Thursday, July 28, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Post3ed to OGR on 01/176/2011

Events of the past week, snow, ice and a computer glitch reminded me of some of the more challenging moments in my broadcasting career. As it turns out, some of them were the funniest too.

Back in the 60s, the studio of the radio station I was working in was located in an apartment building downtown, the transmitter was located about 5 miles away and was connected by telephone lines that carried the sound out and the control functions to and from the transmitter. One day, something happened and the transmitter went off the air. I called the station engineer and he went out to the transmitter to fix it. All of a sudden the station manager rushed into the control room and demanded to know why we were off the air. I told him what had happened and he told me to announce that we would be back on the air soon. I told him that no one would hear the announcement because we were off the air. But he insisted on turning on the microphone and making the announcement himself. He then left the control room muttering something about DJs being dumb. To this day, I think he believes that his announcement was actually heard by someone.

A decade later, I was the chief engineer of a station whose transmitter and studio were in the same building. One day a thunderstorm rolled up and the power flickered. The generator kicked in but the interruption was long enough for the transmitter to go off the air. Now, you can damage a transmitter if you turn on the “high voltage” section before the tubes have a chance to warm up. So the manufacturer put in a delay circuit. I was right in front of the transmitter when the power flickered, since the tubes were still warm, I turned on the “high voltage” and when it did not start immediately; I started counting the 30 second delay in my head. The station staff and manager came running to see what happened. It was then when I decided to play a game. I told them that I would have it fixed in a moment. Then I closed my eyes and started mumbling some phrases in Latin, when the end of the 30 second delay arrived, I spun around, raised my arms and yelled “Transmitter, HEAL!” The delay circuit worked perfectly and the transmitter came on just as I planned it. The station manager walked away, shaking his head and muttering something about engineers, but the kid who worked part time, wouldn’t come near me for weeks. Oh MY!

Copyright 2011 Rick Wrigley

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