On Sat, 25 Aug 2018, Frank wrote:
The "TRUMP" administration's planned elimination of WWV/WWVH popped up
on NPR's Weekend Edition. Scott Simon interviewed Tom Witherspoon of
the SWLing Post. Witherspoon said, as the bill is written, ALL of the
time stations are scheduled to be gone. A spokesman for clockmaker
LaCrosse said he believed that Congress would not pass a bill which
killed the time sync for 50 million clocks.
Here's the link to Weekend Edition:
Scroll down to:
What Closing A Government Radio Station Would Mean For Your Clocks
As a foreigner, it's hard to follow this. What I thought was going on was
that the US government told NIST they have to cut some things, so this is
what the NIST decided wasn't "valuable".
But it's propagated badly. One site says WWV/WWVH, and others include
WWVB, while other sites say "WWVB seems to be not included". I think WWVB
wasn't mentioned by name in the original document (I haven't read it all),
but is done because it does mention self setting clocks in some way.
ANd the problem is that while WWV and WWVH mean a lot to radio hobbyists,
reality is that a lot of the purpose of those stations, nostalgia aside,
have been replaced by other things. Even in 1971, when Heathkit
introduced its first frequency counter, they suggested that the crystal
time base could be beated against a local broadcast station to get it
"right on". There can be disadvantages to that, WWV would leave some
space in the minute with only ticks to make beating easier, but surely
nowadays local AM broadcast stations are even more accurately on frequency
than fifty years ago.
But WWVB, kind of hidden in all this, is used by endless consumer clocks.
I can remember when there were projects in the hobby magazines to make use
of WWVB, mostly as a frequency standard, and then at some ponit 20 or
maybe 30 years ago, suddenly lots of consumer clocks that used it to set
their time, and they just kept getting cheaper. I paid about $20 ten
years ago for my Casio Waveceptor watch, and it's useful in multiple
countries, not just the US. Not only are those common, but just a few
years ago NIST added a second modulation scheme, to improve the station's
useage in "fringe" areas, though you needed a new clock to make use of
that second modulation scheme. At that point, they said that WWVB is no
longer seen as a frequency standard, but exists for the purpose of setting
all those clocks in consumer use.
But it's been vague and depending on how you look at it, maybe WWVB isn't
included, while from another angle, the fact that it's not specifically
mentioned either means ignoring the most important part of this cutback,
or an indicator that it's not included.
I've seen followup messages saying "oops, we checked with NIST and WWVB is
But if you check google, this is not a mainstream story. It's a radio
hobbyist story, so the most important message may not be getting out. I
mentioned that in a comment at Thomas's swling.com blog and he added
anotehr post specifically dealing with WWVB, and presumably from that got
on NPR. That is still the most mainstream place that's covering this
I realize most people don't need accurate time. But the funny thnig is,
in "the old days" an average home would have a few clocks and some
watches. But the move to digital meant endless things included clocks,
the micorwave, the tv set, maybe that stereo system, the MP3 player, the
computer and so on. The exact time doesn't matter, but suddenly instead
of having a single clock in the house, you've got multiple clocks, and
most of them aren't on the same time, either because setting them is too
much trouble, or they drift badly. Which clock is "most right" in terms
of time? If you had only one, you'd assume it was good enough, but once
you have clocks everywhere, it nags at you. I think that's the context of
WWVB clocks, it doesn't completely solve the problem until every clock is
self setting, but it gives you one clock that is always "right". I ahve a
few, and the Casio watch, and they always show the same time if they've
been self-setting properly.
This will take this away.