The Society of Broadcast Engineers 
Chapter 36 - San Diego, California


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With so much of what's new at the NAB Convention really just software and a computer, you have to do something to impress folks. JVC did.

Photo by Oscar Medina

May 1998 Electronic Newsletter


May Meeting

The Amazing DTV Roadshow--A Free Seminar

Last year we introduced DTV RF transmission concepts with an especially informative talk by Harris engineers. This time we visit the subjects of baseband conversion to digital with a special, free, 2-hour seminar given by Leitch. And while their products directly address many of the challenges put forth, Leitch promises that this is NOT a sales seminar. 

Called Destination Digital, seminar modules detail:

This may be the most important program of the year because making your transition to digital the correctly will save you tens of thousands of dollars. Come make yourself more valuable by understanding the ins and outs of this major change in our industry. You're invited, whether you're a member or not!

KPBS generously hosts this meeting Wednesday, May 20, 1998, at 7:00 p.m. Come early--6:00 p.m.--for free pizza and sodas.

Mike Tosch of KPBS gave us these instructions: "Take I-8 to College Ave. and go South to Lindo Paseo (stop light at 7-11). Make a Right onto Lindo Paseo, going west, and drive past the KPBS building at 5200 Campanile Drive. Turn right into the parking garage. Be careful not to park in the lot immediately behind the KPBS building. In the Parking Garage, DO NOT park on the lowest, first floor or any spaced marked 'SP 750'. The correct spaces are in the upper level, labeled 'Faculty-Staff - SP 800'. Walk out the parking garage on the south side and around to the front lobby entrance of the building. Go in the door and follow the signs. If the door is locked, please knock. We have instructed the Campus police not to issue tickets for the evening."

Call 594-1515 if you need further instructions.

John Cuff Engineering,audio/video/broadcast systems engineering and integration, project management,and training.(858) 566-2207

Last Month:

@Home with Cox Cable

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind of keeping a broadcast station going. You forget that some segments of the business are zooming forward into the next century. Cox is plainly ready. With a clear explanation of how they make cable modems and associated systems work, we got the nuts and bolts. Cox also gave a tour of their awesome technical facility. They wired the right way, and spent money for a high degree of redundancy.

What impressed members? For some, it was the first time peeking at a -48vdc bus for transmission equipment. For others, it was just the sight of tidy bundles and clean floors. For yet others, it was the tasty sandwiches, fruit, and cookies.

In chapter business, Sponsor renewals have been mailed to those who haven't paid in over a year. This should help relieve our weak account. Since First Interstate Bank has begun charging monthly fees for the checking account, Bea Finley is looking for an alternate bank.

Thanks for the great meeting, Cox.

Have an idea for a future meeting? Contact us!

STL's, transmitters, receivers, GPS tracking, presence camera systems,helicopter systems, GPS tracking. Call Sheridan Kirk at 800-669-9667.


Top Story

NAB 1998: Buying Digital Boxes

By Gary Stigall

I had one of those "You know you're in Las Vegas" moments coming downstairs for breakfast Monday morning before the Convention. I hear the clanking of all those slot machines. (I won't say one-armed bandits anymore--most people just push a button to start them rolling now.) I smell the combination of stale tobacco grunge and fresh, choking tobacco smoke. I see hunched over pale zombies plopping coins into boxes, as though machines having conversations using coins rather than words. Meanwhile, over the sports betting arena, a dozen large screen TV's beam pictures of tanned bodies in Hawaii doing aerobics.

You have to really focus at the NAB Convention or you'll become totally overwhelmed. Take the time to see literally thousands of exhibitors on- and off-site. Add to that the time to see the dozens of familiar faces stopping you in the aisles. Add a technical talk or two. Then add the time to get through the congestion at popular booths to get a semi-private demo... You see what I mean--you could take weeks to get fully educated and networked.

After being absent for three previous years, I was struck by the number of international strategic partnerships or outright buyouts. Continental/Telefunken, Comark/Thomson, Scala/Katrein, and Leitch/ASC are just a few that come to mind. There are hundreds, many more subtle, many involving just sales forces exchanging product.

