Monday, May 11, 2009

Up Power, Down Power

Many radio stations have to increase or decrease power depending on what time the sun comes up or goes down. Has to do with signal skip and interference to other stations off in the far distance. The time changes as we cycle through the year and you can almost hear your listeners drop off at night, as much as the sound of them coming aboard at the far edges as you powered up.

On the program and transmitter logs you would find: “4:30 Lower Power.” That was the earliest for our latitude; you might get away with a later time if you were more to the south. During the height of the summer, you’d be on high power until 8:30 up here.

Bad as that was, it was better than having to sign off, which many stations did. One maximum-power station in Rhode Island pulled the switch at the same time as their smaller brothers just reduced wattage. Can you imagine that? Fifty thousand watts dies the death each day at sundown, and I almost worked there.

Sometimes (I won’t confess to ever doing this; oh, no, not me) if we had a local kid’s sports game on the air and it ran past sundown, we would keep the power up and mark the low-power readings in the transmitter log. Keep the parents happy who might not be able to hear us after we dumped.

A girl friend taped my late-night signoff announcement: “Good night, and don’t forget to turn your radio off.”


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