Amateur Radio Bolinas Point Reyes Radio

Back on Radio Road to KPH at Point Reyes

A year ago this month, my friend Doug Kaye and I spent a Saturday touring the old KPH radio sites at Bolinas and Point Reyes, California courtesy of the Maritime Historical Radio Society.

During our visit last year, we had a great tour of both the old transmitting site in Bolinas and the receive site at Point Reyes. The station continued to operate until June 30, 1997.

One of the treats for me during our visit was seeing a Vibroplex Blue Racer “bug” used for sending Morse code. These “bugs” were mechanical – with a long vibrating piece of metal that vibrated back and forth to generate the dots while you used your thumb to generate the dashes. There’s a small adjustable weight on the metal rod that you could adjust back and forth to adjust the speed of the dots you were sending.

Back in my younger days when I was just starting out in amateur radio, one of my big purchases was a Blue Racer – and it was my pride and joy until I eventually moved on to a keyer and, ultimately, built my own keyboard keyed. Ah, those were the days. Sadly, after many moves and many packed boxes of old gear, I have no idea where my old original Blue Racer has ended up! But seeing that Blue Racer still in action at KPH was a special treat for me!

See my post from years before about looking down Radio Road at Point Reyes.

Books Libraries Photography Radio Santa Cruz Travel

My Secret Library in Santa Cruz

Live Oak Library - Santa Cruz, California

Yesterday I was wandering around Santa Cruz and need to “kill” a couple of hours.

After dropping some friends off at Twin Lakes State Beach, I was driving down E. Cliff Drive and came across Live Oak Library, a beautifully remodeled Craftsman style building.

Turns out I’m a bit of a library nut. Somehow they’re therapeutic for me – I can be totally blocked on writing while sitting in my office – but things just seem to open up with a change of scenery into the right library environment. No phones, peace and quiet, but a sense of space and wonder. The best libraries open so many new doors for me within the cocoon of their physical space.

Back to Santa Cruz. I was an accidental tourist there yesterday – and stumbled across Live Oak literally while driving by. Where else can you find a library like this sitting on a lagoon across from the Pacific Ocean? Constructed in such a beautiful and careful style. With a very friendly and helpful staff that took great care of me – I passed the time in sheer delight. This is what libraries are for.

I took a few photos of the library (still kicking myself for not having taken the camera inside!) – and of neighbor KSCO AM 1080‘s Art Deco studio and graffiti laden towers out in the lagoon.

Next time you’re in Santa Cruz and need a place to chill, check out the Live Oak Library – it’s a real treat! But don’t tell too many folks about it!

PS: Santa Cruz is also now very high on my list for one of my next photowalking episodes. The streets and bluffs along the ocean between Twin Lakes and Pleasure Point as really interesting and worth some deeper photographic explorations. Much of my earlier interest in Santa Cruz was around the Boardwalk – but there’s a whole lot more to explore.

Books Radio Web/Tech

Listener Supported

Re: my earlier rant about the next generation of public radio, yesterday’s Sunday New York Times Book Review had a review by Columbia University journalism professor Samuel Freedman of Jack W. Mitchell’s book on public radio history “Listener Supported – The Culture and History of Public Radio“.

Radio Web/Tech

The Next Generation of Public Radio

Late last week, Doug Kaye spilled the beans about his plans for the future of IT Conversations and went on to discuss his new business model for the service.

In some ways, Doug’s plan seems to me to represent the next generation of public radio – except that Doug’s audio content – as with all podcasts, by definition – will be available when you want it, rather than when a public radio station’s program director chooses to run it.

Many years ago, the FCC started granting non-commercial radio licenses. It was a wonderful thing – an appropriate amount of our radio spectrum – a public resource – was set aside for non-commercial purposes. Over time, these non-commercial stations began to distribute the programming of various content production and distribution services including National Public Radio among others.

As I understand it, a typical public radio station’s budget includes fees paid for each of us listeners having real-time “over the air” access to this content — along with all of the other expenses involved with operating and maintaining an on-the-air FCC-licensed radio property.

As we move forward into the podcasting world, we can begin to see how this “legacy” content creation and distribution model of public radio might have to shift. Public radio audiences will begin to shrink, as radio audiences generally have done. Their ability to raise membership fees may be impacted as fewer listeners choose to support their legacy broadcast model – which can be thought of as “come listen to the programs on my schedule, not yours!” They may also end up suffering soon as a result of proposed Congressional reductions in the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which funds, on average, about fifteen percent of local NPR member public radio station budgets.