I set out to restrict myself to a few demonstrations of DTV studio equipment, meet some suppliers of recently acquired equipment, chat with local chapter sponsors and San Diego vendors, and shake the hands of a lot of old acquaintances.

Bob Gonsett did a much better job at exploring real RF technology gains. In a recent Communicator e-letter, he reported that:

"There is an air of confidence at USA Digital Radio (USADR) that successful in-band on-channel (IBOC) digital AM and FM transmission systems will be ready for sale in the next few years. The USADR systems on display at NAB '98 were redesigned from the ground up by broadcasters, for broadcasters, and now include the use of dual (redundant) sidebands to carry the digital data, significant forward error correction coding and an analog fall back mode for those instances when digital might fail. Lab testing is scheduled to be completed this year and extensive field testing is planned for 1999. Watch the trade press for progress reports."

If you have the time to load about 200K in photos, may I share a short visit with a few folks you may or may not be familiar with. I didn't shoot pictures of any computers though that was the meat of nearly every booth--sorry.

Take a virtual tour.

Silent Key:

State Emergency Coordinator

from the Sacramento Bee
and ARRL newsletter

Stan Harter, KH6GBX, of Sacramento died unexpectedly April 2, 1998. He was 68. He had served as assistant chief of telecommunications with the California Office of Emergency Services.

A native of San Francisco who was reared in the San Joaquin Valley and Yosemite Valley, Mr. Harter attended Fresno State College before landing a job with the U.S. Forest Service, where he began his career in communications.

For three decades, always part-time, he worked in broadcasting, mostly in the Bay Area and Hawaii. In the mid-1950s, he was "Stan the Jazzman" on San Francisco's KSAN.

He was sent to Hawaii in 1956 by Philco, his employer at the time. A few years later, he went to work for the state of Hawaii, eventually becoming assistant director of civil defense and chief of state government telecommunications.

In 1982, he returned to California as communications coordinator for Bakersfield. He joined OES in 1985 as coordinator of radio amateur civil emergency programs.

Kevin Douglass, Chief Engineer of Jacor in San Diego, said, "Stan truly beleived that public safety comes first".

Jeff Williams, who worked with Stan on San Diego's EAS plan wrote, "It was a year ago when the San Diego Committee was developed to its current form. Stan pretty much left me alone to do the best that I could do and gladly helped when I had some nagging questions. In the end Stan liked what all of you, the local broadcasters, did when it came down to helping the committee write up a local EAS plan."

Ron Kruml, KB7JCP, EComm News community disaster educator editor, said that Harter "truly wrote the book" on emergency communication and public warning systems. "His wit and humor along with his endless enthusiasm made him a one-of-a-kind resource to those of us working to integrate volunteer communicators into governmental emergency management organizations," he said.

Survivors include his wife of 42 years, the former Alicia Quellar of Sacramento; a son, Mitchell Harter of Sacramento; a daughter, Annette Harris of Springfield, Mo.; brothers Donn Harter of Yosemite, Kimball Harter of Visalia and Pete Nesbitt of Montague; and a sister, Roberta Smith of Kirkland, Wash.

According to Bob Gonsett, a web site has been established at:
for anyone wishing to express condolences to the family of Stan Harter.

From the ARRL Newsletter.

From the Sacramento Bee.

Scala Antennas--World class antennas for broadcast and communications professionals. Call 541-779-6500.

San Diego Shorts

Crossing the Line to TV

By Gary Stigall, KFMB-TV

In the 1950's and 60's, an engineerworking for KOGO or KFMB could quite easily work in both radio and TV during any given day. After all, TV was just "radio with pictures." Later, they seemed to specialize, and in San Diego no one has made the transition since the mid 1980's.

With the addition of a satellite truck, an ENG site, and several upgrades toward DTV in the plant, KFMB-TV needed a technician of the highest caliber. After considering several qualified candidates, Chief Engineer Rich Lochmann chose John Rigg, from KFMB AM and FM.

John came to KFMB in 1996 from KKLQ AM/FM to work for CE Tom Cox and GM Bob Bollinger, who were making the same move. They rebuilt nearly the entire plant, and John, always looking for a challenge, looked down the hall.

