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Getting Underway

How this craziness all began

Note: There are no pictures on this page.

I lived in Rochester, New York for over 12 years, and for the most part enjoyed it. Of course, one of the major things that happened while I lived there is getting into broadcast equipment collecing, especially of antique videotape machines. This collection quickly became known as 'Quadruplex Park', after a Steven Spielberg film of similar title. (At least none of my machines have an appetite for anything more than power and an occasional tape!) Of all the possible things I could choose to collect, I would have to pick something that is big, heavy and can't move under it's own power!

Of course, given enough time, job fortunes will change, and so it is with me. A well-known and respected engineer by the name of Tom Werner was leaving the public TV station, KNPB, in Reno, Nevada. (The IVC 810 in the collection came from Tom.) This seemed like an opportunity, so I checked it out. The situation was ideal for me: a hands-on Chief Engineer at a small-but-nice facility. The biggest problem: moving a house full of large, heavy videotape machines and all their support equipment across the country!

Before I even considered applying for the job, I needed to make sure that a move like this was feasable given my financial circumstances. Very luckily, my neighbor was an over-the-road truck driver with his own equipment. After consulting with him, it was determined that a move like I contemplated could be done with minimal problems and reasonable cost. It still would not be easy.

I then applied for the job, and much to my pleasant surprise, was eventually asked to fly out for an interview. I quickly found Reno to be a really beautiful area, with plenty of activities to be involved with. Two minor but important things helped steer me more and more towards taking the job: The first was that a good internet friend of mine that keeps lions lives not far from Reno. The second is that one of the employees of KNPB is a gentleman by the name of Charles Anderson. If you will read the VTR Theory page on the Quadruplex Park website, you will find out that this is the same Charles Anderson who helped invent the videotape machine!

Well, I got the job offer-- sort of. They decided (very wisely) to promote the existing Assistant Chief Engineer, Fred Ihlow, to the Chief's job. But, they liked me so much that they made me a heck of an offer for the Assistant Chief Engineer's job, including help with moving the 'museum'! (They were aware of the 'museum' even before I applied. Even the receptionist knew about it the very first time I called, and before I ever applied!) I cast fate to the wind and took the job!

Just as an aside, it is amazing how the Internet has changed things when it comes to job hunting. No fancy, bond paper resume was ever needed. Much of the interview was done by email. There was very little done even over the phone!

Preparing for the move of the century!

I decided that the best way to tackle the overwhelming problem of getting the quad machines and the other heavy stuff out of the house was to throw a party. I would get a bunch of friends over, form teams to each disassemble and move a machine, and then reassemble it outside where we could get at it with a forklift. When everything was done, there would be a massive feed for everyone involved. To this I would add a rummage sale, and a mini-hamfest. So, I set a date for this event even before my final days at my previous employer, and promoted the daylights out of it. I also sent notices out on one of the ham listservs, and put announcements on some of the ham nets. I even put an announcement out on the Ampex Audio Enthusiasts listserv, which attracted no small amount of interest! The date set was Saturday, August 19th.

Meanwhile, I had the entire rest of the house to pack. I decided early on that the use of uniform sized boxes would make the job easier. However, the local firms that sold cardboard boxes wanted way too much money for them. So, I turned to the Internet. There I found a company called Ship-It that had virtually everything I needed. Their prices were also very reasonable (But it still was expensive!) and they filled orders the day they were placed. I decided on two basic box sizes: A general purpose 24 x 12 x 12 box, and a 20 x 20 x 6 box for rackmount stuff, which there was a considerable amount of. Because of my underestimating the magnitude of this project, I ended up placing three orders with them for boxes. I also ordered a cse of shipping tape from them. A 36 roll case of tape seems like a lot, but it was about right for the job. You also got a free tape dispenser with the case of tape.

After my lst day at my old job, which was not a good day for me, I took two days to relax, have fun and 'veg out'. I ended up spending a good deal of this time at a friend's campsite, where it rained most of the time. The beautiful rainfall, and the peace and quiet gave me time to just relax and read books.

It is now Monday, July 31st, 2000, and the move got underway in earnest. Much pre-prep was required to get the move going, and it occupied a good part of the first day. But overall, it went smoother than expected and I was done early. I then decided to start with the basement, which would be by far the hardest room to pack. So, at around 4 PM, I started packing my first box. The contents was various pieces of WR90 waveguide needed for the future 10 GHz amateur microwave station. It's funny how your best-laid plans can be totally shattered by one event. This box, which should have taken 20 minutes to pack, took 2 hours! The waveguide absolutely refused to be disassembled! I was completely discouraged by this, and relaxed the rest of the evening. Little did I know that this was the beginning of one of the most frustrating things I ever did!

The next day was slow to get going, as some prior contractural arrangements had to be resolved. By the time I was able to really get going, I packed a whopping five boxes. Then, it rained.

