WUVT held a Stereothon (I think I might still have a poster that we sold to raise $$) and bought an Orban Optimod 8000, the first high performance integrated stereo generator/processor from this now premier audio processing company. I think the AM revenues also helped out. Dave got the thing installed at Lee Hall, and Jon got a pair of phone lines in. Graduation became Daveís priority, so Jon asked me to help in FM engineering. Together, three or four of us pulled off the first stereophonic proof of performance for the FCC, something none of us had done before. I remember that things like crosstalk, separation, and pilot phasing were all so foreign and difficult the first time, and the phone company screwed us with noisy line equalizers to get the 15 KHz flat circuits. The 1976 engineering department included Jon Banks, Jeff Bevis, Joel Damiano, Bill Suffa, Tom Finn, Mark Stein, Howard Fleming, Walt Bailey, Steve Lokitis and myself. Mike Williams, Randy Hudson, and Bill Brideson were sort of freelance consultants hanging around WUVT.
I remember Ernie K would tease the FM staff as the "FM bed-wetters", not in real radio like AM. I got indoctrinated into jazz on FM by Harrigan (was it Jim?) who left for the Peace Corps. I did a gig for 3 years, every Saturday from some ungodly hour til noon, sometimes following the Gospel George show. I plowed into the wonderful jazz LP collection at WUVT Ė it went back to the 1940ís, thoroughly covering the bop era. On some weekends I would sit through the afternoon at the Met (opera) and also run "Earplay", an LP of radio drama. It was a great time to clean the cart machines, fix things in engineering, and take a long shit. I did learn a lot about opera at the time, listening to the intermission programming. The studio repairs always ate my Saturdays. I was also the Jazz music director which was under the music director. I wrote our reviews for Sabins Jazz newspaper, and worked with the record companies to improve offerings to the station.
Jon Banks had dropped out of Tech and did local radio work in Pulaski, and the rules
In 1978, before I graduated, we applied to the FCC to raise power to about 3 kW horizontal and vertical. We got good advice on how to do the paperwork from David Landis, FCC chief of the Broadcast Bureau, through contact with Carlos Roberts who had worked at WUVT earlier. He forwarded my request for help to the proper FCC channels. Jon
I part-timed for Lew Bagwell doing engineering at WJJJ/WVVV Ė kept the Collins FM on the air during the ball games. My roomate at the time, Randy Hudson, helped me cover these part-time opportunities. Matt Eakle and others from WUVT worked at WVVV at the time. I also worked for Don Fleeger at WKEX, where a window fan blew air into the rear of a Sintronics/Singer 1KW transmitter that could barely make power. I remember finding half their guy wires were wrapped around cow turds for support. I tightened the turnbuckles, and the entire tower groaned and twisted into a crooked shape. Oops. I went back and loosened everything so it was straight again. At WUVT we faced many technical challenges, and solved them through a steady dribble of funds requested from dean of student services J. Gordon Brown. He convinced me to get a haircut when I graduated from Tech and was interviewing for work.
We had a 50 Watt commercial transmitter on 640 KHz in a stuffy janitor closet of the first floor of Lee Hall. I liked the beast, except for the inadequate power transformer that seemed to melt down every September, when Tech would reset the clocks by sending a thousand cycle tone over the powerlines. Interesting coincidence. The thing also ate tubes, so it became one of the major annual AM operating expenses, as did the FM transmitter final tube. The manufacturer would hit WUVT for about $150 a year, to replace the melted-down iron. Finally, we found some big boat anchor plate transformer in the basement of HC Baker Sales in Roanoke. I mounted it on a small outrigger chassis, and it spelled relief for the transmitter for years to come. The 50 Watt LPB had a pair of 6550 beam power tubes for RF, plate modulated with a pair of the same. We ran it hard, so that each fall we replaced the tubes. It would modulate well over positive 100% and sounded good for carrier current. A schematic of the LPB transmitter is attached as lpb50.pdf. Generally it was a nice transmitter. I wonder if it still works at WUVT?
The repair of the Radford College transmitter system, which we colloquially called WDUD. Randy Hudson built this nice 50 Watt transmitter that used 807s for the RF stage, modulated with a pair of 7591 hi-fi tubes. It had a VFO, so you could vary the frequency around 640 KHz, to try and set a zero beat note with the Akron, Ohio station at night. Hudís transmitter fell into disrepair when no one paid attention and the Radford RF couplers were in a terrible state, with some coaxes in flooded steam tunnels. The Radford tunnels were horrible compared to VPI's. The WUVT mole squad of engineers loved to work at Radford, as it was mostly females, and they often used the rooftop of their high rise dorm for tanning. Luckily, one of our coupling boxes was in a closet upstairs. We did a renovation there, and I almost lost a finger on one of the steel gratings leading under a sidewalk into the tunnels. AM-64 was back on in Radford.
Jon Banks redesigned the entire AM distribution out on the lower quad. Jeff Bevis, Jon, Tom Finn and I spent a lot of time crawling through the steam tunnels in the summer of í77, laying miles of new coax and installing new powerline coupling boxes with mica matching capacitors tuned for each building. Someoneís earlier method of building transistor linear amplifiers throughout the campus had failed due to the heat in the tunnels and the poor reliability of power transistors in the circuit. We went back to the old method of driving a long network, with several higher power transmitters. We worked hard to contain leakage from faulty connectors and coax, especially where it would cause our signal between transmitters to cause a beat note in weak areas. Every fall we would go out and tweak the oscillators to get them synchronized, before applying audio.
The upper quad was powered with a Vara-power transmitter at about 15 watts from an 807. It was in the steam plant machine shop. I remember marching in with our hard hats, while these burly machinists would watch us. We would go read our meters, and bang on the transmitter, up on a little shelf in the back. These transmitters were totally open, and one could get nailed by the high voltage if not careful. They were designed by H. L. Hopewell and Sam Straus, the chief engineer of 1959. They were modular with plug-in units for the oscillator and the final amplifier. These things would sit in the steam tunnels and play until the tubes finally got so weak. But they were old, and sort of dangerous. They also didnít modulate well at the highest processed levels that WUVT was trying to reach at the time. We had learned that in overcoming powerline hum, it was important to have high density (>100% on positive peaks) modulation -- same thing real radio stations had to deal with. WUVT-AM was highly processed at the time, with both CBS Volumax and Audimax processors cranked up. The attached schematics, vara_power_xmtr.pdf, show the entire rig. Finally, we replaced them with one new 25 watt LPB transmitter that used a single Compactron tube for the RF. It worked well, and was lightweight. I think we may have bought a second one for a backup and troubleshooting transmitter.
The Gospel of Carrier Current at the time was Ludwell Sibleyís manual on Carrier-Current System Design. It was a collaborative effort by Sibley and engineers from KZSU (Stanford U), KALX (UC Berkeley), and KCSB (UC Santa Barbara). LPB, the transmitter company, also offered a series of free tech notes on limited area broadcasting. WUVT was responsible for an elaborate and complex carrier current network. Looking back, I am amazed that we kept it working. Nowadays, I suppose AM radios are scarce in dorm rooms.
After I Graduated
I live in an adobe house on land behind an Indian reservation north of Santa Fe, about a mile from the Rio Grande. Here's home with the antenna farm. Y'all come visit sometime.