CHAPTER 24, Inc., MADISON, WI
Edited by: Mike Norton
Electronic Version: Leonard Charles
Electronically Distributed by Chris Cain
Contributors this month:
Articles Welcome!! Send correspondence to:
SBE Chapter 24 Newsletter Editor
46 Trillium Court
Madison, WI 53719-2308
or Email at Mike_Norton@wetn.pbs.org
c 1997 by SBE Chapter 24. Views expressed herein do not necessarily
reflect the official positions of the Society, its officers, or its
members. SBE Chapter 24 regrets, but is not liable for, any omissions or
errors. The Chapter 24 Newsletter is published twelve times per year.
Other SBE Chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the
original author, sources, and SBE Chapter 24.
The Annual Picnic will be held Thursday, July 24, after work, between 4PM
and 8PM at the Mendota County Park on Highway M in Middleton.
The Chapter will provide sliced ham and turkey, buns, and all the fixin's.
Including extra plates and plasticware. We ask that you bring a dish to
share and your own drinks.
As always family and friends are invited and welcome. Hope to see you all
there. You may contact Denise if you need directions to the park.
We will need to know how many to provide for, so please RSVP Denise Maney.
Leave a message via phone/fax 277-8001 or email to Denise at
Visitors and Guests are welcome at all SBE meetings.
Tentative Program Subjects
Video Servers/New Member Night
Tour of Electronic Theater Controls
Lunch Meeting (Program TBA)
Radio Station Automation
Test and Measurement Equipment
ATM Technology or Related Topic
Elections and NAB Review
Telephone Company Tour
Sullivan NOAA Weather Office Tour
If you have any suggestions for program topics you'd like to see, please
contact one of the Chapter 24 Program Committee Members.
WISCONSIN BROADCASTERS ASSOCIATION SUMMER ENGINEERING WORKSHOP AND
REGIONAL SBE MEETING
Wednesday, July 16th, 1997 at the WBA Summer Convention - Abbey Resort,
Lake Geneva/Fontana, WI
Join your associates at the WBA Summer Convention for a full day of
technical sessions designed to address issues of concern to both
engineering and management.
Sessions begin at 8:30AM and conclude at 4:00PM. Registration for the full
conference is just $40, which includes the full day of technical sessions,
the SBE Lunch and the DTV luncheon presentation, the Equipment
Exhibits/Reception, and the WBA Opening Night Dinner. Or, if you prefer,
attend only the conference sessions and the SBE luncheon and equipment
exhibition/reception for $25. Same price since 1991!
To register, send your check for $40 or $25 per attendee before July 11,
Wisconsin Broadcasters Association
44 East Mifflin Street, Suite 900
Madison, WI 53703
Note: On-site registration will also be available between 8:00A- 8:30A on
Wednesday July 16th, but please call WBA to reserve your place, 1-800-236-
CERTIFICATION AND EDUCATION
By Jim Hermanson
The remaining 1997 certification exam date is November 14 - 24. Local
chapters application deadline is September 26th.
Operator exams may be given at other times by coordinating through the
local chapter certification chair and national SBE office.
Recertification forms are available from the SBE national office. The
chapter certification/education chair also has a few.
Thanks to Tim Trendt at UW-Platteville for assisting with Chapter 24
JUNE BUSINESS MEETING MINUTES
Submitted by Neal McLain, Secretary
Chapter 24 of the Society of Broadcast Engineers met on Tuesday, June 17,
1997, at Norlight Telecommunications, in Brookfield, Wisconsin. There were
10 persons in attendance, including 8 members (all certified) and two
guests. The meeting was chaired by Chapter 24 Chairman Fred Sperry.
Call to order: 7:12 pm. Sperry thanked our guest speakers for
inviting us to meet at Norlight.
The minutes of the May meeting were approved, as published in the June
Treasurer's Report (reported by Sperry in Stan Scharch's absence): the
chapter balance is in the black.
Newsletter Editor's Report (reported by Newsletter Editor Mike Norton): The
deadline for the June Newsletter is midnight 7/4/97; the folding party is
5:30 pm 7/9/97 at WKOW-TV.
Sustaining Membership Report (reported by Sperry): Recent renewals include
Video Images and Fuji Film; the Chapter now has a total 24 sustaining
Program Committee (reported by Steve Zimmerman): The July meeting will be
the annual Chapter picnic, July 24, at Mendota County Park.
Certification and Education: No report.
Frequency Coordination Report (reported by Tom Smith): Several coordination
requests have been received for new wireless microphone installation.
National News (reported by Sperry): (1) Nominations for candidates for
national office are now open; deadline is June 17. (2) Membership renewal
deadline is June 30.
