Sunday, January 29, 2006

WNWR-AM wants you!

Does it get better than this?This is why brokered ethnic radio stations are awesome.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

River City Radio

I got into Sacramento late last night and scanned the band pretty quick. There was oddly a large number of religious talk programs. I cant account for it with the stations licensed to the area and can only assume it's from translators operating illegally over power. Despite this flood of RF there are some great stations in this city.

The Capital Public Radio Network is available in Sacramento on KXJS 88.7 and KXJZ 88.9 making for a nice strong clear City signal but is simulcast and translated all the way to Stockton and even Reno. They run a really tight play list in their traditional jazz blocks but their acid jazz program is perhaps the best in the nation. I have always been partial to the funk show Friday nights on WXPN but this show is wilder, funkier and cooler. With cuts from Garaj Majal, Charlie Hunter, and Tower of Power; this show is rock solid.

Up the dial is 89.5 KVMR. Alice MacAllister used to be MD here. Not sure if she still is. If there is a taste-maker for eclectic community stations, they are it. In fact the MD from KVMR and KWMR, Kay Clements used to do an Americana radio show together at KPFA. Regardless The mix here is unbeatable" a comedy music show, a Hawaiian show, Blues, jazz, Americana, folk, native American, they have everything.
KDVS is hard to get on the east side of the city but who hangs out in Citris Heights? In a reaction to the well-funded CPR network and the music-variety monolith of KVMR the U. of California, Davis branch radio station went the urban route. It's mostly Reggae, Rap, and R&B. It really fills in the dial with options. They also get bonus points for helping KDRT-LP get going in Davis. Note thsi is the same KDVS that put out that 34 track comp. "Cool as Folk." All live in studio recordings, all artwork made by the hands of actual 3rd graders. Here is a quote that explains everything you need to know about KDVS:
"...In the fall of 1986, the KDVS staff posed nude for the center photo of the program guide. The news hit the Associated Press wire and the station attracted national coverage. A stamp disclaiming that the opinions expressed in the guide were not necessarily those of the UC Regents was mandated by the administration before distribution."
This is my kind of city. The roads are laid out in a grid, letters one way, numbers the other. They've preserved a portion of the city, beside downtown as "Old Sacramento" and left it looking like a old west movie set. I spent much of the day around R-10 sitting in a $800 chair waiting. But the chair was comfortable and I didn't have to buy it no matter how long I sat.
I bought a book impulsively at a small bookstore called Beer's Books. They have a big Maine Coon cat wandering around the store greeting people and I like to see that in book stores.
Radio in River City began in 1921. KVQ-AM signed on at the odd frequency of 883AM. That same staiton is on air to this day. They've has a couple license modifications since then and are currently known as 1530 KFBK-AM. They had the radio dial all to themselves for 16 years. 1210 KROY-AM opened its doors an they were it's only competitor for another 8 years. In 1945 the dial began to populate and more resemble the varied beast it is today.It was only about thirty years after that Brooks Records and Antiques opened it's doors. I killed an hour today talking to Brooksie. He was so knowledgeable about music, about Sacramento, about restoring radios and turntables and actually happened to know the secret of life. If you're in town visit his store and ask him.
Sacramento has a long a rich history in both music and radio. Jazz organist Jimmy Smith, the rock band Cake, The Deftones, Machine Head, and dozens of others are Sacramento locals. More here. And a great essay here on some Sacramento radio history here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Flying to Sacramento today

That's a old Sacramento cable-car sign right there.
I hope to see a little more of that tomorrow.

traveling today, no post until tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Prof. Amos E. Dolbear

In 1882 Professor Amos Emerson Dolbear was able to communicate over a distance of a quarter of a mile without wires. It is interesting to note that the Tufts Professor was ahead of Hertz and Marconi. (Marconi first let'er rip in 1895) He received a U.S. patent for a wireless telegraph in March of that year. His device relied on induction, not RF. His set-up used phones grounded by metal rods poked into the earth. His transmission range was a little less than a mile, but he received a patent for it (U.S. Patent No. 350,299). More here.

