DEDICATED TO THE CONTINUED SUPPORT OF RCA BROADCAST TRANSMITTERS
Stuart Cook (Stu)
I was born near London, England during WWII. As a child I clearly remember, on several occasions, having to take refuge under the kitchen sink, table or bathtub whenever a "Buzz Bomb" stopped buzzing, indicating the bomb was earthbound. Shortly after the war our family moved to Hunstanton in north Norfolk, a small seaside resort town with a population of about 4000. My father, uncle and grandfather had purchased a garage business there. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, while exploring the garage premises, I discovered all kinds of radio parts. Besides being a garage business, the previous owner must have sold and repaired radios. I found four pin vales (tubes), valve sockets, air variable and fixed capacitors, resistors, "cats whisker" devices, coils, variometers, bias batteries with multiple voltage taps, lead acid batteries together with the charging equipment. You name it; it was there. I distinctly remember the black "Ebonite" material that was used back then to mount components. When cut or drilled it had a distinctive smell that I would recognize to this day.
Amazingly the library in the small town of Hunstanton had a couple of books about radio. Soon, from the parts available to me, I had built my first one valve radio - man I thought that was neat. Shortly after, along came Television We were one of the first families in town to own a TV set. The antenna was an enormous four element vertical array on a very long wooden pole secured to the main business garage roof. Our first TV set was an "Alba" with a 12-inch screen. (Wow, it's amazing how you remember this stuff when you think about it!). The nearest TV transmitter to us was Sutton Coldfield, well over 100 miles away, so you can well imagine what the picture was like. We used to squint our eyes so that the noise was less noticeable!
One of my fathers' customers, a local restaurant owner, was an Amateur Radio operator - Colin Brooke - G3JEC. During the war Colin had received sufficient electronics training to get his Ham ticket. Seeing my interest in radio my dad arranged for me to visit him. This would be another one of those days in my life that I will never forget - I remember every detail to this day. The shack was on the fifth floor above the restaurant about 50 yards from the ocean - what a perfect location, with the salt water and all that. The home brew 240 Watt AM transmitter was in a 6 foot rack and contained "glowing" 807's and 813's valves - sorry tubes. At that time Single Side Band was not in use by Hams. When SSB did become available Colin jokingly referred to it as a Scientific Set Back! The receiver was an HRO with coil packs to change bands. That day I spoke to another Ham in USA. Wow was I hooked on this stuff now. I just had to do something with radio.
In 1959 I began an apprenticeship with Cossor Marine Radar in West Norwood, London. On occasions I would travel to the London docks to service radar on the ships. However, I wasn't learning what I thought I should be so in 1960 I enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Initially I received training on air radar equipment and was based with a Flying Training Command but once again felt I was not progressing. I changed trade to Ground Communications and received extensive training, for almost a year, on high power HF transmitters. After training, I was stationed for about a year at one of only two possible bases in UK I could have been assigned to as part of the Commonwealth Air Force Network. I was responsible for maintaining up to 50 operational high power HF SSB / ISB transmitters. The frequency on many of these transmitters had to be changed several times during a 24-hour period in order to maintain communications. I spent the next year near Nairobi, Kenya and in the Gulf of Aden, Yemen maintaining transmitters in the CAF Network. I returned to the same base in England for a further year then spent 2 1/2 years in Germany. While in Germany I got my amateur license and was issued the call G3YBR - Yellow Brick Road.
After leaving the Air Force in 1969, I joined Pye TVT in Cambridge, England (which later became Harris). After HF SSB transmitters this TV stuff was easy - just like SSB but with an FM transmitter thrown in! During the six years I was with Pye TVT I built, installed, tested and proofed television transmitters all over Britain for the BBC and the Independent TV network . I also installed 3 transmitters in Nigeria, 5 in Indonesia, 2 in Zanzibar (the first color system in the African continent), 2 in Switzerland and 1 in Belgium. I built, tested and proofed one of the first transmitters to be installed in the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.
In 1975 I began working for RCA Broadcast as a Transmitter Specialist in the Tech Alert group. I spent the first couple of years in the field carrying out repairs and modifications to the FH-Line but also worked on the FL-Line. I also provided technical assistance by phone to numerous TV, FM and AM stations. While visiting the transmitter manufacturing facility in Meadow Lands, PA I met my wife to be who lived in Washington, PA just a couple of miles away. I volunteered to be based at Meadow Lands as a liaison between engineering and customers. My thoughts did not waver from TV transmitters and my RCA customers. Returning from lunch one day I found a printed note on my desk, "call W I F E". No phone number was noted so I proceeded to look up WIFE in the TV Fact book only to find it did not exist! I was then told, "That's your wife, not a TV station"! Later after my two sons were born co-workers would joke with me saying, "call KIDS"! While at Meadow Lands I became involved with the G-Line series of TV transmitters and installed the very first one in 1978. My involvement continued, taking me to just about every state in the United States including Alaska and Hawaii. I traveled throughout Mexico, to Peru, Puerto Rico and Brazil and of course Canada. Early on I began providing instructional seminars on the FH and FL then later the G-Line, continuing to do so to this day. In 1984 RCA closed the Meadow Lands plant and I was transferred to the Gibbsboro, NJ facility. One year later, RCA announced its shutdown and retirement from the broadcast industry. I was one of about 30 people from 500 who were retained to continue contractual obligations to customers. In 1986 General Electric purchased RCA and I was one of only three that were transferred (one video guy, one accounting guy and one transmitter guy - me) to once again continue providing technical support to RCA customers. In 1994 Comark Communications acquired the RCA Broadcast Transmitter Service Business and Parts from GE (Comark Communications became Thomcast Communications Inc., which then became Thales Broadcast and Multimedia). At that point I became the only remaining RCA guy in captivity! Today I am still very much involved with all types of RCA transmitters and continue to enjoy providing technical assistance and parts support to RCA customers that I've known since 1975.