National Liaison Report (reported by Sperry in Leonard Charles' absence):
(1) Charles plans to attend the SBE Executive Committee meeting on June 21
in Indianapolis. (2) The FCC has adopted a special order which has changed
the cable television EAS implementation deadline; the FCC also has
clarified the handling of EAS encoder printouts included with station logs.
See the SBE website for further information.
Old business (reported by Sperry): Nominations for Chapter Awards have been
mailed to national headquarters.
New business: none.
The business meeting was adjourned at 7:25 pm. The program featured a
presentation by Norlight representatives Jesse Mix, Account Executive, and
David Pritchard, Director, Satellite and Video Services.
Compiled by Tom Smith
MM Docket No. 97-138, RM-8855, 8856, 8857, 8858, 8872
Main Studio and Public Inspection File of Broadcast Stations
The FCC is seeking comments on the rules concerning the location of the
main studio of a broadcast stations and of where the public inspection file
should be kept. The FCC is proposing that the studio location rules be
further relaxed. The proposed rules would allow for stations to locate
outside of it's principal community contour. Currently, a station must
locate it's studio within it's community or city grade signal. Two
suggestions the FCC has made is to allow a stations studios to be locate at
a set driving distance such 30 minutes or within the principal contour of
any station within the community. If there was a Class C station with a
community grade of 40 miles in a community, then, a Class A in the same
community could also locate it's studio at 40 miles from that community.
The second proposal concerns the location of a stations public file.
Currently, a station must locate it's public file within it's city of
license. If the studio is within the city of license, the public file is
kept there. If the studio is outside the city of license, the public file
is kept at some location accessible to the public. This could be a law
office or public library. The FCC is proposing that it would be
permissible to locate the public file at the stations studio where ever it
The FCC is also seeking comment on what should be contained in the public
file and is proposing to delete the requirement that stations have a copy
of the out of date manual " The Public and Broadcasting ". The FCC is
considering the easing of the burden of new owners of stations being
responsible for material from the previous owners public file. The FCC
has been petitioned to require that the public file reflect information on
the current license.
Comments are due on August 8, 1997 and replies are due on September 8,
1997. This notice was adopted on May 22, 1997 and released on May 28,
1997. Published in the FEDERAL REGISTER on June 12, 1997 on pages 32,061-
MM Docket No. 94-150, 92-51, 87-154, DA 97-1246
The FCC is seeking comments from parties in all existing television local
marketing agreements to provide information concerning terms and
characteristics of these agreements. Some of the information the FCC would
like from these stations include ownership, call letters, channel, city of
license, market rank, signal contour overlap, network affiliation, ratings,
and contract terms.
This notice is to further gather information that the FCC was unable to
gather for parties in LMA's in previous inquiries concerning this issue.
Comments were due on July 8, 1997 and the notice was published in the
FEDERAL REGISTER on June 23, 1997 on pages 33,792-33,793.
FO Dockets 91-171 / 91-301; FCC 97-196
Emergency Broadcast / Alert System
The FCC has extended the deadline for cable systems to implement EAS
participation. The original deadline was July 1, 1997. The FCC has not
set a new deadline at this time.
The FCC has not made a decision concerning small cable systems
participation or requests by the hearing impaired community.
This notice was published in the FEDERAL REGISTER on June 23, 1997 on page
33,753. Compiled from the FEDERAL REGISTER. These notices available on
the FCC Web Site (www.fcc.gov) or from the Government Printing Office Web
AMATEUR RADIO NEWS
By Tom Weeden, WJ9H
- Amateur radio operators who provide communications for non-profit
organizations' public service events will, in general, soon be protected
from lawsuits resulting from their volunteer activities. Both houses of
Congress have passed companion bills, each described as "The Volunteer
Protection Act of 1997." July QST Magazine reports that the Senate was
expected to adopt the House version of the bill, HR 911, and send it to
President Clinton for signing. If the bill is signed into law, hams
serving as volunteer examiners, emergency communications operators, and in
other capacities serving under a qualifying non-profit organization are not
as likely to be sued as a result of unintentional harm resulting from
something they did while serving as a volunteer.
- Ham radio assumed a critical role in the wake of major flooding along the
Red River that overtook the cities of Grand Forks, ND and East Grand Forks,
MN this spring. Hams from the area turned out to provide mobile HF
communications between relief sites and the Salvation Army's Minneapolis
warehouse. They also provided backup communications for various flood-
relief agencies, especially between those agencies that don't share one
another's radio frequencies and who needed to coordinate their efforts. In
a unique operation, the Grand Forks Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)
sent live video of dike-building activity back to the emergency operations
center using a mobile 420 MHz TV repeater.