But more importantly the Dolbear patent prevented the Marconi Company from operating in the United States. In the end Marconi had to purchase Dolbear's patent, even though it was A. generally inferior and B. intractable in application. [Ouch that must have hurt. ]

In 1868 Dolbear (while a professor at Bethany College) invented the electrostatic telephone. Dolbear also work on converting sound waves into electrical impulses. He also invented the opeidoscope, and a system of incandescent lighting. He authored several books, articles, and pamphlets, including "Matter, Ether, Motion," and was recognized for his contributions to science at both the Paris Exposition in 1881 and the Crystal Palace Exposition in 1882.

Friday, January 20, 2006

King Biscuit Flower Hour

King Biscuit Flower Hour Radio Show has been on air without inturruption since February 18th 1973. Never has a single show run so long and done so much only to settle into such obscurity.

King Biscuit Flour was manufactured by the Interstate Grocery Company. their first forays into radio were through direct sporsoring of radio programs. These sporsorships were very effective. On 1360 KFFA-AM in Helena, Arkansas local musician Sonny Boy Williamson named his band for his sponsor becoming Sonny Boy Williamson and his King Biscuit Entertainers. Their broadcast stretched across the South reaching a generation of blues artists that would later inspire the rock & roll revolution.

KFFA is still on air today: In 1941, KFFA-AM became the first radio station to broadcast live Blues shows. Artists like Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, Albert King, Robert Lockwood Jr, Pinetop Perkins , Honey Boy Edwards, and many others came through those doors. KFFA was the center of a small animated blues scence in Helena that fed the blues eastward directly into Memphis.

Side Note: 990 KWEM-AM Memphis picked up on this and for a time carried the syndicated program. these days KWEM is KWAM-AM and runs a fairly lame set of syndicate talk programs, spanish talk at night and old twilight zone radio drams on sunday evenings.

All along the Biscuit staff left the tape running. The King Biscuit Flower Hour continues to broadcast weekly over its syndicated national FM network. Now they use their time each week to connect new fans to classic concerts from the 20 years of Biscuit Archives.

The former King Biscuit Blues festival of Helena AR is going through some tough times> After 21 years I hear the man is trying to hold them down:

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Radio Applause Cards

These eventually morphed into what were later called QSL cards.
In the mid-1920s the first AM stations were just getting established. At the same time, large radio corporations started experimenting with shortwave stations. The hams using shortwave had a goot notion of who was listening via return transmissions. But these BCB stations never knew who was listening.

This buisness need was filled with something called the applause card. As the name imples, an applause card was a card that conveyed a message of appreciation by US mail. (Actually, shortwave applause cards came from other nations as well) Applause cards were in common use in the years around 1923 to 1926.
Applause cards were basically postcards with pre-printed lines for certain programs and other station specific data. Some cards also contained space to list the listeners equipment and reception quality. There were many sources of applause cards. Some listeners printed their own. Some companies printed generic applause cards. a number of radio equipment companies were known to use them for promotional purposes.

great peice here:

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

AM Stereo Time Line

Ironically Stereo AM produces higher quality audio than IBOC AM. Yet Am stereo died struggling like Betamax did, in front of everyone and there was nothing we could do to save it. Stereo sound reproduction was first experimented with in the early 1900s, and was put into use in motion pictures around 1930. However, Stereo sound did not gain real market penetration until the introduction of the Stereo LP in 1957. More here.

Early experiments with Stereo radio broadcasting involved two separate stations broadcasting the Left and Right audio channels. Consumers did not accept this This Rube-Goldberg set up as it was just as ridiculous as it sounds.

In the early 1980s four competing AM systems went on air. These were:
  1. Motorola (C-QuAM)
  2. Magnavox (PMX)
  3. Kahn-Hazeltine (ISB)
  4. Harris Broadcast (V-CPM)
  5. Belar System 
AM Stereo timeline Highlights:
  • 1960 - AM Stereo first demonstrated on XETRA-AM, Tijuana, MX, using the Kahn ISB system.
  • 1963 - WHAZ runs a stereo program on eight AM stations, four on each channel.
  • 1984 - The FCC begins AM Stereo testing with five systems. Initially they select the Magnavox system. Their research is immediately accused of being flawed and incomplete.
  • 1993 - FCC makes Motorola's C-QUAM the AM stereo standard. This sets off another series of lawsuits and accusations resulting in the FCC deciding that the marketplace should decide. The marketplace decides to continue fighting like children and this becomes a death blow to the possibility of AM stereo.

