In this ongoing series, Radio continues interviewing authors of the recently published 11th edition of the NAB Engineering Handbook. This time, Telos Alliance’s Kirk Harnack.
Radio magazine: Kirk, in chapter 4.5, you and Joe Talbot give a lot of historical background on the Public Switched Telephone Network, including POTS and ISDN. Would you foresee that same information being in the next edition of the handbook, or in 10 years will those services be nothing but ancient history?
Kirk Harnack: Indeed, we even debated whether to include POTS and ISDN technologies in this edition. We elected to be inclusive in the spirit of providing complete information, and to lend some perspective. We believe that both POTS and ISDN use will diminish to near zero in 5 to 10 years, limited to legacy equipment and connections.
Radio: VoIP is a perfect example of technology that crosses over between what has historically been in the realm of radio engineering, and the realm of IT. Do you notice any pushback against this technology from older engineering types?
Harnack: We’ve witnessed more “reluctance” than actual pushback, and this is expected with most any new and encroaching technology. Happily, when engineers do take the plunge into VoIP, they’re most often amazed at the variety of conveniences and audio quality improvements. Yes, the configuration and troubleshooting techniques are new to most, but with some experimentation and experience, both are quickly learned. Moreover, there are thousands of resources — both people and online resources — to tap for help.
Radio: Conversely, have you noticed IT staff gaining insight in to radio station functionality, for which they previously played no role?
Harnack: We have, indeed, noticed more IT people taking some interest in audio quality and 24/7 reliability. This is natural as more and more everyday systems are depending on proper IT operation. Moreover, we’re meeting new, younger IT workers who are seeing some glamor and excitement in broadcast operations; they want to be part of content creation and dissemination. I believe this improvement will continue, and will be the source for a new generation of broadcast engineers.
Radio: What would you consider to be the most important takeaway from chapter 4.5?
Harnack: The most important takeaway is that VoIP telephony is here to stay and becoming proficient in this tech is not just necessary, but rather rewarding and fun. Creating audio “circuits” virtually with IP connections over IP networks is, I believe, even more magical than creating them with point-to-point technologies — analog or digital.