- The broadcast program "Ham Radio and More" has returned to shortwave for
a live weekly broadcast on WWCR, 5.070 MHz. The show, hosted by ham Len
Winkler, KB7LPW, is heard Sundays at 6 PM Eastern Time (2200 UTC).
(Excerpts from July 1997 "QST" Magazine)
By Tom Smith
Mid-West Management Inc. seeks to construct a new AM station at 1670 khz in
the AM expanded band. The transmitter will be located at 3220 Syene Road
and operate with a power of 10 kw days and 1 kw nights. The tower will be
62.2 meters. WTDY-AM currently operates at 1480 khz with a power of 5 kw.
Filed June 16, 1997
New FM, Mukwonago
The FCC has allocated FM channel 287A ( 105.3 mhz ) to Mukwonago at the
request of Faith Congregation. The transmitter site is restricted to 7.3
miles west of Mukwonago. The filing window is from July 21 to August 21,
1997. Action on May 28, 1997
Compiled from WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL and the FEDERAL REGISTER
EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM FIRSTHAND
Compiled by Paul Stoffel
- EAS Summit at WBA Summer Engineering Workshop on July 16 in Lake Geneva.
Please send comments to Gary Timm at WTMJ before the "EAS Summit" at WBA
for the following questions: "We need to decide whether our RMT's will be
random or fixed dates and times. Also, should our dual, AM/FM LP-1's
originate RMT's? If so, how do we cure the problem of two tests
circulating in the web that we experienced in February?"
- The FCC has adopted a special order #FCC97-196 that extends the cable EAS
implementation deadline indefinitely. That deadline will be re-defined
when the FCC releases its second EAS Report & Order.
- Those back-ordered Sage low-band VHF receiver modules from Harris (for
receiving the proposed Wisconsin Statewide EAS Frequency, 45.12 mHz) are no
more. Sage has decided not to sell a low-band receiver because the sales
volume wasn't there.
- Version 5.88 EPROM for the SAGE EAS box requires the new V1.4 of the
"eprog" DOS programming software from Harris' web site. ( V1.4 corrects
problem with V1.3 that occurs when new event codes are added, then
- From Frank Lucia in the FCC EAS Office in Washington DC, EAS printouts
are legal "if properly stored". That means they have to be included with
your station's official logs. Any manual logging your station does to
point to the exact date and times you received and sent alerts is also OK.
In reality, a combination of both is probably best. (ie: Attach the
printouts to your official logs and generate a listing or database of which
logs have printouts attached to them along with the alert covered by the
- The July RMT is/was scheduled for Friday, July 11 at 1:50pm, originated
by the SR.
TELECOM INDUSTRY NEWS
By Neal McLain
CABLE-TEC EXPO 1997
The first week in June was a busy one for "convergence" equipment
manufacturers: the companies that make equipment for the computer, data
communications, and cable television industries. During that week, three
major national trade shows occurred simultaneously: Comdex, the computer
industry's' big annual show, in Atlanta; SuperComm, the telephone
industry's annual convention, in New Orleans; and Cable-Tec Expo, in
I attended Cable-Tec Expo, the annual convention of the Society of Cable
Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE). Compared to Comdex and SuperComm, it
was a pretty small show (it occupied only about one-third of the huge
Orange County Convention Center). But it still took me three days to cover
the exhibit floor.
Cable modems dominated the exhibits: at least twelve exhibitors
demonstrated cable modem systems intended for Internet access. The exhibit
floor was connected to the Internet by a T1 line, so exhibitors could
demonstrate their products in real time.
My analysis: cable modems are fast! I tested several systems by accessing
the CTI website; in every case, it loaded almost instantly. Even the
complicated graphics in "Neal's Notes" were fully loaded into RAM by the
time I scrolled down to them.
All cable modem systems utilize a similar basic architecture (Figure 1).
Abbreviations used in this figure are:
ISP = Internet Service Provider. A cable operator may contract with an
existing ISP, or it may establish its own ISP. If the operator operates
its own ISP, it is frequently located in the headend building.
CMTS = Cable Modem Termination System. This term includes all equipment
located at the headend; in general, it includes three components: a router,
a controller, and a modulator. The router and the modulator are standard
off-the shelf products. Only the controller is unique to cable modem
systems; its purpose is to process the data stream for modulation.
CATV = the Cable TV distribution network, generally assumed to be an HFC
network but it can be coaxial-only.
CM = the cable modem, typically a single circuit card enclosed in a plastic
PC = the user's PC, equipped with an ethernet card. Some manufacturers
combine the cable modem with the ethernet card; in this case, the entire
modem consists of a single expansion card installed in the PC.
