Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

A case of PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair)? Tell us about your war stories!
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RGORJANCE
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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by RGORJANCE » Tue May 13, 2008 7:24 am

"Back in the day" when I was wearing the 3 piece suit with the "big blue "H", I got a call from a customer who was off the air and was having trouble finding the problem. Drove to site and found his FM xmttr was blowing main fuses. After running one more "lets see if the fuses blow", I figured he lost a power xfmr. I grabbed the chicken stick to make sure there wasn't any "evil stuff lurking" before going in bare handed, I ran it across the filter caps, and then, for good measure, hit the fuse blocks in the rig. WHAM!!! Sparks and smoke.....and after the echo died off came the sound of silence. The AM xmttr dumped! Hmmmmmm, why did the AM rig go down when the sparks flew????? (Mind you, there was a leak in the roof and immediately in back of the FM xmttr was a puddle of water on the concrete floor). Seems like the AC feed to the AM xmttr ran thru the fuse block in the FM rig and it was hot all the time.

The CE announced that both stations were staying off the air until he could get an electrician in to "fix the safety issues", namely the AC problem and the hole in the roof. He, by the way, was not the engineer who installed the (newer rig than the AM) FM xmttr.

Bob

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NECRAT
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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by NECRAT » Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:07 pm

Wellllll today ended up being my day....

We have MRC twin-stream STLs, for both stations, running in a hot standby configuration. (One backs up the other...). Well, on one station, on the standby transmitter, the YIG oscillator for the digital carrier died. (You TV guys who have any MRC radios know about the YIG problems, even AFTER the upgrades). Anywhos, the replacement YIG came in today (under warrenty). I switch the auto standby shelf to manual mode, TX1 (primary) on the air. I go to unplug TX2.. walk around back and, yup, you guessed it. I unplugged TX1. After I came around front , I realized my mistake, noticed the station off the air, fumbled to get the power connector back into the radio. (and the 5 second boot up time). (Notice how power connectors, those PC NEMA type, NEVER go in easy when you need to get them plugged in, in a hurry). The good news is, it WASN'T CBS that I took down, it was FOX (during the day time the programming is less critical), I didnt do it during a break, and it was back within 30 seconds. The bad news is, the HUB *was* paying attention, called in, also my boss was watching too. At least he laughed about it, as I did. Oops...

(Oh and the replacement YIG worked, and the auto changeover system is ready to go again!)

--Mike
http://www.necrat.us

"Arguing with an engineer is like mud wrestling with a pig. After a couple of hours, you realize the pig likes it"

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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by BroadcastDoc » Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:12 pm

Welcome to our club. Enjoy your stay! :D
Christopher "Doc" Tarr CSRE, DRB, AMD, CBNE
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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by VXO » Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:15 pm

Yep. I've done it before.

WRGP-FM. You can read our history on our website, it's pretty interesting... anyway, to summarize:

20 years ago... station built up with studios in the university center. Dry pair phone circuits wired around campus and between the two campuses, with an ugly old Ramko Research distribution amp, and Radio Systems (now part of Harris) carrier current AM in each building. FCC Part 15... yep.

Later on, fairly low power FM, quite a few miles away from the actual campus... mono signal, dry pair down to Princeton, where the transmitters live.

Old wiring for carrier current AM still in the closet, complicating things horribly!

One night, the previous GM decided it'd be a good idea to remove it, as it was all acting as a godawful antenna and causing stray signals (nearby GSM cell phones, Sage Endec spooge, etc.) to get into the pgm output.

I stripped out a LOT of cabling, fall asleep on the studio floor, and wake up to a call on my cell phone saying that our signal sounds awful! Listening to us on our old tuner and Yagi, I just heard crackling, distorted splooey! I go into the closet again and see that I'd swapped signal + and ground on the punch block leading down to the dry pair... oops! >.<

I never admitted at the time to having swapped the wires. I claimed one had just fallen off. Two quick blasts of Harris impact punch tool fixed it all up.

Yes, note that I mention a Yagi. Previous to the installation of our transmitters, we had to use a Yagi to hear our own station on campus! The station lost quite a bit of funding from the student activities board because of this situation. Everything's been more or less happy since... well, at least until the state's budget fell apart... but we're surviving. :wink:

I also took us down once when I managed to hit INVERTER OFF on the UPS for our transmitters, but that wasn't nearly as spectacular. I just heard *beep* *thunk* *WHIRRRrrrrrrrrrr------*
A K T I V - S C H A U M

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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by Koredump » Thu Feb 10, 2011 6:40 pm

I once accidentally kicked the coax out of a Optimod composite out. DUH!

boiseengineer(old)

Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by boiseengineer(old) » Thu Feb 10, 2011 11:37 pm

I seem to have power issues.

Throwing the wrong circuit breaker.

Assuming the label on a circuit breaker “AM Studio 208 Heater” is actually that.
The 2” Ampex machines in TV made a really horrible sound when you kill their power.

