These photos are from fellow engineer Chris Hall. The owner of an AM station reached out to him for advice after a contractor from two states away rebuilt the transmitter facility and it just wouldn’t make power. Wonder why? What’s the dielectric strength of a Mason jar? Which parts went Exxon Valdez in there?
My experience with AM antenna systems is limited but I can say that I would not trust even a single component in this ATU – it’s probably all been compromised by excessive voltage, current, and, uh, mechanical abuse, fire, and overheating. Call up Kintronic Labs, ask for a quote….
How do you do that to a poor innocent vacuum variable cap?! I mean uhhhhhhhhh. What. I’m guessing the voltage flew off the handle when it ran far off resonance, I can’t even fathom which part would have failed first, or maybe if the contractor just tried to bring up full power with the Vise-Grips not clamped on or okay that’s it I’m done I can’t even. This is why I like coming up at the lowest possible power first if in doubt….
So, my thoughts on the past 20 years of life in America…
First off I wish to mention that I in no way am unaware or intending to downplay the tragic losses of life that occurred as the result of the September 11, 2001 attack on New York City. It’s just unfortunate that this was allowed to negatively affect so many more lives than necessary.
That being said…
This is just a weird set of disjointed observations I felt like putting in writing so I could get them off my mind and go back to thinking about cats and video feedback.
When a power inductor overheats and shatters its ferrite core inside a powerfully cursed SIP intercom that was only available single-source from New Zealand with an 18 month lead time *before* the electronics supply chain got crushed….
Down in the river delta this morning, a circuit breaker went TWANG, and eventually, an engineer went HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
The Space Station Toilet transmitter dumped one cabinet. While I was waiting for one of my coworkers to get there on site and see why it wouldn’t come back up, the first order of business was to remote in and change the combiner mode so the dead cabinet was no longer in the system (which caused a large amount of power from the other two surviving cabinets to get dumped into the combiner reject load due to the mismatch).
The Space Station Toilet is an older generation of Harris transmitter using their old eCDI user interface system. Their newer stuff uses a weird looking but far easier to use interface which does not require FECKING JAVA (!!!!) and has a nice block diagram sort of layout. You can see it in action here on a HPX series FM. Since it’s natively designed to work great on touchscreens, the newer GatesAir TV rigs come with a cute little pull out shelf where you just set a generic tablet PC in there to use as the front panel UI. But uh, eCDI is a confusing dated looking mess, and its design contributed to an… incident.
I went in there, took the dud cabinet out of the combiner on the mode tab, then noticed cabinet 1 had no IPA power or beam voltage. I decided since it was not working correctly to switch it back to BG heat until it could be serviced.
BG heat is kind of a keep warm mode that leaves the ESCIOT tube filament on at reduced voltage, and I think also leaves the ion pump on. It’s basically a warm standby that keeps the filament ready to go, and helps maintain the hard vacuum while the tube isn’t actively online. Well….
Two minutes later I got a call from our director saying “hey, we’re off the air, and I think it’s because you did the same thing I did…”
Sure enough… Note the two screenshots. See the difference?
Blink and you miss it. It’s not the difference of which button is selected at upper right.
The issue is, if you’re in the HPA tab at the bottom, the Beam On / Standby / BG Heat / Off buttons affect the state of one HPA cabinet, as selected by the 1/2/3 buttons. If you’re in the TX tab, guess what they affect the state of….
KERPLUNK. FLUSH. BEAM OFF. ZERO WATTS. ENJOY BUSH’S BAKED BEANS.
Beans. Mmmm, beans.
The day this thing is to be decommissioned I want to see what happens if I fill the cooling system and high voltage power supply cabinets with beans and turn the transmitter on one final time. BEANS ON, BABY! Mwahahahaha.
Warning: Crude humor ahead as a coping mechanism. As I work in an industry that is completely dependent on the continued availability of electronic parts and devices, this shit makes me worry and I’m forced to make terrible jokes to get by. Or something. No wait, I always do this, carry on. Balls.
A few years back I started noticing that the state of the electronics industry was one in which, basically, you go to China for everything. Need parts? China. Need design work? China. Manufacturing? China… but following the Trans-Pacific Partnership, don’t forget to technology transfer all details of your design to the manufacturer, so they can cheerfully take off and ghost shift and clone your product! Need to order parts for one of the few remaining operations somewhere else in the world? China… and… good luck.
To reduce manufacturing costs, almost all work is outsourced offshore to where one can find the lowest possible labor costs for skilled work, and there is a tendency towards consolidating everything into a few large facilities where the cost of operation can be further reduced. To even further reduce costs, parts are not stocked, they are ordered for “Just In Time” supply, as the cost of maintaining warehouse facilities or winding up with leftover parts in stock are considered unnecessary waste.
Well, all of this basically put everyone’s nuts in a Chinese vise with particularly rough surfaced jaws that was being very slowly tightened.
During a certain urinal stain-colored person’s time as president, a ridiculous trade war dropped, which had no effect on reducing problems with Chinese led market manipulations, but put in place a lot of impediments to supply chains to almost every imaginable industry.
In short, the Chinese vise was replaced by a 10,000 ton hydraulic press that everyone’s nuts were secured into with Gorilla Glue, with the motor left running, and about 300 different corporations and foreign governments given little clicker remotes that will smash and explode whatever’s between the surfaces with a quick and easy press.
Several of the buttons have all been pushed now. SPPPLRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTT
From what I gather, we’ve reached a point where the industry is either going to have to sit on its hands waiting almost a year for parts, or actually, you know, do something about it. I’ve been seeing several people lament that they’ve had to suddenly redesign boards to work around parts that have gone unavailable with 40-80 week manufacturer lead times (!) or entirely redesign around different microcontroller architectures and stuff. Boards are being designed to have parallel connections to two or more different pad layouts to accommodate whatever part happens to be in stock when the device goes into production…. but that only gets you so far.