CABLE MODEM CONFIGURATIONS
There are two common cable modem configurations:
TWO WAY. This configuration requires that the CATV plant be configured for
two-way operation: 54-400 MHz (or wider) downstream and 5-30 MHz upstream.
Moreover, the plant must be "clean" - free of noise and interference.
Maintaining a clean downstream path is relatively easy; however, keeping
the upstream path clean has proved to be a significant roadblock to cable
modem deployment. The very nature of a broadband system "funnels" noise
from any point in the distribution system back to the headend, making it
difficult to pinpoint the sources of noise and interference.
One cable modem manufacturer, Terayon, claims to have overcome this problem
by utilizing CDMA (code division multiple access) modulation. Terayon
claims that CDMA allows use of 2-way plant with "minimum plant cleanup
costs." CDMA, it should be noted, is also used in the PCS industry for
noise-free voice communications in congested frequency bands.
TELCO-RETURN. This configuration operates over one-way (downstream only)
cable plant. The return path is implemented with a conventional dial-up
telephone modem. Most telco-return systems require a separate telephone
modem in the PC, although one manufacturer, US Robotics, incorporates the
cable modem and the telco modem in a single housing.
Telco-return systems are less expensive to implement because the upstream
cable path is not required. But they're obviously more expensive for the
end customer, who must provide a separate telephone line.
Telco-return systems are also "asymmetric": although the downstream path is
very fast, the upstream path is limited by the same bandwidth restrictions
which apply to all telephone modems. In the short run, this arrangement is
probably satisfactory for residential users: web-browsing is, after all, a
highly asymmetric application. But these systems don't appear to be
particularly satisfactory long-term solutions.
CABLE MODEM STANDARDS
Another roadblock to the deployment of cable modems has been the lack of
"interoperability" standards. At the moment, most of the cable modem
systems on the market cannot be interconnected.
Several standards bodies are now addressing this issue. Cable Television
Laboratories, the cable industry's research arm, is leading this effort on
behalf of the cable industry. The pending standard, to be known as the
DATA OVER CABLE SERVICE INTERFACE SPECIFICATION (DOCSIS), is expected to be
finalized within a year.
The goal of the DOCSIS process is to establish a universal cable modem
standard so that any cable modem product will operate in any cable
environment. The standard is expected to specify frequency assignments,
modulation requirements, and encryption standards. All data, both upstream
and downstream, is expected to incorporate a high level of encryption to
Once the DOCSIS standard is finalized, it will be submitted to ANSI as a
proposed national standard. Assuming that ANSI adopts it, it will then
open to all vendors. The ultimate objective: to create a universal
standard so that cable modems can be sold in retail computer stores just as
telephone modems are sold today.
Parties participating in the DOCSIS standardization process, in addition to
Cablelabs, include Comcast, Cox, MediaOne (formerly Continental
Cablevision, now part of U S West), Rogers Cablesystems, TCI, and Time
WORLDGATE: INTERNET FOR TV SETS
Worldgate, a new company exhibiting in Scientific-Atlanta's booth, offers a
product also called WorldGate. This product distributes digital
information (web pages and e-mail messages) in the vertical blanking
interval of television signals; they are decoded by the set-top converter
(manufactured by Scientific-Atlanta), and displayed on the subscriber's
The Worldgate service includes a special keyboard, connected to the
converter through an infrared link. The keyboard allows the user to do the
usual Internet activities, mostly e-mail and web browsing. The keyboard is
equipped with two special keys to simplify the process:
"http://" - This key generates the string of text.
"Hyperlink" - This key links from website to website just like a
conventional browser, but it also can be used to link from a TV program or
a commercial directly to a related website. In the demonstration I
watched, the Worldgate representative linked from a Chrysler TV commercial
directly to Chrysler's website by pressing one button.
Worldgate suggests the following retail rates: $5.00 per month for the
first three hours ($1.00 for each additional hour), or $11.95/month
Note that Worldgate is not the same system as WebTV, a product which has
been around for over a year. WebTV utilizes a telephone modem for its
Internet connection, whereas Worldgate uses the VBI of video signals.
EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM
Several exhibitors demonstrated EAS equipment. Most manufacturers use the
TFT encoder; the exception is Megahertz Sales, which has the exclusive
rights to use the SAGE encoder. The Holly Anne encoder seems to be
interchangeable with TFT in most vendor packages.
