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Engineer's Corner
3:00 am
Tue October 15, 2013

TheEC: More Fiber in RIPR's Diet

Fiberoptic cable splicing tool.
Credit Aaron Read

As all RIPR fans know, we are an NPR member station.  That means we get a lot of our programming from NPR, the BBC, and other providers, via our satellite dish.   The dish is medium-sized as dishes go, but it’s pretty big in real terms: 3.7 meters (12ft) in diameter.   There’s quite literally nowhere to fit a dish that large at our studios in 1 Union Station, so instead it was installed out at our 1290AM transmitter site in North Providence (we still own 1290, but we lease it to Latino Public R

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Engineer's Corner
2:53 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Why WCVY was Off the Air for a Few Days

Normally there'd be ceiling tiles above the black/green walls, but the rain melted them all into a foul-smelling sludge that's now splattered everywhere in the space.
Credit Aaron Read

When you’re a broadcast engineer, you get used to receiving calls at odd hours proclaiming things that tend to fall outside the bounds of “normal.”   It’s just the nature of the job.   But even your intrepid engineer can be surprised sometimes.  Friday morning, August 23rd, was one of those times. 

That morning I got a call informing me that WCVY, our 91.5FM signal for much of Kent County, was off the air.

Why was it off the air?

The roof collapsed and rain got in.  

Say what?
 

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Engineer's Corner
9:23 am
Wed August 14, 2013

TheEC: Air Conditioning at 102.7FM

The indoor half of the new split-unit A/C.
Credit Aaron Read

Air conditioning.  Cool heaven for those who have it, blazing hell for those who don't.  It didn't used to be terribly common in broadcast engineering, but it's become moreso in the last ten years.  The reason is that, more and more, audio processors, RDS encoders, audio encoders/decoders, studio/transmitter links, remote control systems, and even the transmitters themselves, have all become increasingly "computer-like" with IC's, hard disk drives, power supplies, electrolytic capacitors and the like.   All things that fail quickly when operated in temperatures above 80 or so, and the warmer it gets, the faster they fail!

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Engineer's Corner
7:56 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

TheEC: "Normal Accidents"

Jack Lemmon in The China Syndrome

Most people have heard of the "Three Mile Island" nuclear power plant accident of 1979.  But it's famous among engineers for being a "normal accident", in that there wasn't any one thing that nearly caused a meltdown of catastrophic proportions...it was a series of little things inside a highly complex system that all happened as part of "normal" operations.   None of which, by themselves, was terribly problematic.  But they all happened at once, and that was a problem.

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Engineer's Corner
1:26 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

TheEC: Phantom Power

A typical phantom power circuit.

BOO!  This time on the Engineer’s Corner, we’ll talk about PHANTOM POWER.   Usually not as ghoulish as one might expect, phantom power has to do with microphones.   Specifically, some microphones have active circuitry inside them.   That means they need power to operate, but it’s unwieldy to run a separate power cord and audio microphone cable.   So a phantom circuit is used to provide DC power on the same three wires (positive/hot, negative/cold, and ground) out to the microphone that the audio from the mic also uses.

A phantom circuit is one of those nifty things in electronics that looks, to the layman, like it can’t possibly work...but it does anyway.  

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