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Old 05-16-2009, 12:50 PM   #1
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Default We're finally on the air!

After seven months of bullshit, delays, union negotiations, arguments with the power company, etc., at 00:01:33 EST this morning, the switch was thrown at the top of the Empire State building, and WCBS-FM went on the air from its fabulous new digs in downtown Manhattan.

(and there was much rejoicing.)

One down, five more to go.
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Old 05-16-2009, 01:31 PM   #2
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What does the switch do?
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Old 05-16-2009, 01:51 PM   #3
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Default What Do You Do

For those uf us that do not know, what is it that you do?
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Old 05-16-2009, 02:13 PM   #4
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What does the switch do?
The transmitter is at the top of ESB. The switch transfers the audio and data feeds to the transmitter from the line coming from the old studios uptown to the one coming from the new studios at 345 Hudson St.

It was a surprisingly seamless transition. The old studio aired their final legal ID just after the top of the hour, then went silent. The switch was thrown, and we played our first cut which, as something of an inside joke for those in the know, was Petula Clark's "Downtown". Total of about two seconds of dead air. (the longest two seconds I've experienced in a while, mind you.)

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For those uf us that do not know, what is it that you do?
Short version: I build radio stations.

Long version: I design and implement all sorts of really cool cutting-edge technology in palatial multi-million dollar facilities so that one corporation can sell a completely intangible commodity (time) to another corporation, in order to convince children that they need to buy sugar-water.
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Old 05-16-2009, 02:40 PM   #5
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Mmmmm sugar-water... huh.. what?
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Old 05-16-2009, 02:55 PM   #6
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I touched myself last night.
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Old 05-16-2009, 03:22 PM   #7
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I touched myself last night.
Umm, oh....
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Old 05-16-2009, 04:52 PM   #8
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Joe,
It must have been cool to work in upper reaches of the ESB!
Sounds like a cool job indeed.

Did you take any photos if the setup?

Jim
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Old 05-16-2009, 06:04 PM   #9
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Actually, the area where the transmitters and the master combiner are located is kind of a shithole. Remember, that building is close to 80 years old, and while they're renovated most of the occupied space, the technical areas have barely been touched. Half the lights don't work, there are holes in the exterior walls, standing water on the floor, backup antennas eight inches from your face as you look out certain (unshielded) windows, etc.

There wasn't much to do at Empire last night apart from throwing the one switch, so I stayed at the new studios where most of the action (and potential problems) were.

A few shots of the moments leading up to, and immediately following, the cutover:

T-minus 13 minutes:


The moment of truth:


It works!



A shot looking down the forward half of the equipment room (there's another set of racks like this on the other side of the room, only without the pretty blue lighting):




The routing matrix (the six big boxes on the left) and the intercom frame (the triple-frame cabinet on the lower right) which are my primary toys:




The #1 wiring frame, which stands behind the racks from two pictures ago and houses about half of the total interconnect wiring:


Each horizontal row is 25 pairs of wire front and back (100 wires per row in total), so you can get some scale for the total amount of wiring on that frame.
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Old 05-16-2009, 06:54 PM   #10
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Congratulations!!
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Old 05-16-2009, 11:47 PM   #11
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I had no idea you guys had that much gear to run a radio station!

I figured the ESB would be a **** hole because it's 80 years old... sort of cool examples of urban decay.

Jim
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Old 05-17-2009, 01:23 AM   #12
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That's really cool, I also didn't know there was that much to setting up a radio station... Is this about average for current radio stations out there? Or is this all state of the art type stuff that most stations don't have?
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Old 05-17-2009, 01:27 AM   #13
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very cool indeed
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Old 05-17-2009, 01:11 PM   #14
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I had no idea you guys had that much gear to run a radio station!
Well, if you're talking about the pictures from the equipment room, a couple of things to bear in mind. WCBS-FM is just the first of five stations that we're moving into this facility, so while the rack room isn't quite five times as big as a single station would have, it's at least triple. Of course, the racks are still pretty empty in those pictures, a lot more equipment has moved in since they were taken two months ago.

Of course, there are relatively few standalone stations nowadays. Most are corporate-owned and clustered into groups. In fact, that's pretty much my main revenue stream- dealing with folks like Clear Channel, Entercom, CBS, etc., who own five or six (or eight) stations in a market and wish to consolidate them all into a single facility.

And then there's the fact that this is New York, so they're aggrandizing things a bit more than most folks would in smaller markets. The biggest rack room I've ever done was Clear Channel LA. The room itself was about 70x100 feet and contained well over a hundred racks, however they were clustered into groups rather than being laid out in two big long rows. It was more like a data center or a phone company CO in terms of the layout.


The studio shown in the pictures is pretty typical of what we see everywhere these days. They've gotten a lot smaller over the past 20 years, since we no longer have three turntables, three or four big reel-to-reel tape machines, racks of analog processing equipment, a big stack of cart players along with several shelves full of carts (carts are like 8-track tapes, except with only a single stereo track and they range from 30 seconds to around 5 minutes in length, each one holding either a single song or commercial, or a series of jingles or liners, with stop-tones separating each one) and so on.

Instead, all of the audio (both the music and the commercials) are stored on computers, all the editing is done on computers, etc. So now we have anywhere from 4 to 8 computer screens, a bunch of keyboards, mice and specialized controllers, etc. The processors are all digital and quite small, and even the token CD player or two are typically only one rack-unit (1.75") tall.
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Old 05-20-2009, 07:09 PM   #15
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Once upon a time I thought about going into radio, behind the mike. I've got the voice, but not the ego.

I'm glad I did not go that way, that career has taken an ugly turn down a short one-way street.
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Old 05-20-2009, 07:23 PM   #16
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Any on-air personalities here? The smiling gent in the sport jacket looks familiar.

C
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Old 05-20-2009, 09:24 PM   #17
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The smiling gent in the sport jacket looks familiar.
That's Ron Parker, 7 to midnight.

Everyone else in the picture is from engineering. The dude in the black ballcap is Mark Olkowski (the director of engineering) and the Tommy Boy-looking fellow shouting into the phone is Mike Erikson, the chief engineer for WCBS-FM.
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:38 AM   #18
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That's pretty cool, a helluva lot more interesting than my job for sure.
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Old 05-21-2009, 04:26 AM   #19
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bout damn time joe
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Old 05-21-2009, 01:48 PM   #20
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pretty cool
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