Most vendors were pushing full-screen interrupt on all channels. This
option is the most disruptive to viewers; however, it's also the lowest
cost. But some vendors argued that it's not all that disruptive anyway,
because the audio must be interrupted in any case for a "tune to channel
The EAS exhibits were undercut by a prevalent rumor: the FCC planned to
delay the mandatory EAS implementation date. By the second day of the
show, this rumor was confirmed by two FCC representatives attending the
show, John Wong and Michael Lantz of the Cable Services Bureau.
SBE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING - SUMMER 1997
By Leonard Charles
The Summer SBE Executive Committee meeting was held in Indianapolis on
Saturday June 21, 1997. After approval of minutes from the Spring Board of
Directors meeting, committee reports began with the Financial Committee
from Treasurer Troy Pennington. Income figures are ahead of budget year-to-
date and expenses are lagging behind budget making for a sound financial
situation for the Society so far this year.
Certification Chair David Carr reported acceptance of the new paper prep
guides as well as tweaks that continue on them. His committee is also
debating the continued acceptance of the FCC General and Extra Class
licenses as sufficient criteria for issuing an SBE Broadcast Technologist
Certification Director Linda Godby was preparing for her wedding later in
the day but made a short appearance at the meeting to thank those who will
be attending the ceremony. Her pre-written report showed 217 new
certifications awarded so far this year and 140 certification renewals.
320 certification guides have been sold.
The Ennes Education Foundation has been working hard to assist in the
creation of the first ever Louisville, KY SBE regional show and workshops.
The educational seminars will cover Digital Radio and TV including a "how
to" build a DTV plant. The foundation also described the success of the
new Bob Greenburg Scholarship with ample donations to it and the yearly
Ennes Scholarship. Those scholarships are expected to increase as some
Chapters send their rebates back directed to the scholarship fund.
Treasurer Troy Pennington presented the 1998 proposed budget. Troy was
happy to announce that there is no dues increase in this proposed budget.
The Executive Committee discussed at length the creation of a retirement
program for the SBE National Office staff. John Poray presented available
options for non profit organizations.
SBE General Counsel Chris Imlay reported on recent passage of the Volunteer
Protection Act HR911/S544. Though not initiated by the SBE, it will
benefit its members by protecting them as they perform their roll as SBE
representatives. The bill is not protection from prosecution but a means
of defense in libelous actions. Chris did emphasize that this is not to be
considered a replacement for Chapter Incorporation but is an enhancement to
Chris also said the SBE will continue to push for an engineering presence
on the FCC as part of its legislative agenda. Brochures are being produced
by the SBE to take into all legislative offices with separate leaflets for
each point on our agenda.
Imlay reported on the latest congressional spectrum auctioning effort which
involves as yet undefined spectrum below 3GHZ. In this initiative, if
spectrum is let out to auction and does not raise a pre-set amount of
money, the process will be voided and re-started as many times as necessary
until that amount is bid.
The SBE has filed comments on the MSS proceedings to take over the lower
portion of the 2GHZ TV ENG band. The Society expressed concern about the
reimbursement to broadcasters displaced by the spectrum take over. The SBE
suggests that the MSS interests post a performance bond to insure there is
money set aside for that compensation.
The SBE also intends to file comments in support of a filing by the NAB and
MSTV concerning new tower construction for the upcoming DTV conversion.
The filing asks exemption from the municipal approval process where tower
constructions or modifications are needed to convert to the new
The discussion then centered on a pilot electronic filing program that the
Board of Directors commissioned at their Spring meeting. There were many
pluses and minuses presented after which a list of concerns to be addressed
was generated as the development of the program continues.
The SBE EAS Committee has finished its Petition for Rule Making intended to
change the EAS rules in answer to membership suggestions resulting from
irregular operation of the new system so far this year. The Petition has
been forwarded to the SBE FCC Liaison Committee and it now awaits full
Board approval before being delivered to the FCC. Those present were urged
to advise their liaison chapters to check the Web site. Once the Petition
receives Board approval, it will be posted on the EAS page for membership
viewing. Members are urged to file their own comments in support or
otherwise of the Petition once it is filed with the FCC.
Imlay also touched on the pending SBE effort to seek a declaratory ruling
on matters in unattended operation.
Sustaining Membership Chair Tom Weber announced additions to the National
Sustaining Membership program and a recent flurry of applications sent.
Also discussed was a possible by-laws change that would allow each
Sustaining Member a vote in SBE elections. This is necessary because
recent IRS rulings will result in a tax liability of Sustaining Membership
funds unless they are given that right to vote. Weber also reported the
recent addition of a hot-link page to our Sustaining Members on the SBE web
Membership Coordinator Teresa Ransdell reported on this year's membership
drive. 48 new members were pledged by sponsors while 256 new members total
were accepted during the drive. Teresa conducted the drawings for prize
winners in this year's contest. The grand prize winner is Gordon Emmerson
from Chapter 58.
