The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Current events discussions relating to Broadcast Engineering
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Bill DeFelice
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Bill DeFelice » Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:38 pm

Dale H. Cook wrote:
Shane wrote:Has to be done right the first time or you'll spend 3x more time correcting the problems.
That is why cable testers are made. I never put a hand-made or commercial ethernet cable into service without testing it.
I performed a studio build where the owners purchased pre-made audio cables to go between racks and audio source gear and the console. I spent more time troubleshooting where there were two cable assemblies that had flipped conductors on one end. They likely were imported as they had molded connectors on the end (even the XLR plugs had to be chopped and re-wired by hand).

I work in IT as a fulltime gig only because the local stations use outsourced talent to bail them out when they go off the air. The cut of capable engineering talent who have audio and RF background as well as IT knowledge will probably dry up. I already see guys out in the field who aren't all that literate, when I see their written prose using "salad" for the word "solid" it makes me want to run away, and fast! It seriously makes me wonder if they even know electrical safety when working on a rig.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Shane » Fri Jul 22, 2016 11:56 pm

Wow, Bill. That's bad! But I suspect the blame for "salad" for "solid" lies with the public school systems today.

I think in the future we will see a lot of what we're seeing now: some companies who seem to understand that RF is a whole different animal from anything else in a station, and thus see the value in maintenance; and many companies who will operate on the "we'll call somebody when it breaks" mentality. If it's a DA problem that actually requires adjustment, they will need to call in a consultant anyway.

I would place Salem as one company that gets it. More than their share of DAs to go around. I don't know how many are on STAs, if any at the moment, but it's not many.
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Bill DeFelice
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Bill DeFelice » Sat Jul 23, 2016 7:52 am

Shane wrote:Wow, Bill. That's bad! But I suspect the blame for "salad" for "solid" lies with the public school systems today.
Sadly, I think you've hit on something there. And if they can't teach basic literacy to students what hopes do we have turning young people on to engineering.

I consider myself lucky in comparison to many young people today. As a teen in the 70's I had a wonderful gentleman who served as my mentor when I first got my feet wet with a Gates FM250B at our high school radio station. I learned quite a bit from him and he also provided the motivation to keep learning, which I attribute to becoming both a chief engineer and contract engineer at various stations throughout my career. Of course education and radio have changed since the 70's and 80's.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Shane » Sat Jul 23, 2016 5:22 pm

May I ask what the call letters of that high school station were? I would possibly recognize them. A college friend of mine lived in Fairfield and we visited many of the radio stations in the county (including WMMM: I was impressed that they had THREE turntables in the control room!) though I don't think we made it to any high school ones.

The old (1972-3 ish) WSHU was one we hit. I remember it had the same control room console the station I was working for in N.J. had except theirs worked right! One of the later incarnations of the Collins 212 series it was, with the input switches and the audition/program switches set one right above the other and the whole thing switched and gain-ridden through photocells.

The friend now runs Electric Supply in Bridgeport. We still maintain correspondence and even had a chance to visit back in 2003. Way too long between visits, though.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Bill DeFelice » Sun Jul 24, 2016 8:40 am

Mike, the high school station was WMNR in Monroe, CT. When I started it was at 330 watts but during my tenure we got a power increase to 600 watts. We were fortunate to have a Collins 830D1A donated to us from a station on ESB, which required a unique way to get out of the building due to the unions there.

I not only lived through assisting with a complete studio re-location and renovation I was fortunate enough to cut my teeth on everything from a Rust remote control, tube HP mod monitors and tube Gates limiters all the way through to Audimax/Volumax, various McMartin off-air monitoring and EBS gear to belt-driven Fairchild and various puck drive Gates turntables.

Image
Yours truly in the new studios, circa 1977

Today they're a regional classical and fine arts station and I keep a hand in there to help them when they need assistance.

An interesting FYI, I was given the original board pictured above, which I plan on restoring as this was the very first board I got on the air with.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Shane » Tue Jul 26, 2016 7:46 am

Yep. We knew about it! I remembered it was in Monroe; couldn't remember the call letters. We just never got up to Monroe for some reason.