The smart public radio stations will see what’s coming — and embrace the changes. They’ll make their original content, to the extent they still have any, available via a distribution model similar to what Doug’s now proposing. If you want it quickly, pay for speed (one-time or membership options available, thank you). Share the revenues generated with all of the stakeholders responsible for getting that content to the listener. Alternatively, other stations might make today’s or this week’s or last week’s content available for free – with archive access perhaps requiring a fee or an annual membership. Maybe we’ll finally have an access control reason to subscribe during those inane public radio pledge drives!

The big gorilla, NPR, has some serious thinking to do here. It’s under assault not just by podcasting but by satellite radio. Ultimately, I think the bigger threat is podcasting — but the more immediate one may be Bob Edwards on the bird. How they decide to address the podcasting threat/opportunity will be very interesting to watch. Whether they decide to “go direct” to the listener and cut out their long-time local public radio affiliates will be an important test. While more efficient, I’d prefer to see them continue to keep their partners in the financial loop — enabling me, for example, to buy an MP3 podcast of today’s Fresh Air via my new form KQED membership that let’s me feel good about listening real-time over the car radio but gives me unlimited access to audio content archives when I’m looking for great stuff to tuck into my iPod for that long trip to China. We shall see.

Some automation of all of this payment and access control would be wonderful – and seems ultimately required for all of this to work right. Apple, with its new iTunes podcasting support now deployed on zillions of both Windows and Mac desktops, appears to be in a superb position to be this broker.

Apple could sign up content providers (including both KQED, Doug Kaye and NPR), support the various access control policies and user fee collection options, manage the annual subscriptions, etc. – and collect a sliver of the revenues along the way. Ideally, it would also manage the fee distribution splits among the various parties involved in bringing all of this content to life in my earphones – at a time when I want to listen to it.

Potential future metaphor:

iTunes is to podcasting as PayPal is to eBay.

As has been said many times before, we certainly do live in interesting times! And, can video (think The Newshour with Jim Lehrer or Charlie Rose) be far behind?

Radio San Francisco/California

Tom Saunders

For me, the classic San Francisco radio voice has always been Tommy Saunders. Ben Fong-Torres reports in today’s Radio Waves column in The Pink that Tom’s is retiring and will be completing his last broadcast this afternoon on KOIT.

Saunders came to San Francisco about the same time I did — in the early 60’s — and held down the 9 PM to midnight shift on top 40’s powerhouse KYA. Those were my high school years and Saunders was there every night on the radio with his wit and classic DJ voice. Whatever it was, he’s one of those radio voices who’s been so familiar and, as a result, so “at home” ever since. He’s spent the last 24 years — a very long time in radio! — at KOIT, downshifting over the years into mostly weekend shows.

Hope he enjoys his retirement — maybe he should explore doing some podcasting with that great voice of his!


Memories of DXing!

Doc writes about his obsession with DXing as he was growing up. I shared that delight — but from a different locale in the Buckeye state.

My favorites were WBZ in Boston, WLS in Chicago, and WHO in Des Moines. I remember listening to Dick Biondi and “Cousin” Bruce Morrow, in particular from the WLS days.

Closer to home, KDKA was always there along with KYW — both ‘weird’ aberrations of the FCC’s callsign issuing convention of stations east of the Mississippi beginning with “W” and west with “K”.White's Radio Log

Somewhere along the way, a came across a copy of White’s Radio Log. I remember it being bound into the back of one of the electronics magazines of the period.

White’s was a wonderful — listing every station on every AM frequency from 540 kHz all the way up the band. Some very impressive spots on the dial were held by the big clear channel stations — those listed above along with others like WLW in Cincinnati and KSL in Salt Lake City. I remember snagging KSL as my record haul while growing up in Ohio.

Update: Today, the FCC provides an online search of all the AM stations in the US and Canada – it’s the online equivalent of the old White’s Radio Log.

Radio San Francisco/California

San Francisco Bay Area Radio

Speaking of radio, I almost forgot to note that Ben Fong-Torres had a great summary of San Francisco Bay Area radio in last Sunday’s Pink section of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Radio Television Travel

Mount Wilson

I flew down to Burbank on Wednesday this week and while driving to the meeting I was going to attend I gazed off in the distance at Mount Wilson. In my youth, I remembered reading about a ham radio station located on the top of Mount Wilson that was remotely controlled from the operator’s home miles away. I wondered whether it still existed.

Little did I know that Scott Fybush has posted almost everything you’d ever want to know about that mountain — and its role in broadcasting to the greater LA basin.

Thanks to Doc for providing some links that took me to Scott’s amazing web site.