Nominations Chair Robert Raymont reported this year's election ballot will
have two candidates for President, one each for the three remaining
officers positions and 12 candidates vying for 6 open Board of Directors
positions. Space will be provided on the SBE Web site for each candidate
to post a home page, the contents of which will be their responsibility.
The ballots will be mailed out at the end of July. Chapter 25 was
officially appointed the Board of Tellers to tally this year's election
Executive Director John Poray announced the new format of national SBE fall
meetings this year. New Officers and Board Members will be inducted at the
SBE Annual Membership meeting in September in Syracuse, NY. The SBE
Syracuse regional show will also be the site of this year's Fall Board of
Director's meeting and the SBE Annual Awards Banquet.
Poray talked about the progress of talks with Harris toward a joint series
of regional road shows. Those talks are at an apparent stand still. John
also announced plans by the Ennes Foundation to do another series of
workshops at next year's NAB and staff a SBE booth. In addition, the SBE
is planning a booth at the Texas Association of Broadcasters show and
possibly at the NAB Radio show in New Orleans.
John Poray reported on the recently held Engineering Management seminar
sponsored by the SBE and held in Indianapolis earlier in June. There were
11 attendees to the seminar which is a rejuvenation of the original NAB
seminars by Richard Cupka. A motion was approved instructing John to
initiate plans for a return engagement next year.
There was a discussion on the inadequacies of the phone system at the
National Office and its lack of voice mail capability. The Executive
Committee approved funds to replace it with a system that has expandability
into the future. A motion was passed to modify the 1997 budget to
accommodate the purchase.
In new business the Executive Committee approved a couple of special awards
to be announced at upcoming National Membership Meetings. There was also
discussion on creating an internet email response team to browse the many
email lists and newsgroups for SBE concerns. This effort will be organized
by President Baun. He will also be working on writing Committee Chairman
guidelines. The specific duties of the Nominations Committee was discussed
and will probably result in a proposed by-laws clarification offering at
the Fall Board meeting.
The Industry Relations committee requested approval to pursue a
relationship with the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society toward cooperative
efforts on technical issues. There was concern expressed about the IEEE
position on state licensing of Broadcast Engineers. Their position is
opposite that of the SBE. As a result there was one opposing vote on the
motion to continue pursuing the relationship between the two organizations.
The meeting adjourned and everyone prepared to attend the wedding of
Certification Director Linda Godby to Brent Emmerich later in the evening.
PART 12 - More About AML Microwave systems
By Neal McLain
This is the twelfth in a series of articles about coaxial broadband
networks. In this article, we'll continue with the discussion of AML
microwave systems. Last month, we discussed the theory behind AML; this
month we'll take a look at the history of AML.
TELEPROMPTER AND HUGHES: AN UNLIKELY ALLIANCE
The AML microwave system was developed by an alliance of two companies:
TelePrompTer Corporation and Hughes Aircraft Company.
TelePrompTer, of course, is a name still familiar today: it's the company
that developed the original mechanical teleprompter, predecessor to the
electronic prompters found in television production studios today.
TelePrompTer was founded in the early 50s by three members of the
entertainment industry: Fred Barton, an actor; Hubert J. ("Hub") Schlafly,
then Director of Television Research for 20th Century Fox; and Irving B.
(for Berlin) Kahn, nephew of the composer and, at the time, vice president
in charge of radio and television production at Fox. Barton, a former
Broadway actor new to live television drama, suggested the idea when he was
faced with the necessity of learning a whole new script each day.
At the outset, TelePrompter (the company) provided teleprompters (the
device) as part of a "prompting service." During the 50s, the company
provided the service at countless venues, including television studios and
political conventions. TelePrompTer gained national prominence in 1952
when Herbert Hoover used a teleprompter during the Republican Convention in
But Schlafly and his partners were visionaries whose business interests
extended far beyond the manufacture and sale of teleprompters. Once the
prompting business was firmly established, the company turned its attention
to another new business: cable television. Still using the trade name
TelePrompTer, the company began acquiring, building, and operating cable
systems. After building several systems in rural locations where off-the-
air television reception was not possible, the company began building
systems in larger cities such as Rochester, Minnesota and Rock Island,
Illinois. In the mid 60s, TelePrompTer obtained the franchise for the
northern half of New York City's Manhattan Borough.