There are still over 100 stations still chugging along with stereo broadcast...
one that no one can receive, they are listed here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

News Paper, via Radio Fascimile

Yes this really happened.
A odd-ball radio service that peaked 1950's was facsimile transmission. this was primarily pushed by stations owned by newspapers as they tried new ways to deliver the news. More here.

Alexander Bain was granted a patent for creating the fax in 1843. Little has changed to his model even after the invention of computers and electronics. Let me point out that the fax predated both Morse code, the telephone, and even radio itself. In 1843 Bain introduced his first primitive facsimile machine. The sending device used a stylus attached to a pendulum, which passes over metal type to sense light or dark spots on a metal plated document. A pendulum on the receiving device makes a stain on a chemically treated paper when an electric charge is sent down a telegraph line. More here.

In 1903 Prof. Dr. Arthur Korn modified this system to established that same fax communication by broadcast instead of over a wire. He transmitted pictures between the cities of Paris, London and Berlin. That was the first radio-fax.

By 1922 the first transatlantic facsimile services were being provided by RCA. Their primary competitor was Western Union. both had developed “high-speed” radio fax systems. This was a big deal back then. With this system a picture could be sent over the Atlantic ocean and published the same day it was taken. Prior to this advance, news pictures had to travel by plane and ship.

By 1939 there were even daily newspapers available by fax . More than 1,000 U.S. households were experimentally equipped with fax receivers that electronically printed morning newspapers overnight. Station W9XZY, the experimental radio facsimile broadcasting station operated by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, inaugurated the world's first regular broadcast on ultra-high frequencies of specially prepared facsimile newspapers. The broadcasts continued daily for and Sunday at 2 p.m. I have read some notes that 93.7 KSD may have picked up the service from there but eventually this service ground to a halt.

In 1947, 98.1 WCAU debuted the service in Philadelphia (now WOGL)
In 1948 the New York Times owned 96.3 WQXR also offered the service.

This service died out in the 1950s. as fax over telephone lines became more affordable, and more regions were wired. As a lone hold out, Kyodo News in Japan still broadcasts whole newspapers over JJC-FM in Singapore. More here.

The Most Powerful Transmission Ever

When I was looking into FM supercasters I came across some strange arcana relating to a terawatt broadcast. I made a note to come back to it, because obviously there had to be a story. A traditional broadcaster could NEVER rate in Terawatts, it would make peoples heads explode like in the movie scanners.

So I found it. In Arecibo, PR there was a natural disc-shaped hole in the rock. Inside this bowl we constructed the world's largest radio-telescope, with a diameter of 1000 feet. In 1974 we modified it, enabling it to broadcast signals at a power of up to 20 terawatts . NOTE:1 terawatt = 1 trillion watts.

So why the hell did we want to build a transmitter that big?

Because the nerds at SETI want to talk to aliens...

As an inaugural test of this array SETI transmited an encoded message and broadcast it out into space. The signal was directional toward the globular star cluster M13. It's about 25,000 light years away in the constellation of Hercules. The message was transmitted on 11/16/74 and consisted of 1679 pulses of binary code over three minutes. It was transmitted on 2380MHz. Woe be unto those who tried to listen terestially.

What was in the message? well that's not about radio at all so I stop here. but you are welcome to read more in gloriously geeky detail:

Friday, January 13, 2006

Quadrophonic Radio

Quadraphonic sound was one of the earliest consumer offerings in multichannel audio, (i.e. more channels than stereo) It was introduced to the American market in the early 1970s. Quad was not a single format; but actually an array of several different incompatible formats. Quadraphonic media was available on vinyl records, eight tracks, and reel-to-reel and yes, even broadcast radio. It was uncommon, but some brave and bullish broadcasters bought into it. Some Quad Hi-Fis can be found here

In Seattle back in 1977, an experimental Quadrophonic broadcast was attempted at 92.5 KZAM and 98.1 KING. In conjunction with Windham Hill records. In a very MacGyver-ish approach, this required two separate stereos and tuners. Each station broadcast two channels of the quadrophic audio. If you did, you got to hear 360 degrees of John Klemmer. [Not sure if that's worth it] (KZAM is now KLSY)

In Chicago 97.9 WLUP broadcast one live quadraphonic concert in 1979. It featured Joe Jackson, Rainbow and the Blue Oyster Cult.
In Detroit Quadrophonic radio was attempted by several stations 102.9 WWWW, 101.9WDET, and WABX at different times.

