Engineer Raul Camacho has been a member of the Arizona PBS team since 1988 — long enough to have seen a lot of changes and amassed a lot of stories.
“That was back when we would sign off at midnight,” he said. “We’d come in at five in the morning and turn it back on.”
While he also works on a wide array of equipment inside our building in Phoenix, Raul specializes in maintaining the station’s transmitters and antennas all over the state. When he started, the analog transmitters were air cooled, meaning that one of Raul’s first jobs on South Mountain was cleaning out swamp coolers — the less glamorous side of television! Changing out parts sometimes meant a trip to Northern Arizona in knee-deep snow.
“Now, as long as we maintain them in the summer and right before it snows, we go through the winter just fine, so that makes it easier,” Raul said. He and his colleagues visit the transmitter and antenna sites around 30 times a year.
Once, the engineering team learned that viewers were getting a weak signal, but with sporadic flashing. When Raul got to the site, he found that the antenna had broken off and the loose feed cable was acting as the antenna — accounting for the weak signal. When the wind blew it into another tower, it would create a shower of sparks.
“It was like, ‘Oh, I see why they’re seeing flashes!’” he said.
Unexpected puzzles like this keep Raul excited about his work.
“That’s what makes engineering fun,” he said. “You don’t do the same thing every day. I could be here all day, or I could get here and find out someone’s off the air — get the stuff, go out of town. It’s always a different thing.”