These larger franchises presented a challenge: in order to keep amplifier
cascades within reason, it was obvious that some sort of microwave
transmission system would be needed. Schlafly believed that a multi-
channel, multi-directional system, utilizing single-sideband suppressed-
carrier amplitude modulation, offered an economically-viable solution. But
he faced two challenges: equipment manufacture and FCC licensing. To solve
the first problem, he approached Hughes Aircraft Company, of Torrance,
California. And to solve the second problem, he applied to the FCC for an
experimental license to develop the new service.
As it happens, Hughes had been looking for commercial business
opportunities. Although no longer a manufacturer of aircraft, Hughes had
become a major defense contractor, with extensive expertise in microwave
and satellite technology. In order to reduce its reliance on government
contracts, it had developed a commercial microwave business, and had become
a leading manufacturer of traveling wave tubes and other microwave devices.
Hughes was also an early manufacturer of satellites and satellite earth
Hughes offered another advantage as well: extensive research and
development capabilities coupled with a financial structure which allowed
it to invest in long-term R&D projects. Although organized as a for-profit
corporation, Hughes was owned by a single entity, the Howard Hughes Medical
Hughes was interested in the project from the start. It not only agreed to
develop and test the proposed microwave system in cooperation with
TelePrompTer, but it also agreed to make a financial investment in
TelePrompTer. Hughes executives joined TelePrompTer's Board, and the two
companies formed joint ventures to build some of the larger cable
franchises, including Manhattan.
Hughes and TelePrompTer also joined forces to form a manufacturing
subsidiary known as Theta-Com, an acronym for "TelePrompTer Hughes
Electronic Transmission Associates." Initially based in Phoenix, Theta-Com
undertook the development and manufacture of the proposed microwave system,
to be known as Amplitude Modulated Link, or AML. Theta-Com also began
manufacturing cable television line equipment including amplifiers and
Hughes invested heavily in Theta-Com, committing both money and the
technical expertise of its existing microwave operations. Although much of
the technology already existed, many modifications were necessary to
accommodate the special requirements of AML. For example, a solid-state
source operating at 70 MHz was a standard Hughes product; but the AML solid-
state source had to operate at 73.95614 MHz.
Meanwhile, Schlafly was successful in obtaining FCC approval for the
project. Although he had initially applied for a license in the 18-GHz
band in the belief that the FCC would not approve the use of a lower
frequency, the FCC eventually approved an assignment in the 12-GHz CARS
With licensing formalized in the FCC Rules, Theta-Com brought the AML
product to market and quickly came to dominate it. By the early 70s, Theta-
Com was the exclusive supplier of AML equipment, and sold hundreds of
systems worldwide. Here in Wisconsin, Total TV, Inc. (now Marcus
Cablevision) constructed systems in Janesville and Hustisford to serve
surrounding communities. Complete Channel TV, Inc. (now TCI) constructed a
three-path system in Madison to cover the entire city without exceeding its
cascade-depth specification. Viking Media Corporation constructed a three-
hop system (now dismantled) which extended from Stoughton to Portage via
relay points in Sun Prairie and Lodi (Figure 1).
In the mid 70s, changes in management at Hughes led to a number of changes
in its relationship with TelePrompTer. Hughes sold off its interests in
TelePrompTer and the jointly-owned cable television franchises. In 1977,
Theta-Com's Phoenix operations were dissolved, and the cable television
line-equipment business was sold to Texscan.
But Hughes retained its interest in the AML product line. After Theta-Com
was dissolved, Hughes moved the AML business to California, and merged it
into its existing microwave business.
I visited Hughes' AML facility in 1977. I remember approaching a huge
complex of buildings, heavily guarded by the security trappings of a major
defense contractor. After a bus ride past several sprawling buildings, we
eventually arrived at a large building identified "Microwave Products." At
first, I thought, this must be the base of all of Hughes' microwave
operations, of which AML is probably a small part. I was surprised to
discover that the entire building was devoted to the AML product line. I
eventually realized that Hughes' microwave operations were spread out over
dozens of buildings. But I was correct on one point: the AML product line
was indeed a relatively minor part of its overall operations.
Minor or not, Hughes made a huge commitment to AML, and it dominated the
market for two decades - right up to the early 90s.
HUGHES SELLS OUT
But even as it dominated the market, competitive pressures were beginning
to appear. By the mid 80s, two significant factors had emerged:
competitive microwave systems and fiber optics. Within a decade, Hughes
had lost its dominant market position and had sold off the AML product
Channel Master, of Smithfield, North Carolina, was the first company to
challenge Hughes on its own turf: it introduced a competitive microwave
system called "Micro-Beam." Although Micro-Beam equipment employed the
same amplitude-modulation scheme that Hughes equipment used, Channel Master
successfully avoided a key Hughes patent - the pilot at 73.95614 MHz - by
utilizing two pilots in Channel 98, immediately above the FM band.
