System Is a Mess
Your coverage of the Mission
Abstract Data lawsuit, in which that company seeks licensing fees for
long-established automation technology, is extremely important. I strongly
recommend that everyone in broadcasting watch this very carefully.
Maybe it will serve as a wakeup call.
Our industry needs to improve its woefully inadequate and inaccurate coverage
of the current patent mess in this country. Patents originally were established
as a way for new and novel ideas to be protected for a limited time so that the
developer could recover his/her costs. The idea was intended to spur innovation
In recent years, the U.S. patent system
has become so broken that it’s often a case of “whoever makes it to the patent
office first” with something so obvious that it should never have been granted
a patent in the first place. The fact that many (if not most) of these silly
patents are eventually declared invalid doesn’t help those who spend thousands
(or even millions) defending themselves against lawsuits.
So-called software “patents,” in
particular, should be eliminated. The United States is one of the few nations
to even recognize them. Many Americans are unaware of this. The European Union,
just to name one, still refuses to recognize software patents, even after many
years of vigorous lobbying by Microsoft and other large software vendors.
That patents are now granted so freely
has given rise to businesses that produce no real product or service. They
simply own a portfolio of these useless patents with which they then try to
browbeat and extort fees from those who might have been using that technology
for many, many years in perfectly good faith. Sadly, many will pay these fees
just to avoid the cost of a court fight.
Market Chief Engineer
also is a contributor to Radio World. He writes above as an individual.
Part 15 AM ‘Loophole’ Explored
by Bill DeFelice in the Dec. 14 Reader’s Forum present his belief that the “ground
lead” of an unlicensed system compliant with FCC Part 15.219(b) consists only
of the lead itself, and not any conducting object or structure to which it
This is an important issue, because 15.219(b) limits the
length of the antenna system of an unlicensed AM station to 3 meters total,
including the ground lead.
Any definition of the term “ground lead” requires that at
least one end of that lead must connect to ground. An electrical ground will
not radiate RF energy, but physics shows that any conductor along which RF
current flows does
radiate, when that conductor is above the surface of the earth.
Attaching a short lead from an elevated Part 15
AM transmitter to a longer conductor such as a grounded metal tower,
flagpole, a wire needed as a “lightning ground,” a water tower or the
steel frame of a building or billboard simply adds length to the ground lead —
all of which length radiates. So the ground lead functionally becomes the total
length of the conducting path from the transmitter RF ground terminal to the
point where that path enters the earth.
The FCC has issued citations to some unlicensed AM system
operators using such long, radiating “ground” conductors.
Richard Fry, CPBE
Keeping the Ol’ Girl
I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Persons’ article “Rebuild
That Relic of an AM Transmitter” in the Oct. 19 issue. It brought
During the 1970s I lived and worked in El Paso, Texas. One
of the local AM daytimers had an RCA BTA-1M as its main (and only) transmitter.
Other than its MV rectifiers, the old rig used only two tube types: 833s for the
finals and modulators, and 807s for everything else. It even used 807s for the
input audio stage.
The transmitter was sited directly across from one of the El
Paso Water Authority pumping stations, and every time the pumps shut down, the
rectifiers were prone to arc back, tripping the main breakers and taking the
transmitter off the air until someone could drive from the other side of town
and reset things. (The transmitter was not built for remote control and had
been sort-of modified to permit unattended operation).
The transmitter also had suffered some sort of short in the
control ladder that had done quite a bit of damage, although not enough to take
it completely out of service.
Anyway, the station owner wanted all of this fixed, and I
took the job on. Over a period of several weeks, I completely rewired the
control harness, one conductor at a time. I also modified the power supply,
replacing the 8008 HV rectifiers and the 866 LV rectifiers with solid-state
equivalents (not overlooking the mandatory snubber networks). I also improved
the RC system.
All in all, it was a fun project, made all the more
challenging because the transmitter had to work every night when I knocked off.
I’d usually start a half-hour or so after sunset and quit shortly after
midnight. I’d fire up the transmitter to make sure everything came on OK and
then shut back down and lock up.
I must have done a good job. That old girl stayed in regular
service well into the 1990s and was then sold across the border into Mexico,
where it’s probably still going strong.
Again, thanks for a most interesting article.
W. Louis Brown, P.E., CPBE
Director, Visual Integration Services
Innovative Technologies Inc.
The photo of the outside of the 1938
remote broadcast van on page 14 of the Dec. 1 issue of Radio World clearly
shows 820 kc, not 960 as noted in the text, as the operating frequency for the
WWJ AM station.
Bob Meister, WA1MIK
Author John Schneider replies:
Actually, the van signs read 920 kc. The way their 9 was drawn looks
like an 8 from a distance.
WWJ was on 920 in 1938 and moved to 950 under the NARBA frequency
reallocation of 1941. It remains on that frequency today. It was never on
960, so our text was incorrect.