Common parts like normally 30 cent voltage regulators are anywhere between 60 week lead time and Fuck You NLA because some companies saw the light that there’s massive profit in inducing scarcity…. and bought up all the parts to just sit on them, selling what are either the real parts or complete fakes, for $15 and up. The same buy and scalp model that has applied to computer video cards is now being used on, well, everything…. and it fucking blows. Normally these brokers are only able to lock down supplies of obsolete parts that are no longer in production — this is the first time I’ve ever seen them able to leverage the lead times of active, in-production parts, because they’re able to create unpredictable demand spikes and kill the Just-In-Time supply.
Just like what morons did with toilet paper………
If we actually had manufacturing capacity outside of, you know, one or two big fab houses in China that have HUGE lead times because they have other orders to fulfill before they can tool up for a run of one particular part prior to manufacturing, then packaging and overseas shipping, we probably wouldn’t have this problem. Also, if there were actual stocks of parts kept by the manufacturers of devices or by suppliers, we wouldn’t be in a situation where a few guys who have some extra Shitcoin money can buy up all the STM32’s and completely lock down availability. Fuck you if you claim you didn’t see this shit coming, this was ENTIRELY AVOIDABLE, and at this point there is only one way out… and it’s a rough one… but we’re gonna have to take it.
The ONLY way out of this will be to re-establish manufacturing of electronic parts in the US and other places. The big problem with doing this? We’ve already sent everything to China…. But it still has to be done.
The best thing I can liken this to would be the electronics industry in the USSR after they effectively pissed off EVERYONE else and nobody would sell them electronics, so they had to scramble to get production set up locally. Some of it had to be done with the aid of industrial espionage because they just didn’t know what they were doing, and a lot of it was really weird looking or strange quality because… they just didn’t know what they were doing. This weird Soviet transistor could be used as almost a textbook example. Eventually, though, they got up and running making some really high quality stuff, particularly vacuum tubes which remained in production for quite a while to support older equipment.
Yeah— stuff’s gonna look weird at first, and there may be reliability issues, but we’ve gotta do it, or we simply will not have electronics anymore, and that just isn’t gonna work for anyone.
I don’t really know what we have left in the way of semiconductor fabrication, testing, or fabrication facilities in the US. The only one I’m really aware of is Skyworks in Newbury Park, California, who make the RF power amplifiers used in… well, damn near everything— if you’re reading this on a mobile or wifi equipped device, your packets went through one. It was also, amusingly, featured in a music video. The building shown in the aerial photo zoom is not the Skyworks plant, it’s some arena in Utah. I’ve always imagined it must make an interesting sound when you walk down that hallway with the air jets that dislodge dust from your clothing. Maybe I’ll find out firsthand when someone brings me in because I’m the only one who knows how to program the variable frequency drive in a conveyor belt in the cleanroom or something.
Also, what is with the weird half-video-line artifact at the bottom of the screen here? This is an older video and was edited in 4:3 standard definition. I’ve seen this half truncated line at the bottom of the screen in a few different videos and I have no idea what causes it. I got into television after it all got digital and hi-def and boring and stuff. My DVCAM gear doesn’t do it, I’m thinking it’s possibly attributed to a timing oddity on analog tape gear. Maybe we’ll be going back to tape soon if we don’t get flash memory manufacturing geared up in time…. or… film. I mean, someone at Eastman Kodak must still remember how to make that stuff, right?
This post contains large amounts of angry hissing and swearing. You’ve been warned.
I was doing the weekly inspection checklist at the transmitter site when this….. Space Station Toilet….??? went thunk, plunk, and cycled out of Beam On. The display forlornly moaned of a low anode coolant flow alarm. I know the issue is with the flow sensor.
It’s in the middle of all this so I did not try to undertake the replacement single handedly. Look at this glorious mess!!!
But then my attention was drawn to the fact that it started getting warmer in the room… and it just kept getting warmer. Luckily, it was about 68 outside with a strong Delta Breeze, so I just opened all the doors and started to investigate the attempted thermal runway. On the roof I peeked into one of the large RTU (Roof Top Unit) air conditioners and saw a winter wonderland of ice. Hmm.
Not good. So why’s this thing icing up? It’s practically brand new! I called the HVAC company we have a service contract with and their dispatcher literally told me she was going to see if anyone felt like helping us out today. (No.)
Time to gather tools and investigate.
Definitely a low head pressure situation… but why? Remember, PV=nRT even for insufficient levels of T[emperature], so maybe it’s just running too cold due to low heat input into the system. Let’s open up the other side…
Note three things in this photo: 1) motor sheave spinning. 2) fan sheave barely spinning. 3) harder to see but— water flying everywhere including spraying on that poor little ABB drive!
Click, power down, go gather more tools, climb up and down the ladder about a zillion times…
I set the thermostat below to system off / constant fan and properly tensioned the belt, which DerpCo HVAC’s techs do not know how to do… At all… then restore power.
The fan didn’t start. The little ABB drive’s cooling fan wailed, but it just wasn’t coming on. Why? Finally on a whim I twisted the red and green thermostat wires together and it ramped politely up to full blast with no slippage. Guess the thermostat just isn’t letting constant fan be a thing. That’s fine…
Slowly but surely, the room temperature started creeping down.
I always wonder if I’d get in trouble for naming and shaming DerpCo HVAC. They’re a large, probably national company, and are far more interested with their prime directives of union busting and bumping out any employees with seniority than they are with providing proper service to their customers. I hate dealing with DerpCo mostly, though they have *one* tech locally who actually knows what they’re doing.