Clay’s Corner for June 2023           Providing news and views from a broadcast engineers perspective since September 1986



A little over 24 years ago, one of the first, large scale, fears about Computers was a hot topic.  This was, of course, Y2K.      Now we have a new fear about how computers are getting smarter to the point that they could be able to think for themselves.   Today, the news is full of talk about ‘AI’.    Perhaps you recall ‘Hal’ in 2001’ in a Space Odyssey from 1968?  In this famous film a computer named ‘Hal’ (actually Hal 9000) was able to take over.  Seems to me there are a lot of that kind of thinking going on now.

One of the fears is that computers are now able to replicate things to the point that you can’t tell whether it’s true or, computer generated fiction.

One place where Radio continues to enjoy success is in vehicles.   The problem is that today’s radios are embedded into the modern dashboard along with a myriad of other gizmos.   Additionally, thanks to the fact that everyone has a phone with a touch-screen, vehicle makers feel compelled to control everything the same way.

The result of this is that Buttons and Knobs may be coming back….At least that’s what I have been reading.   The problem is that many feel that knobs and switches are ‘old-school’   Did you ever try and operate a touch screen with gloves on?

Speaking of which – I could not help but notice that Toyota is making available a Manual Transmission in 3 of their new Tacoma’s.    There are those of us that appreciate ‘Old-School’.

Ford recently set off a ‘stink bomb’ with their announcement they were dropping AM Radio from their vehicles.    Interesting how this action got the attention of many who have, previously, been silent on the matter of the struggles of AM.   As the expression goes….’They came out of the woodwork’.     Many in Congress took a break from fighting with the other party to support the idea that AM should remain in vehicle receivers.

Now if we could get the FCC to enforce their own rules and address the issue of the ever- increasing Noise-Floor caused by all the electric/electronic trash generators out there.

Here’s a look at how AM station formats break out:

.The following map of PEP (Primary Entry Point) AM stations shows how this system relies on AM:

NASBA, the organization of State Broadcast Associations noted –

Almost all survey respondents (99%) indicated they participate in the Emergency Alert System (EAS). According to FEMA, Primary Entry Point or PEP stations – designated distribution stations for EAS messages that are mostly on the AM dial – can reach 90% of the U.S. population in the event of an Emergency

Some have pointed out how this is a matter of money – Vehicle makers receive subsidies from SiriusXM while receiving no financial benefit from Broadcasters.

As the dust continues to rise – Ford threw in the towel and agreed to keep AM in their vehicles.

Today we have fewer AMs as the number of stations vs. the number of listeners is being equalized.  Today, if you wish to replace your 5, 10 or 50 Kw transmitter, a broadcaster has a choice of ONE manufacturer- Nautel.   As Washington State University recently discovered when they needed to replace their failing transmitter at KWSU in Pullman.

Here’s a recent picture of a High Power AM  Transmitter in final test at the Nautel Factory. Yes, that’s a 200,000 watt model.

Low Power FM’s (LPFM’s) are not supposed to be selling advertising.   Apparently, for some, the temptation to make a few bucks was too much.   Example – KELS, in Greeley Colorado (North of Denver)  has been asked to pony up 15 Grand for doing so.

Ever wonder what happens when one of those big wind generators gets hit by lightning?   It’s not pretty. The machinery cover is gone and a lot of things that used to be white are now black.  Betcha this is an expensive repair!

A recent project in my area was a 3-way transmitter shuffle – The Primary Goal- Upgrade the KING-FM Transmitting equipment so that, should it be used, it would be transparent to their listeners broadcasting in HD with HD2, RDS etc.  (KIRO did the same thing a year or so ago)

  • The KNKX Collins transmitter, built in about 1978, which they purchased from CBC in Vancouver a few years ago, will moved to an adjacent building where it will be parted out
  • The KING-FM- Continental transmitter will be moving 12 feet to the west to become the new KNKX Auxiliary
  • The new KING-FM, GV-15 Nautel transmitter will be installed where the Continental was. This will be the second Nautel for KING-FM, their Main Transmitter at West Tiger is GV30N installed about 6 years ago.

The light-brown unit here is the KING-FM Auxiliary Transmitter that was given to KNKX

A couple of ‘old guys’.  Mike on the left and me on the right

One of the ‘younger guys’:

Standing near the base of one of the West Tiger Towers, a Tower-Climber is holding a ‘Field Sense’ NIER monitor.

This instrument showed the level to be 200%.    The yellow sign on the left has a warning that this is a ‘hot-spot’

The Climber could not climb the tower until all the transmitters were turned off.

]Things that strike me funny from Facebook

That’s it for this month.

Lord willing, I’ll see you here next month.

Clay, K7CR, CPBE

SBE Member # 714

Since March 1968 / 55 years.