As early as 1975 WQIV in New York City attempted full time quad broadcasting. They broadcast live concerts, including the earliest syndicated Rock Around the World shows, whole albums, and other things unusual at the time on commercial radio. It was very much a product of the free-form FM era. It eventually flipped to become classical WNCN, the calls and format it had previously. (Currently 104.3 WAXQ )

In 1969, WCRB radio in Boston collaborated with WGBH to present a series of Boston Symphony concerts live in quadraphonic sound. Two channels being transmitted on WGBH and the other two on WCRB. Oddly WCRB continued to broadcast some of its recorded music in quad for several more years.

In 1979 Amex tape did promotion with San Francisco's KRON and KIOI with KRON broadcasting the front two channels and KIOI taking the rear two channels. For this first Quadraphonic broadcast, The Greatful Dead performed. It was televised on KQED and simulcast on KSAN.

Quad was killed by the advent of the CD and completely stalinized with the birth of surround-sound. Skip Pizzi at RW online continually writes propaganda in favor of surround sound for radio. I have not bought into this cult yet. Radio has been struggling to push HD radio for 10 years now, I doubt surround sound will fare any better. Feel free to read up and judge for yourself [Link here]

...And here is the surround sound system that could have been, The Ambsonic Sound System...

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I've gotten into this before but it is an endless source of amusement for me. Call letters come from only one place, the FCC. A station may request certain calls, and from within their own network trade them pretty freely, but ultimately they must file with the FCC for approval. Some stations take randomly assigned calls, but most request specific calls. in the 1950s actonyms were fadish and many can be traced back to hokey phrases from that era. College stations usually select ones named for their campus.

But many others have simply bizzarre etemologies. I list a few of these below, some are anecdotal, some are confirmed.
WZPR meadville PA. the zipper was invented in Meadville, PA
WZON -owned by Stephen King, named for the Dead Zone
WTBQ -The TB references "teddy Bear", the owner collected them
WTAW - Watch Texas Aggies Win (its always about college ball in TX)
WTAQ -Western Towns Along Quincy (The Quincy Railroad was a big deal)
WTAN- As in Get a TAN on the beach (Tampa FL)
WSMN = Weather, Sports Music and News (very clever)
WSLT = SLT as in Salt Water (Atlantic City)
WSHG =Named for the Shag... at the time this was a dance.
WSDS =We Serve Detroit Suburbs
WSAR = We Show Advertising Results
WRKT= As in Rocket, its near cape canaveral
WNOV = Wisconsin Negroes Own Voice (black culture station)
WMOO= Reference to the big dairy town Derby Center, VT
WLOL =Land Of Lakes... LOL stands for something different now
WLOB =As in LOBster... it's in Maine
WLBB =We Love Butter Beans (that kills me)
WGTM =Worlds Greatest Tobacco Market
WGAP =Worlds Greatest Aluminum Plant (next to the alcoa factory)
WCAE =We Can Always Entertain
KWOS =Keep Watching Our State
KWAK =Owner was a duck hunter...
KRTR =named for the volcanic Crater beside them (Kailua, HI)
KOTN =named for their local Cotton Crop
KIRL =The owners wife had curly hair
KFUO =Keep Forwad Upward Onward
KFRO = Keep Forever Rolling On
KFEL =Kant Find Enough Liquor (seems spurrious)
KANO =As in VolKANO.. Hawaii again
KAGG =as in Texas AGGies (they have riots over OU ball games in TX)
KABL =named for Cable Cars

*here is a batch courtesy of Gary Guthrie at WMVY
WNGO = We Need God Only
WCBL = Calvert city, Benton & Lakeland
WDXR =Weaks' DX Radio (he also had a DX gas station)
WNBS = as in an inventor of radio: W. Nathan B. Stubblefield
WNOE and KNOE =Named for Louisiana Governor James Albert Noe
WRNO = We're the Rock of New Orleans

Some of these come from my own notes others from a site I found recently:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

You are Broadcasting right Now!

