The FCC issued a Forfeiture Order in the case of the Free Radio San Diego FM pirate on 96.9 MHz from the South Park area of San Diego east of Balboa Park. Donald Payne, registered as the owner of the property at 1937 33rd Street near Grape Street, was ordered to pay the FCC $750. His fine was reduced from $10,000 after he filed income documents that demonstrated to the Bureau that he couldn’t afford the higher fine. The latest document indicate that FCC inspectors had been monitoring the illegal station from April to December of 2006. Payne was issued a Notice of Apparent Liability in late December of 2006. He told the FCC that he did not operate the station but the FCC holds him responsible as the property owner.
Antennaweb.com revolutionized the concept of predicting TV reception for a new generation of enthusiasts installing over-the-air antennas. It graded reception by color and gave recommendations, if flawed, about what kind of antenna to put up. When they went conservative with the results, those who had put real work into their systems found the predictions only listed a fraction of the stations they could get.
For those who want a little more science, there’s a new kid in town. Try out TVFool.com and for the address you enter, you will get a chart of precisely calculated reception parameters. I especially like the listing of antenna heights needed for line-of-sight (LOS) and -100 dBm thresholds. You also get a marker for all those nasty co-channel allocations we have in SoCal now.
It turns out that for my home just east of La Jolla, predictions come pretty close, though I’m guessing that some transmission antennas outperform predicted levels because of what I see on my flat response receive antenna. For example, I consistently receive KCBS-DT (real channel 60) better than some locals and better than even consistent KTLA-DT 31 on my recently rebuilt Create log-periodic. In reality, there are numerous factors that I haven’t bothered to measure scientifically, but the empirical results match closely enough those of TVFool.
Those of us who love to homebrew and tinker have lost a friend when Gateway Electronics in San Diego closed their doors in late April. The store sold a couple of years ago, but Manny and Fong couldn’t keep the cash flow positive, and a new lessee was to take over.
Here’s why I think Gateway closed:
- People don’t have the time to tinker;
- The integration of electronics has become so cheap and large-scale that small-scale projects don’t have much value;
- Specialized small electronics items can now be found online;
- The internet has made it possible to repurpose surplus gear through auction and direct sale sites without using retail outlets; and
- Because of all of the above, retailers additional cash streams through either technical services, web sales, or local sales of higher traffic computer gear.
My favorite Gateway find was when, while looking at their selection of LEDs at the front glass counter shelves I saw in my peripheral vision a small container of tiny mechanical clocks. These are the kind of sealed, elapsed time counters they put on very expensive equipment that allowed you to log and time maintenance. This was in the mid-1990s when KFMB-TV had in service four Philips LDK-6 Plumbicon studio cameras that made great pictures. But their camera head timers had a habit of making a terrible noise when they presumably wore out their internal gears or just lost their lubrication. Philips charged $400 each for the neat-looking devices the size of your thumb. As far as I know, the LDK-6 may have been the only product they made that used this special 400Hz clock, and they had to manage their inventory and pay tax, year after year. Having worked in manufacturing, I understand parts costs. But here they were at Gateway, small, matte black, 400Hz, 100,000 hour elapsed time counters, $5 each. I bought four and we installed at least two of them over time.
I also liked their supplies of cheap LEDs, connectors, stainless hardware, and a great line of prototype circuit boards. They also stocked all kinds of transformers, switches, basic kits, and computer cables. Some items, like used switches and some really old test gear, you might not want to take home for fear of creating more of an expediture of time and energy than a savings that good engineering practices would dictate.
Gateway wasn’t the only surplus electronics supply store in the region, but they were the only one in Kearny Mesa within a short drive from most broadcast outlets. Industrial Liquidators doesn’t really count–they’re useful for some tools and pneumatic supplies, but have very little electronics stock. Murphy’s and California Surplus continue to operate from the same neighborhood of Johnson Avenue in El Cajon, and I’ll be the first to say that they do a good job of keeping their shelves tidy enough to make hardware relatively easy to find. If you ever have to replace or install a new one of those mil-spec MS “Amphenol” connectors, Cal. Surplus has a huge barrel of them that has saved me from the misery of waiting 8-10 weeks for a new one. Willy’s Electronics in National City still stocks some hobbyist electronics supplies, but its all new stuff and you pay full retail price. There’s the monthly Santee Swap Meet, but with the internet and declining electronics hobby, it’s become more of a big garage sale. I visit once a year for a load of tools, hi-fi cables, and fresh avocados.