John is a truly a tech who "gets it," who understands that as much of a pain as it can be when stressed, an engineer serves the people who operate the equipment. His work with the phone company taught him good wiring and technical fundamentals. He's a friend to just about everybody who knows him, and I, for one, am looking forward to his spending time in the shop doing something other than borrowing tools and getting free parts. He will succeed. After all, TV is just radio with a faster bit rate.

Pacific Research & Engineering: Fine broadcast mixers, nonlinear editors, furniture, and ready-to-talk systems.

Tech Tip


By Ron Foo

I got to thinking about batteries the other day. It all started when the batteries in my UPS failed...during a remote!

How about your UPS batteries? When was the last time they were changed? I have a sheet from some battery manufacturer--who it is I don't know. But this company says to change out the batteries every three years. "Yeah, right," you say to yourself. "They only want to sell batteries. Besides, I only need my UPS for a few seconds until the generator kicks in!." Let me tell you a sad story.

Here I am doing a remote for KGB during the St. Patrick's Day bash in the Gaslamp Quarter and ISDN box keeps resetting. It's not the power surges, but the lack of voltage! Seems they ran the entire event on a big diesel generator. the stage lights were run by this generator and when all of the stage lights came on, the voltage sagged to about 90 volts. Guess who was plugged into that generator? Me! My poor Comres Nexus didn't like that at all!

Out came a fully charged UPS (rated at 500 VA) with a Comrex Nexus that draws about 10 watts connected to it. During the brownout time it ran for about three minutes and then proceeded to die...from lack of battery power!

When I got back to the shop I put it under a calibrated load (a light bulb) and the UPS failed after two minutes. It should have lasted for at least ten minutes. Sure enough, the gel cells were four years old. New gel cells installed and--guess what?--it performs like new.

Moral: Believe the battery manufacturer and check those batteries!

ABG, Audio Broadcast Group, national suppliers of broadcast equipment. Your Southern California representative, Tony Mezey. Call 800-858-9008.


From: Rodger Skinner


Subject: urgent news for SBE members

Date: Sun, Apr 5, 1998, 11:23 PM

The FCC is considering creating a Low Power FM (LPFM) broadcast service. FCC Chairman Kennard has expressed a strong interest in lowering the barrier to entry for FM radio station ownership and many SBE members may be able to own their own station under this plan. My petition for rulemaking, which calls for creation of a LPFM service, has been assigned rulemaking number RM-9242 by the FCC and the FCC is accepting comments until April 27, 1998 and reply comments until May 26, 1998. Complete details on RM-9242 can be found at these websites:

For those without internet access who want a copy of the petition RM-9242, send $2 to cover cost of copying/postage to: Rodger Skinner 6431 NW 65th Terrace Pompano Beach, FL 33067 Some of your members may not yet be aware of this opportunity before them, so please help spread the word.

Best regards, Rodger Skinner W4FM
TRA Communications Consultants, Inc.
RM-9242 petitioner

Global Microwave Systems: Innovation in Microwave Communication Technology. Miniature Transmitter/Receiver Systems

Self-indulgent Memoir, Part Two:

Reading the News at Oregon's Mighty 690

By Gary Stigall

[Go to part one]

One Saturday morning at KRCO we were preparing to cover the rodeo parade from Bank Drug using a broadcast loop set up by Mr. Fagan, the local telephone tech. I kept the line in cue on the board so that I could hear the first tests. But a half-hour before air time, I heard a couple of women on the line, talking about what they were going to do for the weekend and vowing to get together, and "do you hear that funny noise on the line? Sounds like a street." I made a quick call to Mr. Fagan.

My news reading skills were inconsistent, with an immature voice and naive knowledge of world affairs. I would constantly try to pronounce the names of Vietnamese negotiators unfamiliar to my audience. Mrs. Matheny would call to complain about any faux pas I would make. "The Japanese prime minister spoke from his 'palace,' Gary, not his 'place!' Sheesh. Don't you read the newspaper?"

The worst gaffe probably went right by most listeners, but it still makes me blush. I wondered out loud on the air if Hank Aaron was any relation to Henry. I wasn't worldly enough to know that Hank was his nickname.

