Wednesday, November 09, 2011

From garbled to Gaga

One o'clock. Time for Wednesday's much-hyped national test of the Emergency Alert System.

If this had been an actual national emergency, fjoeifjwf oisjfeo wp pwidp qw of eoijr qyuqw wqlkd pt wot tjwaki JK ksdt jlsa bah fleekum.

A nuclear atta . . . O doeiujf wqi djk you gottqa OSIFD dke eommd ss woww jkdp . . . all going to die, according eo al jdsa j New York Times:

At 2 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, during the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, all television channels and radio stations in the United States were supposed to be interrupted by piercing emergency tones. Not a song by Lady Gaga.

But as tests often go, there were some failures, with viewers and listeners in many states saying they saw and heard the alerts at the scheduled time, while others did not. Some DirecTV subscribers said they heard Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” when the test was under way. Some Comcast subscribers in northern Virginia said their TV sets were switched over to QVC before the alert was shown.

The federal agencies charged with testing the alert system found that there were flaws, particularly in the system’s connections to cable and satellite distributors. In some cases, the test messages were delayed, perhaps because they were designed to trickle down from one place — the White House in this case — to thousands of stations and distributors.

In Los Angeles, some viewers said the alert, intended for 30 seconds, lasted for almost half an hour; in New York, some viewers didn’t see it at all. But many others reported that the alert arrived right on time and ended right away.

HERE IN OMAHA, otherwise known as Ground Zero with U.S. Strategic Command headquarters just south of town, the national EAS test started late and the audio was horribly garbled, like an aural Tower of Babel of static and overdubs. If this is technological progress in attack warning, perhaps it's time to resurrect Conelrad.

Conelrad, the nation's first broadcast-warning mechanism, at least passed several national tests, the first coming in 1953, shortly after its implementation. Here's a Sept. 21, 1953, Broadcasting-Telecasting account of the previous week's initial test of the warning system:

SURE, FM or TV stations couldn't stay on the air under the Conelrad system, but then again, the last sound you heard before being vaporized wouldn't be Lady Gaga, either.

That's not nothing.

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