Edwin Armstrong and the FCC

Edwin Armstrong inventor of FM radioJulie Borowski asked about underrated men on her Facebook page this week, and Edwin Armstrong came to mind.

Edwin was the inventor of FM radio, but RCA with some help from the FCC strongarmed him out of the business. This is an important story today with the FCC working on regulating the Internet in the name of Net Neutrality.

Here is a great article on Edwin Armstrong and his tragic story. The basics are that Armstrong was a genius inventor that revolutionized electronics. RCA on the other hand was an established electronics company that had invested heavily in AM radio. FM radio would have cost RCA a lot of money. So instead of playing ball RCA turned first to a corrupt FCC official in an attempt to destroy FM.

The future looked bright for FM. Other radio set manufacturers, including Zenith and Western Electric (but not RCA, as we shall see), arranged royalty deals. Despite the United States’ entry into World War II, the number of commercial FM stations doubled from 18 in 1941 to 36 in 1942, and grew to 46 in 1945. According to Time magazine, more than a half-million FM radio receivers were then in use.

Then came a shocker: In January 1945 the FCC proposed to kick FM up into the range of frequencies around 100 megahertz, and to give television additional space in the vacated area. This precipitated a third spectrum battle between FM and television.

The stated reason for the proposed move was the concern that, at FM’s current frequencies, radio transmissions would be particularly vulnerable to interference caused by sunspots. It was necessary to make the move immediately, since the height of the next sunspot cycle was expected in 1948–49.

Unfortunately for RCA, it’s difficult to destroy superior technology. Since FM didn’t go away RCA had to try a different tactic. They attempted to license the technology from Armstrong, but didn’t like his terms, so they stole it. RCA developed their own FM system,

RCA, which first ignored FM and then asked the FCC to rule it out of the airwaves, eventually accepted the new medium as a fact of life and started to manufacture FM receivers, as well as televisions with the required FM sound. Sarnoff had offered Armstrong a flat fee of $1,000,000 for a license to use his FM system when it was first approved for commercial use in 1940, but Armstrong preferred a royalty arrangement.

RCA used it’s wealth and the power of the US government to suppress Armstrong’s new technology. Did this effect the world? It’s hard to say. What would it have been like if Elvis and Buddy Holly had been broadcast in hi-fidelity FM?

Is history repeating itself? Are Internet giants like Google bending the FCC to their will in the name of Net Neutrality instead of sunspots? Is the market being abused by corporate profits and government corruption? If the FCC wasn’t above this kind of behavior in 1945, why do we think they are above it now?

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Did Flash Steal The Walking Dead Theme Song

Seems everyone is copying their music from someone else these days. Robin Thicke is in court defending his song Blurred Lines against allegations that it’s just a rip off of Marvin Gaye. Madonna is concerned that Lady Gaga’s Born This Way was a little too close to Express Yourself. Post Modern Jukebox gets copied by artists on the Voice UK. Where is the line between artistic expression and plagiarism.

This week I noticed another similarity between two theme songs.

New spinoff from Arrow for the 2014-2015 show The Flash has a remarkably similar theme song to The Walking Dead. The biggest difference is the tempo, but the signature string melody is very similar.

Here, listen for yourself:

What’s going on here? Was the composer for The Flash inspired by The Walking Dead?

Both series are based on comic books, but from different studios, so it seems unlikely that this would be some kind of backroom deal. If not, DC Comics, The Flash and the CW may be in trouble with AMC and Robert Kirkman…

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Penn State Professor Reviews American Sniper Without Watching It

The New Republic published an article yesterday that is a movie review of the new Bradly Cooper film American Sniper that dramatizes the actions of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. The writer, Dennis Jett, is a career diplomat and university professor. What makes this review so interesting is that Jett didn’t bother to see the movie and mentions that in the review.

Now, to be fair, he has read Chris Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, or at least he mentions it like he read it and doesn’t let us know if he didn’t read that either. Most movie reviewers likely haven’t read the book, but seriously, would it have been worth 2 hours of Jett’s live to watch the movie before critiquing it?

Jett makes an interesting analysis, that would be worthy of discussion if he had only bothered to see the movie he was writing about.

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AK-47 – The Gun that Changed the World

The Colt Single Action Army holds a place in history as “The Gun That Won the West”. The combination of reliability and power enabled the American settlers in the West to bring law an order to a wild, dangerous place.

Since then the only other gun with that kind of distinction is the AK-47. Ranking #26 on Businessweek’s The 85 Most Disruptive Ideas in Our History, the AK-47 brought tremendous firepower and reliability at a low cost to both freedom fighter and government thug.