So, the first week went agonizingly slow. As I finished packing a box, it would be stacked outside on some jury-rigged pallets I arranged in the back yard. Everything was covered in plastic to keep it dry. The weather was hot and humid, and it rained an awful lot. Some days, I was lucky to get two quality hours outside. The humidity was so high that boxes were collapsing just from the humidity. I had to go to extreme measures to dry the stacked boxes each day. My time to pack each day was stopped each day not by nightfall, but by when the dew got heavy enough to start soaking the cardboard! All in all, it was a character-building experience. One day, I had a friend come over and help, which really helped get things back on track. As the weekend approached, the rain let off a bit, and I was able to make really good progress.

By Saturday afternoon, I had essentially reached the goal I had set at the beginning of the week, with 80 boxes packed. However, this was deceptive, as I was still packing VTR parts and little else. I realized that even though I had acheived my goal, I was still behind where I should be. Nevertheless, I took a 30 hour break to participate in the August UHF contest. This would be the last operation of a station I had spent years building. I realized that I would probably not have a station of my own for one or two years, and it would have to be painstakingly built back up again. I enjoyed the time on the air, and hated to see it end.

The next week was only a little easier. The weather still was a major problem. But, the bigger problem that week turned out to be a neighbor who filed a complaint about the accumulating stacks of boxes in the backyard. I also had a lot of junk that I was just piling outside to dispose of later, and there was a good deal of junk already outside that had been there for years. In any case, the town building inspector ordered I drop what I was doing and clean up what they precieved as a public nuisance. They also gave me an unreasonable time frame to do it in. I had no choice but to order an expensive construction dumpster right then and there, and deal with their demands in the course of other things. (I had planned to get rid of the junk a different way.) As it turns out, this was a blessing in disguise. By the time it was removed, I had managed to almost fill a 20 yard construction dumpster with nearly 4 tons of unwanted junk!

The next big project was books. I am a habitual book collector, and my downfall is bookstores and book sales. I also had a huge, uncatalogued collection of manuals for my broadcast equipment. So, it was now Friday, August 11th. The weather was forecast to be nice for the next three days, so every book in the house was brought outside and lined up in the driveway. This process (Already a week behind schedule) took me and the son of a friend 7 hours! I would have never guessed that this would have been such a massive project. There was no time left at the end of the day to sort any books, so I lightly covered them and went to bed. (Actually, I didn't get to bed early. A friend of mine came over and dubbed videotapes with the AVR-1 in the middle of the night. Eventually, I went to bed while he continued his dubs. He left about 4 AM.)

The next morning, I woke up th the last sound I wanted to hear. Rain! Half awake, I dashed outside to find the plastic had blown off many of the books. I quickly re-covered the books, and the rain stopped. Then, it started again, only much harder. I hoped it would stop, but it didn't. An unforecasted downpour! Since my driveway runs downhill, the water had no trouble getting under the plastic. I ended up using every bath towel I owned to build a dam for the water above the book area. The rain contined to fall, and indeed, it rained steadily for 5 or 6 hours. Since I was helpless to do anything, and totally frustrated, I decided to go to a ham meeting which I would have otherwise skipped. It was a good thing; it would be the last time to act in my official capacity as Chairman of the Rochester VHF Group. It would also be the last time I would get to see many of my VHF friends.

By late afternoon, things had dried up enough that I could open the book area. I was apalled by what I found. Many of my favorite books had been the last to be brought outside. These were at the top of the upslope, and had sustained the most damage. Many had to be thrown away; I salvaged those that were either worth salvaging or were hard to replace. In any case, these books will forever be marred by what would prove to be the low point of the move process.

I took no more chances with books; everything got sealed up tight when I was done. This was worth it, as it did rain heavily again. I also added extra plastic to everything else, as the storms were predicted to be severe. Luckily, there was no high winds. I worked long and hard at the books, eventually packing more than 40 boxes of them. Even so, I eliminated nearly a third of them. By Sunday afternoon, all the books were finally packed!

The next week was the week leading up to the Quad disassembly party. the goal that week was to get everything upstairs packed, and have time left over to do some preliminary disassembly. But, in keeping with the nature of this project, everything ran in slow motion.

I made good progress on Monday and Tuesday, but was severely hampered by some remaining contractual stuff that simply refused to be easily fufilled. By this time, I was using one of my friend's sons every day. (This gave him some really badly needed money as well. What teen has a surplus of money?) By the time Friday rolled around, the most difficult room upstairs was done, the shack/shop. Like evrything else, there was far more stuff there than I ever anticipated. Thursday and Friday morning were the last times I would have use of the construction dumpster, so I worked really hard to throw out anything that i knew would not be going. I made the painful decision to throw out some of the redundant and 'basket case' equipment in the museum collection. Some of this I now regret.

Friday afternoon and evening, I worked feverishly to get things ready for the big party the next day. By midnight, I was ready, but just barely.

Next: The Great Quad Disassembly Party!

Next Chapter: The Quad Disassembly Party!
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