Sometimes I would help write the ten o'clock morning news, the only real daily local news for a region the size of many eastern states. I'd call the police station and ask for juicy tidbits. Then I'd call the funeral home for the latest obituaries. Bob told me to always sound somber when reading these. During the school year, we would have to call the vice-principal of Crook County High School to get the day's absentee report read on the air.

One morning I woke up at 2:30 to the sound of the town's fire sirens calling volunteers for a second time. Something terrible had happened. I got on my bike and went downtown toward the big orange glow. There I found a fireman I knew from church, who told me five destitute old men had died in a flop house fire, probably from one of them smoking in bed. I began to have butterflies. This was a story of national import. Between trying to get the story honed just right, getting ready for the morning show solo, and being paralyzed by nerves, I barely had a story. I was stupidly concerned with having an actuality I could read for KGRL in Bend, whose news director, Bill Bowers, I revered. I had to read it three times to get it right when I finally called him. Associated Press caught wind of the story and Portland stations were calling for actualities. But by this time I was on the air and had to refuse. The owner's son came in later, reported the full story to AP and UPI, and collected the reward money.

The biggest boost to my short-lived news career was an assignment to obtain at least twenty short interviews for sponsored news about Prineville's Rockhound Pow-wow. Thousands of avid mineral diggers and traders showed up for the annual event on the dusty county fairgrounds parking lot, where they camped for a week.

I dreaded this. The previous interview with the junior Senator Bob Packwood had not gone well. "Senator, how much will taxes increase (to pay for your proposal to increase post office weekend services)?" "Not a dime...," he rightfully said. (We can spend endlessly and just raise the debt, stupid!) Ouch!

The interviews, taken on a nice Norelco cassette recorder, went surprisingly well. "So where do you find all those beautiful colors of jasper, Mrs. Clement?" Those people were ready to talk! And I got souvenirs, like a little clear amber epoxy ring with a fire ant perfectly centered inside. I needed little editing of the vignettes, and the practice was a better buy than any college interview class could offer.

Ads were cheap there. Every morning the secretary/music director would pick up a bag of doughnuts on the way to work. In exchange, the bakery would get an ad. Many ads for businesses up north in wheat country would run in little clusters in the summer, and were literally "a dollar a holler." However, regional buys, with their Seattle or Portland-based big-city agencies, like Northwest Ford and Olympia Beer got special treatment, paying $15 to over $20 a spot. The prices were right on the log.

Once one of the out-of-town salesmen was on vacation, so I got to go on his route seeing clients. Some would make me wait for a half-hour while they took care of all other business first. They all wanted ads listing the specials of the week, as though I were reading from a Sunday paper. No one could possibly have remembered more than one or two items. I swore I would never do this for a living.

The summer after high school graduation, I went to KGRL ("K-girl") in Bend after my mom had tipped off their program director while he was on a sales call. I worked on air evenings till sunset spinning bubble gum and golden oldies, and read news and played church tapes on weekends. It had been the station I had listened to as a child, run as though a big city top 40 powerhouse, with little tolerance for dead air or out-of-format music. Lonely girls would occasionally call up to talk or try to meet. I was famous.

I went to college in Eugene after two summers in Bend. I returned to KRCO the next summer after getting my First Class FCC license. The next fall I started at all-news KASH and rocker KSND doing weekend news and maintenance, and in the spring of 1977 I took over for the station's malcontent engineer.

KRCO later built a big class C FM on the butte overlooking the studios, automated it, and eventually both stations went full-time country after selling out to a salesman from Texas. Now they run four stations from the same modest studios. I heard that the old Collins just couldn't be resurrected one day, and was replaced with a new solid state model.

Do you have a first-person story about your past in broadcasting? Share it!


Pacific Radio for cable, connectors, racks, expendables, and MORE!

Murphy's Corner

It is a mistake to allow any mechanical object to realize that you are in a hurry.

Gary's Corollary: It is a mistake to allow your automobile to realize that your bills are caught up.

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SBE Chapter 36 Newsletter ©1998.

For more information on how to become a sponsor, or to make suggestions, contributions, or comments, e-mail This newsletter was written and edited by Gary Stigall, but I appreciate your contributions. You're free to redistribute or quote, but please attribute our original material, as you would have us attribute unto you, even if you're just clipping for BMail. Updated 4/28/1998.

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