Yes, Me too. Unplugging the wrong STL/Optimod/computer/etc power plug.

Leaving the generator in “Manual”.
Leaving the generator in “Manual”.
Leaving the generator in “Manual”.
Leaving the generator in “Manual”.
Leaving the generator in “Manual”.

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RGORJANCE
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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by RGORJANCE » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:36 am

My turn.

One Sunday at an FM site, I had to drill a hole in an equipment rack housing the STL rcvr and remote control. Thought I'd moved everything out of the way so that when the drill punched thru, it would only contact air.

Yeah, right only in a perfect world. At the speed of light, and a hearty Hi-Ho Arc and spark, the bit hit the power cord for the STL. OH CRAP!!!! I took out a regulator in the stl pwr supply. Fortunately, I was able to get someone to bring out the TIELINE. Got back on the air in very good quality mono, with much egg on face! :oops: :oops: :oops:

Second off air was NOT MY FAULT! Chief eng and I had to work on old Collins 21E. Tim went over to the breaker, pulled the handle - WAMMO!!! big flash of light, sudden silence and of course, it was at night-super dark, no outside windows-whole three station complex quiet as a church mouse. What the @^%* did you do, and are you still alive???

Last commercial electrician inside disconnect had looped one leg of the 220 in such a manner that when he pulled the handle, the contact blade cut thru the insulation and took it straight to ground. Lots of smoke! :lol: :lol: :lol:
Lots of fun getting all the automation, etc back on the air.

Fossil

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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by Koredump » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:16 am

One I'd almost forgotten about. We were moving a class IV AM in Oxford, NC way back in '73. Had a BC-1T that the previous CE had to do quite a bit of "imagineering" on to get to drop to 250W nighttime with a single intermittent contact closure from the old Rust RC unit.

Well, in all of my youthful ignorance, I flipped the stock HI/LOW power toggle switch on the transmitter front panel, just to see what would happen.

BOOOOOOM!!! Arcensparkenundschmoken!

Took almost 14 hours to find another mechanical latching relay, trace and replace the melted 220v control wiring that had been added (no docs anywhere), and get the pig back on the air, with the GM breathing down my neck constantly, and the owner calling from Blacksburg, VA every hour on the hour.

Would have sold my soul for a MW-1 if they had been around back then.

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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by PID_Stop » Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:43 pm

Our original studio was in the basement of a strip mall; in 1967 a fire took us down. In the hurry to get back on the air, old cabling was left in place and new lines were run where needed. Much of the new cabling was run rather haphazardly, using whatever material or path seemed convenient at the moment. Naturally, nothing was labeled.

Fast forward to one evening in the fall of 1984: we're building a new studio, and I'm back in Shoppingtown alternating between switching station breaks and pulling dead cable out of the overhead trays. I started pulling out an orphan length of 8281 that went across five racks when suddenly I hear the demod speaker make that distinctive thump that comes from dumping the transmitter, closely followed by flashing lights and chirping Sonalerts. Got down off the ladder and ran around the racks to the PBR-30 remote, saw that we had indeed gone down, and turned the plate supply back on. Checked all the readings, and everything looked normal; after several uneventful minutes, decided we must have taken a brief power outage at the transmitter site. Nothing terribly unusual; shrugged and went back around the racks, climbed back up the ladder and went back to pulling out the dead cable.

Kerthump... beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep. :shock:

Back down the ladder and back around the racks, cycled the PBR-30 back to the plate on/off channel and hit raise... back on the air. Decided to start the generator (it was a windy night). Muttered a few imprecations about the power company and went back around the rack to try and get some real work done. Back up the ladder, and grabbed the coax...

Kerthump... beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep. :evil:

Got the transmitter going again, and decided that all this was just too much of a coincidence. I can see both ends of the cable I'm pulling, and it's obviously not the cable itself... but what? Back up the ladder, somewhat puzzled, looking into the cable tray over the racks, looking for anything that might be the culprit. Got about halfway along the length of the dead coax and spotted some of that unjacketed blue/white telco twisted pair cross-connect stuff dropping out of the tray into a rack and connecting to -- you guessed it -- the PBR-30. Turns out that instead of running something appropriate (e.g., a jacketed cable), somebody just flew that stuff about 300 feet from the transmitter remote control to the microwave STL. Also turns out that the edge of the cable tray had rubbed the insulation off part of the wire, so that just about anything moving in the cable tray shorted out the PBR-30's control audio and kicked the fail-safe. A few inches of electrical tape later, I was able to finish pulling the stupid coax without dumping the transmitter... then replaced the telco crap with a piece of 8451.

Made for an interesting conversation with the chief the next day, when he called me into his office to explain the dead air. Also put an end to months of fruitless troubleshooting on the part of the transmitter supervisor, who had been trying to figure out why the transmitter had been randomly dumping for no apparent reason.