The Low-Tech Gun That Changed Everything

26_politics_ak50_970…the strangest irony of all, given that it was produced by the Soviet Union, which could barely design a toaster: It almost never breaks. AKs made in the early 1950s are still in use in Afghanistan in the 21st century.

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Why Occupy Supporters Should Hate Uber

I have a cousin who is a emphatic Occupy supporter. He is constantly discussing why companies that want to profit are bad and minimum wage and other government regulations are good.

Today he shared a post about Uber. His Brother-in-law (who I suspect also slants liberal) is driving for them.

Uber is a wonderful service. If you aren’t familiar, Uber is a ridesharing company that uses the Internet and mobile apps to let people use their personal cars and drive others around. It’s a great opportunity for individuals who want to make a little extra cash and a great service that’s probably cheaper and more accessible than a taxi. Brilliant idea.

The thing is, Uber is completely capitalist and flies in the face of years of government regulation of the transportation industry. Taxi drivers have unionized and helped passed laws to protect their artificially inflated wages. The government has adopted these laws and transportation is one of the most highly regulated sectors of American industry.

This makes Uber the EXACT OPPOSITE of what every democrat, liberal, socialist or Occupy supporter wants! It is a total libertarian/conservative/tea party idea. Power to the people, no government regulation, freedom to do what you want with your car and your time.

Anyone who is liberal and loves Uber must either reconsider their position on Uber classic car insurance UK or reconsider their politics because they don’t mix.

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What $9k Dome Home Would Cost in America

Thai-Dome-Home-by-Steve-Areen-04It’s been all over Facebook. A guy named Steve Areen in Thailand built a “dome home” for about $9,000 in six weeks. Everyone is raving about how cheap, awesome and sustainable it is.

Why Can’t We Build Like This in America?

Steve’s house was cheap for a few reasons. He got the land for free, he’s in Thailand where materials are cheaper, Thailand doesn’t have the government regulation we have, Thailand has a tropical climate, he was able to do the work himself and not hire expensive skilled labor and finally the house is small with only two rooms and no garage. Steve is currently working on acquiring some land in Oregon to try and build another house. It will be interesting to see what kind of costs are involved there.

What Would This House Cost in Colorado

I’m in Colorado, and this is the area I know the most about, so here are some rough estimates of what the house would cost in Colorado just to pass inspection for occupancy.

Lot The best lot price I found in the area was $12,500 with water and sewer taps. That’s probably the cheapest you could get buy. There were some unimproved lots out on the prairie for $10,000, but they had a $9,500 water tap fee with them.

Foundation The dome home doesn’t appear to have any kind of foundation. That wouldn’t be legal here. You need soil testing and footers poured at a minimum. Probably another $10,000.

Permit Permits vary by city or county and by value of the dwelling. We are up to about $30k already and will top out above that. Looking at Weld County fees with Road Impact and Facility Impact fees, the total is going to be at least $3,600, over 1/3 of Steve’s original cost.

HVAC Code is going to require certain insulation values for construction materials and windows. Colorado also gets cold in the winter, so some kind of heating system will be required. Steve’s structure didn’t look like it had any heating or cooling. We should probably add another $10,000 for that.

Safety Steve’s rooftop patio, while awesome, wouldn’t meed any kind of US building codes. No railing on the stairs, no railing around the patios. Thatch roof construction could easily catch fire. There are multiple safety regulations that would need to be considered. Let’s budget another $10,000 for that.

HOA Requirements In Colorado all new subdivisions have to have an HOA. Most existing HOAs wouldn’t allow something like this house. Most HOAs specify that houses would have to include a garage or be a certain size. It’s hard to put a number on this, and it’s possible you might be able to find a lot without an HOA, but for large scale adoption of this type of construction it would be very difficult to abide by all the rules set by your neighbors.

Total House Costs

So to total it up:

Lot: $15,000
Foundation: $10,000
Permit: $3,500
HVAC: $10,000
Code Compliance: $10,000
Original cost: $9,000

Estimated Total: $57,500

These are only rough numbers, and you now have a house with no garage for your car and a location out in the middle of nowhere so you will need that car pretty badly. Building it in a city where you could actually walk to work and the grocery store and not need a care would likely cost $20k more, if you were allowed to build it at all.

$9k homes are amazing, but the same building would cost 8x as much or more here in Colorado, primarily due to the large number of rules we have created for ourselves. There are still places in this country that have more relaxed rules and allow for tiny homes, but for most of us we are better of with more standard construction.

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