My apology to Rod Rogers. In the last newsletter, I credited him with being fully retired. He says semi-retired maybe, but more likely its just
a matter of him being a bit more selective in the jobs he takes on now. Sorry about that, Rod. Hang in there, you will make it someday.
While riding with Martin Heffner to Salina for our last meeting, we were admiring a beautiful Kansas sunset, when we noticed about 190º away, a
huge orange moonrise! You know you are on very flat ground to be able to do that, but also the timing has to be just so. I can't remember seeing another instance such as that. Unfortunately, to get a good picture of
either event, we would have had to stop the vehicle to have any hope of a decent shot, but the scene was spectacular - one not soon to be forgotten.
Bob Locke tells me that Maize High School, northwest of Wichita, and southwest of Maize, has installed enough solar voltaic panels to be
considered energy sufficient. That would make for a very large facility, and may well be worth investigating for a future program.
Ron Jones tells me he has now installed a new energy efficient water heater that uses a small air-conditioning system which has its condensing
coils in the water tank. Ron says it operates on less than 1500 Watts, and he gets some cooling for the house as a side benefit, along with plenty of hot water anytime he wants it from the 50 gallon tank.
Richard Ochoa former Chief Engineer of KPTS, has moved on, leaving a big void at that station. The Director of Engineering hired to replace
Dave McClintock does not have a television background. The result is beginning to show on air, but not only at that station. Today, operating a broadcast station, whether TV or radio, has become much more
complicated than in the past. In the same way flying a large commercial aircraft has become a very complex issue, and the problem with both, is that automated control, when it fails from improper programming, or
from equipment failure, is not easy to wrest control away, or, the person who may have knowledge to do so (in the case of TV), may not be close enough to the server access point to remedy the problem in a timely
fashion, since the are often busy elsewhere. At least in the case of US aircraft, knowledgeable and experienced pilots are at hand to do their best to take control, but TV Engineers have been stretched so thin that
they are often tasked with other duties and not always available in time to prevent an embarrassing lapse in continuity of programming.
I've been noticing an interesting effect or artifact on TV as I watched recently and it amuses me. A fine herringbone jacket or salt &
pepper hair shows it worst, as edges are sharpened in the video of slow or non moving objects. The faster the object moves, the greater is the reduction of higher resolution. Talking heads with short straight hair
show it most, alternating from sharply defined individual hairs to a moving mass of the same color. So then, if the talking head wags his head at the same time he is talking, you get this roller coaster between HD
and what ever the other is. Of course more bandwidth would help. We will see what ATSC-3.0 brings.
Weather predicting has certainly come a long way in the last 60 years, but I'm not sure the application of common sense has advanced at the
same rate. On the occasion of the approach of a weather front and storm, my weather radio went off at 02:45 AM, warning of high winds, especially for high profile vehicles. Pretty good, right? My problem with the
warning was that the warning was for 2:00 PM the following afternoon. I had been awakened from a sound sleep by the alert that would have served just as well if the a had it been sounded at 8:00 or 9:00 o'clock
the following morning. While it may have been important to Semi drivers, any of them driving at that hour should not still have been driving eleven hours later when the front was scheduled to arrive.
Technology 10; Common sense, 2 or less. We recently stumbled on to a cure, for the most part, of our understanding of television audio, or lack
thereof. Both I and my wife have lost a good part of the spectrum we used to hear and took for granted. Both of us now use hearing aids, mine for loss of high frequencies, hers for loss of lows for the most part. We
for each other a good deal of the time, but often with many "what did they say?" or "say again?" phrases flying about the room. She happened to see a sound bar for sale on a shopping channel, and
we ended up ordering it. At least from that source, we can try it out until January 31 and still be out only the return shipping if we decide we didn't like it. It was called the ZVOX, and had several settings for
"clarity of conversation. Dimensions are about 3x4x17 inches, and although we had to order white instead of the black cabinet they were out of, the performance is the thing, right? The installation was
straightforward and we were able to use the digital optic connection between our Sony Bravia and the ZVOX bar. We powered it up, and my wife exclaimed "Yes!". I must admit I was surprised myself. Bass was pouring
out of this small ducted box that I didn't even know I had been missing! It isn't too much of it, it simply fills in what should have been there all along. Now, I've been analyzing the performance for several days
now, and decided I had to write about it. Besides filling in the missing spectrum, the thing I noticed most is the sound level processing. I know our Sony TV has some processing available on its menu, but when I got
to thinking about it, that TV is more than 10 years old, and to expect its two small speakers to produce what I was expecting was probably not realistic. What little bass they were able produce has likely faded with
time, but the level processing is something I have been grousing about for a ling time. I think we got the ZVOX mid week, and I told my wife, "we will see what it does on 60 Minutes".