That appears to be a Gates console but I don't recognize it. Kinda looks like a Yard II.

My friend's mom was a UB graduate so we had to take In WPKN. That was a pretty nice operation. At the time, I was impressed with the simple fact that the board op could start any tape deck (reel) in the station without leaving the control room, except to cue a tape.

8 or 10 years later I worked for a station where it was set up in a similar way except instead of separate STOP/PLAY/REWIND buttons, you just turned the A/P switch off and dialed up the desired reel on pot 9 or 10. There were two on each pot. (Two in prod 1, two in prod 2, plus one more similarly remote controlled right there in the control room.) Then hitting PLAY simply involved throwing the A/P switch. Impossible to hit the wrong button! Turntables the same way but almost all of our library was on cart. American Country Countdown was still on disc (not compact disc!) so the tables got used at least once a week.

Because of the limitations of the console, the turntables weren't remoted exactly the same. On the one closer to the operator (and used more often outside of ACC) you cued up the record with the switch on the table but put it on the air with the A/P switch on the board. On TT2, because it shared its pot with other inputs, you had to have the A/P switch on with the pot in cue, of course, so you could cue up using the switch on the table. You then switched off the A/P switch, and put the turntable switch back on (which did nothing now - both switches had to be on for the table to operate). We got used to it pretty fast, the table wasn't used that much, and I think mostly everybody understood why it was set up that way. The good thing was that the physical action required to put the turntable to air was the same, once it was cued.

When I started there it was as the Sunday morning part-timer so I used those remote controls more than anyone else. Unwritten rule: deselect the tapes when done or else someone might get surprised in a prod room Monday morning if one of the reels took off seemingly on its own!

Ok, long past time to unhijack this thread!
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Bill DeFelice » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:54 pm

Shane wrote:Yep. We knew about it! I remembered it was in Monroe; couldn't remember the call letters. We just never got up to Monroe for some reason.

That appears to be a Gates console but I don't recognize it. Kinda looks like a Yard II.

My friend's mom was a UB graduate so we had to take In WPKN. That was a pretty nice operation. At the time, I was impressed with the simple fact that the board op could start any tape deck (reel) in the station without leaving the control room, except to cue a tape.
That's a Gates Yard 80, which was the solid state build of the old Yard consoles. Took some huntin' to locate new color inserts for the knobs but once I can find somebody to reproduce the paint finish (hammertone?) I'll get to restoring it.

I knew the late Jeff Tellis, who was the station manager at UB for years. He was good friends with our technical director and helped us out on occasion.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by rich wood » Mon Aug 15, 2016 8:51 am

Chris Tarr makes some very valid points in his article. As a contractor that works exclusively with Radio and TV Stations, I see the staff engineers under a great deal of pressure all the time. But, in a way we are our own worst enemies. We try to perform all the tricks and turns that are thrown at us. Some have so much with so little for so long they are now qualified to the impossible with nothing. Over the next 5 years we are going to a major reduction in veteran broadcast engineers and the station owners will have to change their habits too. The market of available workers will decrease and the market of $$ paid for new talent will go up. Yes, engineering is a necessary evil and the stations will have to decide what is worth spending money on.Also, many station managers are paid bonuses on the bottom line. If engineering was removed from this incentive schedule and regarded as a necessary cost of doing business, that would be a game changer too.
I do not see the owners coming to the pit to do tire changes during the race. Maybe they will stop by once and a while,, but after 5 or on the weekends they are no where to be seen.

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by knoxbob » Wed Aug 17, 2016 6:34 pm

The reason I went back to school in the late 80's was to land a position in engineering but after graduation could not get my foot in any door to gain experience. Not even part time. So I had to get a job working maintenance in manufacturing to pay the bills ad never had a chance to jump back into radio. I still keep my nose in and around the business and am now in my mid 50's. I would love to latch onto someone who has been around and learn enough to help out some of the small stations around me because within the next 10 years there won't be anyone left with the knowledge to keep directional AM's on the air, that is if there are any of those left on the air.