Meanwhile, fiber optics were beginning to replace microwave systems
altogether. In recent years, dozens of large AML systems have been removed
from service, their functions replaced by fiber. TCI's tower on Tokay
Blvd. today stands in mute testimony to this fact: those nine antennas,
clearly visible from the Beltline, have been idle for months.
Further complicating the situation, Hughes Aircraft was purchased by
General Motors a few years ago, and the AML operations were moved again,
this time to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
By the mid 90s, Hughes had withdrawn from the AML business altogether. Its
AML operations are now operated as independent businesses, and other
companies have entered the market. Indeed, the very name AML no longer
means Hughes: several companies, operating under such names as Cable AML,
AML Wireless, and American Microwave Link (AML), now compete in the
Hughes may not have seemed a likely supplier of cable television equipment.
Yet, in retrospect, it all makes sense. Only a company with the financial
and technological resources of a conglomerate like Hughes could have made
the huge financial and technical investments necessary to develop the AML
product line. For Hughes, it may indeed have been a small business; yet it
fit precisely into Hughes' business plan: a niche business which it could
develop and dominate.
Meanwhile, Hub Schlafly, the inventor of the mechanical teleprompter and
the originator of the amplitude modulated link, has retired to his home in
Greenwich, Connecticut. Visitors are invited to inspect a prized
possession: the Emmy Award he received in 1992 for "outstanding
achievement" in the field of television.
Sources: Private correspondence, Schlafly to McLain, May 1997. Robert
Pearson, "The Inventor In Our Midst," Greenwich, April 1993, pp. 94-102.
Figure 1. Theta-Com advertisement from the September 1976 issue of TVC
magazine. Theta-Com was a regular advertiser in trade journals of the day,
and many of its ads featured descriptions of recently-constructed ALM
The three-hop AML system described in this ad was constructed in 1974 by
Viking Media Corporation to carry locally-produced television programming
to cable systems in Monona, McFarland, Oregon, Portage, and Sun Prairie.
Additional paths were subsequently added to feed Cambridge, Marshall, and
The Lodi tower was destroyed by vandals on January 1, 1981. Viking
engineer Eric Olsen's log entry for that day reads, "Lodi died, caused by
vandals, on Jan 1, 1981. May it Rest in Peace."
The remainder of this AML system continued to operate until 1984, when
Viking was purchased by Complete Channel TV. After Complete Channel TV
took over, it dismantled the Stoughton AML transmitter and connected all
Viking franchises to its AML transmitter on Tokay Blvd.
Source: TVC, September 1976, p. 11.
REUTER JOINS BTS
John Reuter has taken a job with Philips BTS. Some of you may remember
John from his ECB days (1988-1993). John went to Dynatech Digistore for a
couple of years and then to KTTC (the NBC affiliate in Rochester, MN) as
John will be a Product Manager for the Media Pool at Philips, responsible
for managing all aspects of the hardware, including developing
specifications for new products and features, providing direction and
priorities for engineering, managing beta sites and vendor relations,
providing business analysis for the product line, and managing product
configuration and pricing (and other duties as assigned).
John, his wife, Tania, and son, Trace, will be moving to Salt Lake City in
July. If you'd like to email him his address is CEJohnR@aol.com.
DAVID DEVEREAUX-WEBER NAMED SCTE MEMBER OF THE YEAR
David Devereaux-Weber, an engineer with the Division of Information
Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was named Member of the
Year by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE). The
award was made at the Society's annual meeting, Cable-Tec Expo 1997, in
The SCTE board selected David for this award in recognition of his work
with the Society's Internet activities. David is the webmaster for the
Society's website <www.scte.org> and the listowner of SCTE-LIST.
Chapter 24 members will recall that David was our guest speaker at the May
1996 Chapter meeting, speaking on "Fiber Optics Systems at the UW."
David was associated with the cable television industry for many years
before he joined DoIT. He was the Chief Engineer at Complete Channel TV
from 1979 to 1982, and was an engineer with TDS Telecom's cable television
operations for several years after that.
#1 NBC affiliate in America's most livable city seeks engineering chief.
All state of the art equipment. FCC license or SBE certification required.
Experience in VHF transmitter, microwave, and all phases of studio
equipment a must. Excellent group with great benefits. Send resume to
Jerry Watson, VP-GM, KTTC-TV, 601 First Ave. SW, Rochester, MN 55902.
CHAPTER 24 SUSTAINING MEMBERS
Thanks to all our
Clark Wire and Cable