Over the years, reporters in the newsroom would need stories from the network. These stories would augment their own work. As stories develop, they would be transmitted over satellite to waiting tape machines. These tape machines had been manually ran by a newsperson. The machines had to be loaded and unloaded with tape. They had to be started and stopped. There was an alarm clock to alert the news department when it was time for a feed.

One day, the station manager asked me if I could control these feed machines. I replied; "Absolutely!" The station manager was concerned about the time frame to develop such a system. He was expecting a time of weeks. However, I told him that I could write a program in three hours, and have it working before the day was done. Needless to say, I had him standing out of his chair. (I had his blessing.)
Controling machines is what I do, and I seem to do it easily.
I knew I could control the existing 5800's and 5850's, but they were troublesome and old. Besides, we were converting elsewhere to the new DVC PROS. I took a DVC-PRO to my house, and had it working with a simple program within the three hours.

By the time a got back to the station, it was about 4:30 and time to quit. But I continued working on my own time, as I was accustomed to doing. I installed one DVC-PRO recorder in a rack with a computer, monitor, and keyboard. I ran two runs of video and audio from the receivers. (I could run more for a total of four machines later.) I had a working demonstration system before the day was done.

The recorder rack:
Keyboard at elbow height
Recorder machines at head level

When an operator would insert a tape into the machine, the system would detect the presence of that tape. The system would then rewind the tape completely to the clear leader. Then pre-role the tape off the leader to a good starting point. Then post a notification on the screen that the tape was ready, and how many minutes before start of recording. The system would alarm if a tape was not ready to go, within 10 minutes of a scheduled start time. At the end of the recording, the system would stop the recording, re-wind the tape, and eject the tape. The system would then look on the hard drive for the event schedule, scratch off that event as completed, and look at the next event.

The next day a reporter found a bug in the program, but I soon had it fixed. A couple of reporters complained about the screen being too cluttered. I apologized, I told them I would fix it any way that they wanted. It was for them, and I obligingly made it look simpler to their satisfaction.

I thought that they were done with me, but then, they complained that my event editor was too hard. Therefore, I became the temporary log event editor.

I had installed the feed recording system in a room across from the news dept. They could hear the speaker if the door was open. This sound was working ok. But management was moving the news department in another area of the building. I did not have my speech module built yet for the recording room. And all I had for sound was from the internal speaker of the computer. It was only making feeble beeps and crude "tone type" sounds.

My recorder system only ran for about a year, as new recording methods developed. It's days were numbered. New technology was coming. We installed equipment that recorded directly to a large hard drive. The equipment manufactures also supplied software to do the recording. You can not beat that: an intire package! That was the end of using tape machines, as well as my recorder system. But it was fun doing the news dept feeds.

This RECORDER system was simple, and only involved a computer talking to several machines. The purpose was to be up and running in a very short time. And it was. And it worked. And it was cool.



AUT100C.gif, 15 kB But the VISION of the system was quite different...

There would have been a microprocessor dedicated to each machine.
Instead of a max of four machines, an unlimited number of microprocessor modules and their recorders could be accommodated. Also a mixture of different kinds of machines could be controlled.

A computer, some where on the net, would update a record file internal to the microprocessor (MCU). Depending on internal memory, the MCU may have to be updated once an hour (at worst) to once a week. Computers would be only supplemental.

And the MCU module would handle all machine operations. No computer would be required.

Also each MCU would have access to the NET MASTER CLOCK.
Timing is critical. The cassettes may only have 31 minutes of tape. The tape can not be started more than a few seconds early. Also, there are many stories inside of the 28 minutes that are not needed. My system is capable of skipping around those stories if accurate timing is realised.

Also each MCU would have access to a common SPEECH MODULE. And the dedicated speech module would have only one audio output. That output would be in the new newsroom. Reporters would not have to guess what a problem was, or if a machine was out of tape. All speech would be in plane language, just like my other systems.

I can explain WHY the station manager was surprised...
The station manager was new, and fellow engineers had kept a secret: concerning my control systems and how I was controlling the transmitter sites.
"When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt"
-Henry J. Kaiser
I witnessed, but permitted, this deceit because my record beautifully spoke for itself. (A more powerful statement is presented if circumstances speak on your behave for you.)
Now, the station manager knew that I was not only NOW controlling parts of his news department, but had been controlling ALL transmitter operations for years. And controling transmission sites is far more intense than controling some simple recorders. The two types of control can not even be compared! The one aspect of those simple recorders that made some fellow engineers intensely angry, was that the recorders where high profile, due to the number of reporters that used the system. (To emphasise the dichotomy: Simple and easy system, but high profile!)