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by ChuckG » Wed Aug 17, 2016 7:38 pm

knoxbob wrote:within the next 10 years there won't be anyone left with the knowledge to keep directional AM's on the air.
We'll be around...but we'll be retired and setting the fishing pole aside won't come cheap. :lol:
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Dale H. Cook
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Dale H. Cook » Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:40 am

ChuckG wrote:We'll be around...but we'll be retired and setting the fishing pole aside won't come cheap.
I'm already semi-retired, but still have two small clients under retainer, and a few other stations (who are in generally good shape and who are good pay) have the privilege of calling me in when they need a very experienced engineer. I am currently working on one of the latter jobs, where the young engineer has a day job. This is an older Nautel transmitter, and the expert on this series of Nautel is Steve Braley. The station engineer, because of his day job, can't be at the transmitter when Steve is on duty. I have more than a decade of experience with this transmitter (I installed it), and was called in a few years ago when it last had major damage and worked with Steve then, so I was a natural to handle this job. I charge non-retainer clients twice the hourly rate that retainer clients pay to make it worth my while. I don't fish, but have other avocations, and it takes some serious coin to pull me away from those avocations.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by RodeoJack » Thu Aug 18, 2016 9:14 pm

Was repairing some vandal damage at a client's tower site, when a young fellow... maybe in his late '20s walks up.

Him. "Hi. I'm an ENGINEER with (very large national chain). Been working for them for almost 3 years now. I was just doing my weekly check at (nearby 4-tower DA) and noticed your door was open."

Me. "Hi. So you're one of their engineers. Super! What does one of your weekly checks look like?"

Him. "Well, I start out by logging the DA meters, and then I check the transmitter (a DX-10) for any blown PA modules."

Me. "That's great. So, if you find the readings are out, you probably adjust them back in, huh?"

Him. "Oh, no. I'd get fired for touching the phasor. I write a report and "Central Engineering" sends someone out to do that."

Me. "Well, I guess I can see that... a 4-tower system and all. So, you find a blown module in the transmitter. You switch over to the spare and change out the bad card?"

Him. "Oh, no. I can't do that, either. If I see a red light on a card, I write up a report and "Central Engineering" sends someone over to change it out."

Me. "So... what do you do with the rest of your week?"

Him. "I go through the rest of our stations around here, and pretty much do the same thing."

Me. (sigh......)

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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Dale H. Cook » Fri Aug 19, 2016 5:33 am

RodeoJack wrote:Him. "Oh, no. I can't do that, either. If I see a red light on a card, I write up a report and "Central Engineering" sends someone over to change it out."
The young engineer (he is 24) at the station where I am repairing the damaged Nautel is very sharp, and really wants to learn more, especially things like the care and feeding of DAs and repairing transmitters, consoles, etc. at the component level. Fortunately he is working with small stations and is not part of one of the large corporate operations, so he has a chance to learn and do everything. I hope to be his mentor, as he is the type of person we need to have in this business, and in some ways he reminds me of my position in the industry when I was about his age and when I was being mentored by older engineers.

On the general subject of mentoring, one area of radio engineering where many young engineers could use some mentoring is in the area of processing - many do not understand the basics of how processing building block circuits function, individually and in concert, how they can be made to work together properly, and how they can sound bad when pushed too hard. I am about to acquire a Cutting Edge Unity 2000. Although it is pretty crude by today's standards it is digital, has all the building blocks, and is the platform that I intend to use to create a series of lessons to introduce the basics of processing for young engineers, beginning with underlysing theory (how many young engineers understand transfer functions in audio engineering?). Us old guys who started with the Level Devil and Sta-Level, the Audimax and Volumax, and moved on from the analog Optimods through the generations to today's digital processors, are dying off. I think we need to commit our knowledge and experience to forms that will benefit young engineers.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Dale H. Cook » Fri Aug 19, 2016 5:37 am

Deleted quoted duplicate.
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Re: The Looming Engineering Age Crisis

Post by Conelrad » Fri Aug 19, 2016 11:26 pm

One of my engineering buds retired a few years back, and at that time management let on he was cruel for doing so.

On his last day, he nailed an old pair of his shoes to the GM's door and wrote; "Good luck filling these" :lol: .

Dennis

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