog.

  • KC

    @ Bill DeFelice

    The hobbybroadcaster site looks interesting. Too bad that the prohibition against the (nearly ubiquitous) gmail doesn’t allow me to join.

  • @KC: If you had dropped me a line via the site’s contact form I could have manually enrolled you.

    BTW: While I always enjoyed the posts Paul made of his journeys the ones I found most interesting were the stations he performed services for in Connecticut as I either had dealings with them or knew fellow engineering talent who had been employed in their operations. It will be sad to not to see any more of these excursions.

  • I’ll certainly miss your blog but I understand your frustration. It was nice to look over the shoulder of someone still doing real radio engineering for all these years! Television work (soulless though it is) has provided me with something of a refuge from the steady budget-shrinking and selling-out of modern radio but it’s starting to get more and more that way as well; I’m just hoping the work will outlast me.

    Best wishes and happiness to you in all your future endeavors.

  • Chuck Dube

    Paul- I’ll add to the chorus that says how we will miss your intelligence, wit and wisdom. You’re a fine writer and your anecdotes have been most enjoyable. But it’s a tough business and I can imagine some nights instead of recounting here the day’s adventures you may have wanted to disconnect. We all have those days. And I hope we run across each other again sometime in the Berkshires. Radio is like music. Perhaps the most obvious examples are lacking in creativity and pluck, but if you get into the weeds a little you’ll find there’s gold to be had. Still. I know you know that. Best wishes to you and thanks for all of this.

  • Zyg

    It’s the technical part that is so exciting. A one tower 250 watt AM station (or FM for that matter) in the middle of nowhere is a very beautiful site to behold!

    Please keep sharing all that great work – it is most appreciated.

    Many thanks for all the interesting and informative posts.

  • Rich Redmond

    Paul, thanks for sharing a number of your projects and ideas. I personally enjoyed a number of these as they were places I had worked or visited in my years in upstate NY.

  • JC

    I nearly had a heart attack when I read that first paragraph.

    It’s a shame that you’re done with blogging, and I want you to know that I’ve always enjoyed reading your blog, and that it’s been helpful as I work towards my electrical engineering degree.

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