The king, the acme, nay, the apex of surplus electronics is Apex Electronics in Sun Valley in the heart of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. I happened by there once when, during a visit to my mother-in-law’s, I took a side trip. With an acre or so of indoor shelves that must be 20 feet high and an outdoor lot of surely another couple of acres, this place is big. Good luck in an earthquake, pal. Take the virtual tour on their website. Microwave gear for pennies on the dollar, though that was before the price of copper went through the roof. If they don’t have what you want, then you should reconsider your design.
When Manny and Fong closed the Gateway doors, they handed out little pieces of paper with contact information and a promise of opening a new store. I tried to call and write to ask a few questions, but have yet to receive a reply.
What are your experiences with surplus buying? Are there other Southern California stores you know about? Tell us about it.
(From the CGC Communicator) A fire that started at the KBRT(AM) transmitter plant on Catalina Island near Los Angeles apparently ignited the 4,200- acre wildfire that ravaged the island’s interior and threatened Avalon, the resort’s main town. One home and six industrial buildings were lost but no one was seriously injured. The fire is expected to be fully contained by Tuesday evening.
According to a published report supplemented by information from the island, a tower contractor hired by KBRT had been warned against using a cutting torch because of dry brush fire danger.
While the station’s transmitter engineer, Bill Agresta, was inside the transmitter building and temporarily away from the work site, the contractor used a gasoline-powered circular saw to cut metal, and sparks from the blade apparently ignited the brush.
Bill reportedly said he saw a small blaze when he went outside the transmitter building. Then he ran back inside to call 911.
By the time he went outside again, the fire had moved several hundred feet downhill and engulfed the contractor’s tool truck – the blackened hulk of which remained at the site as of Saturday.
Commercial power and telco lines feeding the “KBRT Ranch” (as the transmitter site is known) were destroyed in the fire. The station resumed operations Sunday using its own power generator and CDs hand-carried to the island for programming. Joel Saxberg is reportedly at the site attempting to set up a Ku-band satellite downlink as an STL, but is said to be having trouble acquiring the satellite. As of 9:30 AM Monday, the station was off the air again, but this time voluntarily until the program feed bugs are resolved.
Meanwhile, Bill Agresta is nursing some fractured ribs suffered when one of the construction workers commandeered his tractor and accidentally ran into him during the fire melee.
Larry Bloomfield brings his famous Taste of the NAB roadshow to San Diego Tuesday, May 22 at noon at TV Magic. Come see wares from some your favorite vendors and win a door prize.
Exhibitors this year:
- Omneon media servers
- Leader Instruments test gear
- Blackmagic Design edit system media I/O cards
- ESE timekeeping and interface products
- AJA video interface and terminal equipment
- Telecast fiberoptic transmission equipment
- InPhase Technologies holographic storage
- Network Electronics fiber, terminal, and compression gear
- Henry Engineering interface devices
- Telecast fiber systems
- Clark wire and cable
- DSC Labs test charts
- SMPTE standards publishing
- Verbatim blank media
- ADS Tech video capture devices
- Key Digital computer cables
- Canon lenses
Plan to eat a free lunch provided by Canon. Lucky engineers will walk away with one of multiple door prizes donated by the roadshow sponsors. Larry’s giving away polo shirts, DVI cables, capture devices, CD media, gift certificates, and standards CDs, and other goods at the show.
Those attending will also be entered into a national drawing for prizes that include a Fluke multimeter, Burst Electronics digital video switcher, Coaxial Dynamics RF wattmeter, a copy of VidCAD software, a Radiosophy HD table radio, and a genuine Chuck Pharis Indian Head TV test pattern.
Members and guests welcome to TV Magic, 8112 Engineer Road, May 22 at noon.