Letters on Young Engineers, Heathkit and ‘The Mystery Machine’
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Looking for Young
Engineers? Here’s One
As a young engineer myself, 25 years old, I
can tell you that I started in college radio as a broadcast technician learning
AoIP, but I was also taught troubleshooting at the component level.
the University of Indianapolis, I was tested weekly on basic engineering practice
of soldering, crimping, cable construction and overall aspects of the field. I
was very hands-on in building studios and doing weekly remotes. The job included
weekly maintenance of both studio and transmitter facilities, which I was
thrilled to do because when studios and transmitters are clean, you’re a happy
as a college student and college athlete, being on call 24/7 had its moments. But
the overall experience was challenging yet rewarding, because I got hired right
out of college as a staff engineer for 10 stations. I’m now a station engineer
for one FM and one AM directional.
owe everything to my college station, WICR(FM). With the likes of their faculty
and radio staff, I have no doubt they will keep pumping out new blood into all
aspects of radio. The challenge we face today is in keeping the new blood we
get and continuing to mold and grow them.
Everyone can be
taught and trained, just like we were — but the passion for radio and
willingness to learn is something we can build from my generation.
Greater Media New Jersey
the ‘Mystery Machine’
Apparently nobody from ABC Radio has stepped up
yet to describe the New York ”Mystery Machine” — two out of four
equipment racks depicted by historian Don Browne in RW’s June
So for those too young to know what he’s asking
about, I’ll describe what network master control was and how it functioned,
essentially unchanged, from as far back as the 1930s.
Back in the day, ABC, CBS,
Mutual and NBC each had master control operations in New York, Chicago and
Hollywood, and programs for these networks were sent via telephone lines that
were leased from AT&T.
The concept of any master control system is
plainly the routing of any source to any destination — or
any number of destinations — at any time. This characteristic is clearly shown
in Mr. Browne’s photo. Above each meter are two groups of switches. The top
group contains two rows of 12 switches with their associated tally lights. They
represent 12 sources (such as Studios 1A, 2A, 3B, etc.)
Beneath are another group representing a dozen
more sources. With this capability, while, say, the left-hand group
(Group-A) is on air, the tech will be setting appropriate Group-B
switches to go to air at the next switching interval. So all the sources are
either on air or ready to be, as desired. The system continually bounces
between Group-A and Group-B settings.
Also, with Master Control,
program sources can be can be sent to all eight of
the available destinations, thus requiring four identically wired racks
in a typical crossbar system. MCR routed both outgoing and incoming
programs to their proper destinations.
Raise a Glass for
It’s too bad that Heathkit and its era are
gone (“Healthkit Folds,” radioworld.com, July 26). Many of us in engineering
learned quite a bit from building a Heathkit or two. The pride in soldering the
wires and PCB assemblies to form a finished product was always great. Times are
changing to the point that in a few years Radio Shack won’t even carry items
like soldering irons. It’s even getting hard to find parts at Fry’s.
Director of Sales and Marketing
A Kit That Wouldn’t
built probably 100 Heathkits over the years, including three color TV sets.
Heath incorporated features into their kits that could be found nowhere else,
at any price. It was always a thrill to have a kit work the first time, but if necessary,
troubleshooting was easy. Most problems could be traced to cold solder joints
or silly mistakes made by working on a kit when one was tired.