It's radio, in a Low Power tenuous sense; a low low power sense.

You can actually use your computer monitor as an AM short wave radio transmitter. All electronic devices emit eletromagnetic waves. In radio we tend to think of this as noise and a cause of interference. Your PC monitor emits EM waves at very high frequencies. So high in fact they are audible on short wave AM radio. When the image on your screen changes the tone it emits changes as well. The range is small, but it's real.

This all starts with two bright kids at Cambridge Univeristy, the devilishly clever Markus Kuhn and Ross Anderson. Their paper is here:

They begin by explaining that high-tech eavesdroppers [i.e. spies] can reconstruct video screen content from it's radio frequency emanations. minimise the energy of these emissions. Today Sensitive government systems use expensive metallic shielding on individual computers, rooms and sometimes entire buildings to prevent this leekage. It's a reversal of this process that converts it into a short-range communications medium.

On the harmless side, Erik Thiele wrote a program that allows you to convert midi files into a code that your PC can then emit using the same principle. Link below:

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Production Music

It seems like radio stations produce almost as much production music in a year as records are released. It's an interesting concept. Most of the music a station plays is actually production music, bumpers, liners, bed music etc. In the old days stations made a lot of this themselves, [actually DJs make some these days too] but it wasn’t long before some companies began specializing in the production marketing and licensing of production music. This stuff is particularly special to me. As time passes they often become locked in to an era, they do not age well. When I find these kinds of cuts in record bins hilarity usually ensues.

The idea of production music began with silent films. Even early Edison films contained suggestions for music to accompany the films. This was happening as early as 1910. It wasn't until 1937 that any publisher actually started pandering to radio. Two music publishers in England: Bosworth and Boosey & Hawkes begin creating records of compositions from their catalog which more closely reflect the realistic needs of radio drama and film production. This is generally accepted as the first production music library.

In 1942 Chappell Publishers in London set up a recorded music library for radio and other media outlets. Chappell is destined to become one of the largest and most prestigious sources of Mood Music. Although the library includes a "classical" series and a "dance music" series . Around that time Capitol records began the Capitol Transcription Service to provide radio stations with production music. This later evolved into the Capitol Hi-Q library.

By the 1950s there were dozens of production music providers. I own easily 50 from Major records whose themes were used on even syndicated programs like KFMB-TVs "Bob Dale's Early Show" and others. [I'll scan one in sometime]Anther nice cheesy one is the PAMS radio jingle company. They sang a lot of ID jingles for radio stations. a history of PAMS jingles here:

Monday, January 09, 2006

Define Obscure...

Sealand is a self-declared but unrecognized nation-state. The US does not recognize them, nor does anyone else that I know of. Their territory is Roughs Tower, a former Sea Fort located in the North Sea about six miles off the coast of Suffolk UK. Additionally it claims territorial waters of a standard twelve-nautical-mile radius. Sealand is occupied by the family and associates of Paddy Roy Bates. The population of Sealand is about five. They are perhaps the worlds only novelty nation being smaller than the Vatican and funnier than Luxembourg. Only England would put up with this.
As small as it is, Sealand still uses radio. They provide a maritime radio service. Following operational trials and international consultation, they opened a Maritime Radio Service to ships within its territorial waters and surrounding areas. This Service is provided to aid safety at sea and to facilitate ships' movements; vessels transmitting Sealand waters may also obtain relevant navigational and Sealand weather information.

Sealand Radio Shore-to-Ship services are available as follows:
Channel 16: (Emergency): Continuous watch, 0900-2100 GMT
Channel 84: (Operational): Continuous watc, 0900-2100 GMT

Radio on Sealand probably began as maritime wartime broadcasts during WWII. But those are lost to history. In 1965 millionaire fishing magnate Roy Bates first occupied the platform, hoping to make it the base for his pirate radio station, Radio Essex. Then England legalized commercial radio, pirate stations lost much of their appeal.