Now this program is one that has caused me to hog the remote control, because when single reporters spoke, I had to jack the audio up four to
six ticks, which caused audio to be way too loud when the commercials came. So, I was kept busy riding audio, if I was involved in listening to the program. When 60 Minutes came on the following Sunday, I barely
touched the remote, and I was astounded! I thought about it for several days before coming up with a plausible explanation. The manufacturer of the ZVOX is not very forthcoming with online specs, at least to the
degree I was wanting to know about.
• Obviously, sound processing has improved remarkably since TV has gone digital.
• It is very likely that my TV used peak voltage limiting to drive its sound processing.
• It is also likely that the ZVOX has its sound leveling based on power in the audio over a small period of time.
Even commercials that used to really bug me with very loud rock (Subway for one) are now tolerable, at least to the point that I don't
immediately mute them (and the rest of the commercials during that break), and the funny thing is that this situation held true whether I had my hearing aids in or not. I have observed that as I age, the range
between understandable hearing and the threshold of too loud has narrowed. In other words my comfort level has narrowed considerably. The ZVOX seems aimed at this feature and several others associated with audiology
and aging. It has six positions which increasingly narrow the spectrum to the frequencies used in speech, while increasing the overall volume simultaneously. My wife said no to all of those clarity choices when we
first ran through the sound bar setup, and we both settled on the default factory setting. I had resisted trying a sound bar before now, not knowing if it would help us or not, and since most of them come with an
external sub-woofer, which we don't have room for. The ZVOX has only three 3"x5" speakers, L,R, and center. They have massive coaxial magnets, and I'm sure the ducted cabinet helps with the bass. But, I have not
been able to find any spectrum plots from ZVOX. but, we are happy with it anyway. My wife wanted to know if we would keep it. I replied I had already modified the TV and IP distribution schematic for the house, and
registered the product online. I think that should be considered a yes. I still am of the opinion that much more could and should be done to make audio more listener friendly at its point of production and
distribution, but I'm quite thankful integrated circuits have made digital processing readily available in products for end consumer use.
Marty Heffner sent me link for a now unused microwave tropo-scatter system between southern Florida and Cuba. It was the early telephone
infrastructure allowing Cuba long distance tele-phone service. The basis of the system was built on a massive sixty foot high parabolic section on each end of the link. With the high mechanical gain of the antennae
on each end of the link, enough signal was reflected off the tropospheric layer to make the system work. The troposphere begins at earth's surface and extends upward to roughly 59,000 feet in the tropics, 56,000
feet in the middle latitudes, and 20,000 feet in the polar regions in winter. So, this link would work by reflecting off the 59,000 to 60,000 region created by the meeting of the troposphere and an ozone layer in
the stratosphere. This system was used in the 1950's with one antenna in Cuba, and the other 90 miles away in Florida City, Florida. After the revolution outing Batista and allowing Castro to take power, the US
government allowed the system to continue to operate, so they could eavesdrop on the calls, and the Cubans had no choice in the matter, but they likely looked for a different mode that allowed for more secure
international conversations. Commercial satellites emerged in the mid to late 1960's, and 1990's for fiber optic cabling that would have allowed this to happen. The story didn't tell what system had replaced the
telephone link to Cuba, but it is likely the 90 mile path was connected with either satellite or a fiber optic link, which should have allowed for fewer outages and a lower overall cost of maintenance and operation.
There isn't space in this month's section for photos and diagrams showing the workings of the microwave path, but we will try to examine that portion of this story in the next publication of the newsletter. Think of
the tower height necessary to place a microwave reflector in them middle of this path, or to install a repeater for better reliability !
Our thanks to Marty for the tip on the story. Ocean cabling would make an interesting article in its own right, because the only way to repair
or replace a communications receiver-transmitter set would be to fish the cable up out of the ocean depths, complete the maintenance and return it to its place on the floor of the ocean. If any of you have topics or
subjects you would like to see explored, contact John Langer with your suggestion. It is not always an easy task for a program chairman to fill our program schedule, not knowing what subjects are within your range
of interest, so we encourage you to speak up - we all can learn something new, learn more about the subjects you may find of interest, or be able to contribute to the subject under study. If any of you have subjects
for the newsletter, as Marty did, they are welcome too, and may get you re-certification points for SBE!