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RE: early automation [off topic]
To: CRTech <crtech@crtech.org>
Subject: RE: early automation [off topic]
From: "Allard, Mark G" <MGAllard@unwsp.edu>
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2018 20:17:11 +0000
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Thread-topic: [CRTech] early automation [off topic]

Oh such fun.

And, back in those days, there was no backup so when the system went down, I was sweating bullets.


From: Pat Wahl [mailto:pwahl@wwib.com]
Sent: Monday, February 05, 2018 13:54
To: CRTech <crtech@crtech.org>
Subject: Re: [CRTech] early automation [off topic]


Mark A. That was so fun to read; maybe not so much fun to live through! 

My memories were a slightly newer vintage of "Syste-mation" with stacks of Tascam 234 4-track cassettes and Commodore 64 computers. I still have a 234 here in my office for those who have the Audacity to ask me to digitize their favorite memories of the 1980s. The cassette decks were extraordinary: I think they were $2500 each, and with the pro-grade dbx noise reduction, the noise floor supposedly rivaled compact discs. But, the automation control circuitry was all in a cage of socketed ICs and ribbon cables, a Red Green combination of broadcast engineering "genius," Radio Shack parts, and held together with baling wire/bubble-gum/duct tape. Super-sensitive to static electricity and power spikes. Doesn't take me too much reminiscence to agree with you ... also glad those days are gone!


Pat Wahl

Chippewa Falls, WI


On Sat, Feb 3, 2018 at 3:51 PM, Allard, Mark G <MGAllard@unwsp.edu> wrote:

I started my employment in ’79.

In reference to our early automation system, I cut my teeth on a Harris System 90 – about a dozen R2R’s, 4 carousels, 4 cassettes, and 4 time announce carts.

The system was installed a couple of years before I got there.

You haven’t lived until you’ve made time carts!  Each 30-minute cart had 12 hours of minute-by-minute announcements.  One cart had all even minutes.  The other was odd minutes.

When all done, there could not be more than 2 minutes of recycle time or the announcements would get out of sequence. (Start OVER)

Battery backup was a car battery behind the racks with a trickle charger attached.

It felt like there were between 500 and 1000 IC’s in that thing and they were ALL socketed.

Most of the sockets had very little spring tension and on top of that, most of the IC’s pins had turned black from oxidation.

This made the system incredibly fickle.  It would change time, change memory location, lose its mind, or get a corrupted character that would lock it up.

After a crash, I remember my supervisor would advise to power it down then just exercise all the IC’s and try again.

Over time, we removed almost every socket.  Then the system was reliable.

Control and monitoring was done with a terminal – seven segment displays and keyboard.

Memory backup was on 1” wide paper tape.  It would take about a ½ hour to load.

If a tape got damaged, we’d get out the Scotch tape and use a pencil to punch holes.

That’s where I got ‘hands on’ experience at learning HEX code.

The timebase was controlled by a crystal in a temperature controlled oven.

During the day, the system was doing double duty.  Half was AM, the other half FM.

At night, AM was daytime only so FM took advantage of all the R2R’s reducing the number of times automation needed to be fed.

Boy, am I glad those days are gone!

Mark A


References: early automation [off topic]
("Allard, Mark G" <MGAllard@unwsp.edu>, 3 Feb 2018 21:51:58 -0000)
Re: early automation [off topic]
(Pat Wahl <pwahl@wwib.com>, 5 Feb 2018 19:57:50 -0000)
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