End of an era in TV viewing

By Roger Moroney

On September 30, in the middle of the night, Hastings radio communications technician David Walker is likely to be standing on a wind-swept hilltop south of the city and preparing to throw a switch - to the "off" position.

"I expect I'll be involved in turning off the transmitter," Mr Walker said as analogue television signals into Hawke's Bay, around midnight on that date, are shut down forever.

Another radio communications man, Ivan Small, was involved in the first stages of setting up the first television transmitter into the Napier-Hastings area 50 years ago, back in 1962.

Mr Walker said: "I was only 12 years old then, so didn't know anything about it."

But, years later, after entering the radio communications field himself, he came across a magazine about the appliance industry - about radios and, of course, television.

Through it, he tracked down Mr Small (now happily retired and living in Taupo) and began finding out about how television came to be in the Bay.

It was around November, 1962 when a meeting of industry people decided to begin broadcasting television into Napier and Hastings homes. Appliance dealers got aboard the television bandwagon, and work began on a wind-swept and remote site at Kahuranaki - a 640m peak about 18km south of Hastings.

Mr Small was drafted in to be part of the television team, and in April 1963 he set up the modest translator station, which had 5 watts of analogue signal which came in from Kaukau in Wellington.

In technical terms, the translator transmitted the basic analogue signal via a vertical corner reflector aerial which had been built by a fellow technician, Peter Bone.

The communications for the set-up tests were done to and from Kahuranaki/Hastings via a commercial simplex VHF service.

While Mr Walker was only a boy at the time, he had since been to the sites which were used as translators for transmission into the Bay, and said Kahuranaki was "challenging" to those who went there when required.

The wind and rain would become so furious at times that water leaked through the weatherboards.

"So it was re-clad with sheet metal."

Soon after the television installation, the Kahuranaki site also became home to a major Post Office 100mhz land mobile repeater site, but within two years changes were already in the wind as television began to spread its way across a greater area.

In late 1965, a new translator and aerials were set up on Te Mata Peak, which was much closer to Hastings/Napier, with the input signals then being delivered from Wharite in the Manawatu.

But within a year the Te Mata site was closed down after the then NZBC began transmitting from Mt Erin in 1966.

A transmitter for television's TV4 section was also set up on a hill between Mt Erin and Pakipaki, and it is that one that Mr Walker is likely to head to, in the dark of night, at the end of next month to close the analogue transmitter down.

Signals would then be digital only.

"I'm all for it," Mr Walker said.

He has been on terrestrial Freeview off Mt Erin for the past two-and-a-half years, and said when beamed into a new digital television he and his wife bought (after their faithful old unit of 16 years expired) it was remarkable: "I couldn't believe my eyes - it is that good."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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