-- Jeff

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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by boiseengineer(old) » Sat Feb 12, 2011 12:04 am

TODAY I swear I thought the entire studio was bypassed and the processing and STL was taking its feed from the simulcast source.
Now it'll be a snap to re-arrange the power strips.
Gracefully shut down the SS32.
Pull the power plugs out.

The silence alarm starts sounding.

Look for the power coard labled Airwave. It's hiding.
PD's in the room "helping".
OK, back on. Get a new power strip mounted. Plug everything back in.
Power up the SS32. Greeted by Windows 7 blathering about not being able to start and it's "fixing" the problem. Uh-huh, right...
An hour later it finally boots normally after telling me it can't fix itself. A new hard drive in the RAID & things are getting back to normal.

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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by w9wi » Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:59 am

I've done it myself but my self-preservation instincts bury the memory.....

Sports guy once shut down WISC-TV.

This was before the station had a router. If you wanted to record something, you had to patch your audio & video sources into the VR-2000 first. Studio, CBS, other VR-2000, ACR-25, film chain, whatever. One audio patch cord, one video.

Sports guy is trying to record a feed off CBS. Patches CBS video into the VR-2000; looks fine. Patches CBS audio, something's wrong. Walks into Engineering shop & asks, "what's this funny tweedling noise?"

3 engineers walk to tape room & take a listen. Sure enough, there's a weird tweedling noise instead of CBS audio. After about 29 seconds it dawns on me what the noise is. Then, the transmitter dumps.

Yep: the telco circuit for the transmitter remote was on the patch bay,
--
Doug Smith W9WI
Pleasant View, TN EM66

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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by ChuckG » Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:20 pm

Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?
Lord, which time. :lol:
Every time I set out to clean up old "abandoned" wiring it seems to happen. Who is it that keeps running AC for failsafe relays on Belden 8451 anyway? I've clipped your work more than once. :lol:

I was doing some clean up work at a small, NCE religious FM some years back, part of which was relocating the telco wiring. I was putting a set of headphones across each pair listening for dial tone to find the active lines. Partway through I got a ker-POW in my headset that left my ears ringing... and down went the transmitter.
Previous engineer had fed 110VDC into a telco loop from the transmitter over to a toggle switch at the GM's house several miles away, then back to a 48V relay in the transmitter. That was the transmitter On/Off control!

My favorite somewhat related story took place during an FCC visit about 20 years ago. The field engineer was standing in the station's AM studio asking the afternoon DJ how he'd go about shutting down the transmitter if there was a problem.
Without batting an eye, the DJ opened the Mic channel and gave the mike a thwack! with his palm. Modulator overload and off the transmitter went.

yeah, it's funny now.
<><><><><><><><><>
Chuck Gennaro
Central Wisconsin

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Muadeeb
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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by Muadeeb » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:04 pm

This time, not exactly my doing, but was involved...

We were in the process of moving our studios from Arlington to North-ish Dallas. The T1 was installed (way) ahead of the move date as a flash-cut, so I'm spending the day moving the Audio Vault and T1 gear to the new studios and changing IP addresses at the transmitter. Whole day has been uneventful until about 4:30pm. Our national studio engineer is poking the (on air) Backup Vault at the transmitter and accidentally hits the 'Shutdown' button. The transmitter calls with a silence sense and I flub the phone and hit ignore call instead of answer. I actually get to the TOC before I can call back in, and tell the audio to switch back to T1, only to have it revert to the backup. Four times this happens. I finally have to switch to satellite before the T1 takes. Total off air time, about 4 minutes.
Procrastination I can totally do. I'm good at it, I have a black belt in procrastination, it's an art form for me, I'm the absolute King of, well, I'll finish this thought la

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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by Scott.Cason » Wed Feb 16, 2011 2:01 pm

Left WFXL in Albany Georgia for WMAZ in Macon. The transmitter remote in Macon was the very same Moseley MRC 2 we had in Albany. First week I was in Macon, I was taking meter readings and out of habit hit the lower/off button when I was done. TV transmitter dumped off....during Guiding Light. There was a one beat pause before the telephone at master control, tape room and engineering started to ring at the same time. I didn't know what I did and was not about to touch anything until one of the other engineers came on the scene. They didn't know anything about what command I sent it so it was off to the transmitter site. Seems the channel I was on, the lower command flipped the coax switch to the standby RCA transmitter and since nothing was written down, we had to drive out to the tower to flip it back! The next day, I spent at the transmitter tracing down what command did what and wrote out what command did what.
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Re: Have you ever accidently taken yourself off the air?

Post by KPJL FM » Fri Feb 18, 2011 10:28 am

RGORJANCE wrote:My turn.

three station complex quiet as a church mouse. What the @^%* did you do, and are you still alive???


Fossil
Those two questions must be asked in that exact order. Fix it first, then get a live engineer replacement. :lol:
Trim to fit, paint to match, tune for minimum smoke.

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