Technically Speaking…


Technology plays a crucial part in the daily operation of WBHM. As program director, I don’t have to understand the nuts and bolts of how a piece of equipment works or know how to fix it. But I do need to have a big picture idea of how something works. Sometimes I feel like I’m the universal translator form Star Trek – I’m bridging the gap from the engineering side so I can ensure the on-air staff has the tools they need to do their jobs as efficiently as possible.

Here are a couple of interesting tech tidbits from WBHM told in a (hopefully!) not too tech-y way.

Tape is a relic of the past. All local content on WBHM is now recorded on hard drive. We’ll do an interview in a studio (or in the field), export the file, digitally edit the audio at our desktops, and then import that audio back into our system.

And tape used to be edited with a razor blade and a grease pencil! It was physically cut, so if you made a mistake, well…there wasn’t much you could do about it. We now edit digitally and in addition to listening to the audio, we can also “see” it on our computer screens. More importantly, if something doesn’t sound the way we like, we can just click “undo”.

WBHM receives some of its programming via satellite. That’s probably not a surprise. But did you know satellites are 23,000 miles up in space? A program like Morning Edition is produced in Washington D.C., uploaded to a satellite in space, and then downloaded to WBHM’s satellite dish right outside our building. Even traveling at the speed of light (186,000 miles/second) there’s just about a half-second delay. That may not sound like much, but in radio, timing is everything.

At WBHM, we have two clocks in our satellite room. One is labeled “NPR time” and any direct mission critical on-air component synchs to this clock. The other is known as a “GPS clock” (global positioning satellite) with time provided by the U.S. Naval Observatory. These two clocks are ever so slightly different. Why two clocks? In a word, redundancy. Technology works great…until it doesn’t, so we always need a backup plan.

(Through “Programming Notes,” we hope to keep you connected to what is happening at WBHM both internally and on-air. Have feedback you’d like to share? Or a programming question? Let me know!)

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