More on England's long history of off-shore pirate radio here.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Goats of KFKB

Here is another carny from the great history of radio. Clement Wood wrote a book titled "The Life of a Man" It's a biography of John Romulus Brinkley. He was born July 8, 1885, the only son of country physician John Richard Brinkley and his wife, Candace. An orphan by the age of ten, he was reared by an aunt and had a rather haphazard elementary school education. After a rather nomadic life as a railroad telegrapher he attended Eclectic Medical College, but never graduated. Read more here.

He was however, able to practice as an electrician in Arkansas with an undergraduate license and managed to acquire several fake diplomas while there. [I get emails for those all the time] Using a fake medical degree in Kansas in 1917 he began to transplant the testicles of goats into his aging customers with the promise of sexual rejuvenation. This is some of the most brazen medical quackery I have ever heard about ever. Desperate stupid midwesterners actually paid him to do this to them. [red state]

Brinkley had theorized that by transplanting the testicles of a goat into the male scrotum, it would renew a male patients vigor and restore a healthy sex drive. Below is a quote from this nutbar:

"So far as I know, I was the first man that ever did this operation of taking the goat testicle and putting it in the man's testicle. The glands of a three weeks old male goat are laid upon the non-functioning glands of a man, within twenty minutes of the time they are removed from the goat. In some cases I open the human gland and lay the tissue of the goat within the human gland. ... I find that after being properly connected these goat glands do actually feed, grow into, and become absorbed by the human glands, and the man is renewed in his physical and mental vigor."
Because of this, he became financially successful and he was able to amass enough capital to build and operate one of the first radio stations in Milford Kansas, 1100 KFKB-AM. the calls stand for Kansas First, Kansas Best. KFKB was almost as eccentric as Brinkley himself broadcasting music, lectures from professors at a nearby college, live banjo players, yodelers, and French language instruction. Clip here courtesy of WFMU.

Interspersed with this entertaining programing were ads for Brinkley's own home-brewed remedies. The local medical community organized and formed a vocal opposition to his advertisements. Ultimately both his medical and radio licenses were revoked. More here.

It was then that he turned to politics. Conducting a vigorous write in campaign for governor in 1930. His popularity was such that when the election rolled around, the major party candidates were panicked, for Brinkley appeared to have a legitimate shot at winning. They saved themselves by exploiting small legal technicality. A Kansas law stipulated that a write-in candidate's name must be written on the ballot by voters exactly as it appears on the official entry papers. When the counting was completed, Brinkley had over 183,000 votes, but at least 10,000 additional votes were disallowed due to various minor discrepancies in spelling, such as the omission of Brinkley's middle initial.

After two subsequent unsuccessful attempts for the office, he shifted his headquarters of operation to Del Rio, Texas, and built what would become radio station 840 XERA-AM in Villa Acuna, Coahuila. He shifted his specialty from testicle implants to the prostate gland implants, and Mercurochrome injections. Mercurochrome contains mercury which is poisonous, harming the brain, the kidneys, etc.

The reason the Clement Wood wrote a biography about John R. Brinkley is that he paid her $5000 to do so. Most of the book is fiction of course even contradicting Brinkley's own statements regarding himself. The parts about growing up in a log cabin, false. The parts about goats, true. In the end under pressure from the US government, Mexican officials closed down XER-AM's transmitter. He was forced to declare bankruptcy. In 1941, Brinkley had a series of heart attacks, and his leg required amputation. During his recuperation, Postal Inspectors charged Brinkley with mail fraud. He died before the case went to trial. More on XERA here.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Radio Controller

I just read this very detailed piece on Radio Control. It's kind of an overview of radio control theory, entitled "What Happens When I Wiggle the Sticks." The author, Neil McGrath, is a British radio-frequency electrical engineer whose hobby is radio controlled power boats.

The title was quite the grabber. What does happen when I wiggle the sticks? Below I quote:

1. The transmitter broadcasts a radio signal via the antenna containing the positional information set by the controls.
2. The receiver picks up the radio signal via its antenna and decodes the positional information.
3. The receiver distributes the information to the electronic speed control and the rudder servo
4. The electronic speed control switches the main battery power on and off at high speed to regulate the power output of the motor to the level set by the associated transmitter stick.
5. The servo arm will move to the position set by the transmitter stick.
6. Power for the motor comes from the main battery pack.
7. The power for the receiver comes from an independent battery eliminator circuit. The BEC will provides voltage to the receiver from the main battery pack.
8. The power supply for the servo and the control circuitry in the speed controller come from the receiver

All radio control systems generate a radio carrier wave, at a frequency that is determined by the crystal used in the transmitter. These are thankfully not licensed individually. The FCC handles these devices in bulk by allotting a certain set of frequencies and parameters to the devices. The carrier wave is modulated to carry the digital information set by the transmitter controls. There are two methods of modulation used by R/C systems, AM and FM. As a third variable some use a PCM radio to transmit digital data on the FM carrier wave. This is conceptually not that different from IBOC.

In 1898, Nicola Tesla staged the first demonstration of radio control. His invention (patent No. 613,809), took the form of a radio-controlled boat, a heavy, low-lying, steel craft about four feet long. At that time radio itself had not been officially patented yet! Tesla's own radio patent wasn't granted until March 1900! Initially examiners from the US Patent Office were reluctant to recognize improbable claims made in the application "Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vessels or Vehicles." Confronted with a working model, however, examiners had to issue approval. ...And today we use it to drop missiles on people. Oh, How far we have come.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"Talking" Billboards

I read a great blurb in the CGC Communicator about a talking billboard in san Diego:
It reminded me of the flexibility that makes radio so powerful.

In San Diego, on the west side of I-805, just before the southbound Sorrento Valley Road on-ramp there is talking tall billboard. It "talks" on 1610 AM via an eight foot whip antenna on top. It has been playing a 60 second BMW spot for the past few weeks.

it's part of the latest trent in Billboard advertising. Andrew Milder of Buisness Broadcast Systems said "As far as I'm concerned, putting sound to billboards is as obvious as putting it to movies." Through the ad text, billboards invite commuters to tune in to a specific frequency on their radio dials. the signal is generally effective within a one-mile radius, but the Sorrento Valley sign I mention above is reported to be audible over a 14 mile area! The FCC-approved frequency plays a commercial message that's 30 seconds to a few minutes in length.

Here's a set of talking billboards:

In Europe the idea has gone a step further and talk to pedestrians as well. An infra-red sensor clipped to the back of the ad site detects the presence of people and activates a recorded audio message about the product. A high tech transducer turns the whole surface of the billboard or poster advert into a loudspeaker, thus avoiding the speaker grille that would normally fail early from weather wear. The technology was developed by Scottish industrial design consultancy Harris Hynd Ltd.

Even more annoying than that, in Belgium they have debuted an interactive outdoor campaign for Ford. The "Ford Miracles" ads consists of interactive posters that look at people and react to their actions. The voice and facial expressions of the guy in the poster are controlled by an actor hidden in a booth nearby. The interactive billboards can be found at the main train stations in Belgium.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Goodbye to the Cart Machine

Chuck Lakaytis of CML Broadcasting in Anchorage claims that a 325 grain, .375 H&H Magnum will penetrate 73 carts. I don't contest it, but I would like to see pictures.

No it's not an 8-track tape. Cart Machines played endless-loop tape cartridges also called carts or Fidelipacs. These were historically used to hold commercials, jingles, announcements and promos of all sorts. Audio was recorded in mono usually and 1 KHz cue tones were recorded on a separate track. This second track indicated to the playback deck where to stop rewinding or playing.

The tape format was introduced to the (NAB)National Association of Broadcasters by Collins Radio in 1959 with it's first model, the Spotmaster. later versions of the Cart machine had stereo capability, additional cueing tones and even timers.

For the past twenty years, broadcasters have used cart machines as a standard playback device for in-house audio. Only the infiltration and growth of digital audio in radio studios really put an end to it. The cart machine was reliable and functional. Before cart machines, commercials were played back via reel to reel machines. The DJ had to thread the tape, then manually cue, and rewind the tape.

The cart machine solved these problems but brought along it’s own issues. No two brands of cart are made exactly the same. The small differences caused by the manufacturing processes prevented exact alignment of the cart machine to more than one cart! The irregularities of each cart usually cause phase problems between the left and right channels in stereo models, and in severe cases a miss-cue.. As the lifetime of the Cart wore on, it also became clear that we all were recycling our carts for far too long. Old carts sounded worse than a beat up 78 rpm platter. But at least I never had to reboot a cart machine during my show. More here and here.