My friend Joe D’Aleo (co-founder of the Weather Channel with the late great John Coleman) have written a fantastic book. John made a lot of headway on the book just before he died, and Joe took it to completion. Joe writes:
The Weather Channel was the realization of a dream of one incredible man that became a shared vision of a large team of wonderful, courageous and talented individuals that assembled from all corners of the country in many different disciplines to undertake something special and unprecedented.
We like to call these unique people the “Weather Channel Pioneers”. To pave that road to success in the early days, we pulled off everyday miracles, overcame many obstacles and changed the paradigms for technology, the delivery of life-saving information and on-air weather presentations all while informing and entertaining our viewers. It was a time and a team like no other. In this book, we immortalize that effort with their personal stories and memories of that incredible journey.
Current Weather Channel meteorologist, Jim Cantore, offered this review:
“Even though I didn’t start my TWC journey until 1986, I had no idea as a young man of 22 years what a wonderful opportunity I had been given to learn about life and meteorology from many of these TWC Pioneers. There are too many to name, but dozens of these men and women had a profound and lasting influence on the broadcaster I am today. What an incredible trip down memory lane revisiting the heart and soul of The Weather Channel as it was being born and as it became one of the most trusted brands in the world. These TWC pioneers didn’t just start a cable TV weather channel, they saved lives and created a mission of service which still resonates with millions of people to this day.”
I had a hand in the early TWC success. I’ll never forget the first time I saw TWC. It was at the county fair at the business pavilion, and a local company was selling “satellite TV”.
They had their display tuned to “The Weather Channel” and I must have stood there a full 30 minutes watching it. I was mesmerized. I knew then I wanted to be a part of it somehow, and later, my own dream came true when I provided equipment to initially get WSI satellite images into their Quantel still store (which handled the on-air sequences) and later via an IBM PC, which had the very first PC based computer frame-buffer graphics card with a Genlock capable (used to synchronize to the other TV devices) RGB to NTSC encoder to make composite video and keep it synchronized with the other video devices in the studio. It’s something that I was thrilled to design.
Note the “breadboarding area” on the top card. The reason was that some video switchers (like models from Grass Valley Group) had a specific requirement for horizontal blanking width, which sometimes differed based on the setup at the TV studio. In the digital to analog world, sometimes I’d have to design analog circuitry “on the fly” to compensate for these nuances so that when this device was switched to while in the chroma-key, there wasn’t a slight horizontal tick, but a seamless transition. Back then, making NTSC television work reliably was a bit of an art-form.
That story is in the book, as told by John Coleman. There’s many other stories where they had to improvise and create things that didn’t exist. Mind you, when TWC first started, the way National Weather Service disseminated weather information was by Teletype running at 58.65 baud (there’s a whole untold story behind that weird number too) and wide-format wet paper fax machines sold by Alden Corporation, which produced output that looked like this:
What TWC did back then and the demands they made, changed the way the NWS did business with the public – and for the better.
I was honored to be working with the TWC team back then, and while I would have loved to be on-air, circumstances at the time just didn’t mesh. But I did gain two life-long friends; Joe D’Aleo and John Coleman, who joined me in the fight against the often ridiculous climate change arguments we fight here daily.
This book is dedicated to the pioneers. It’s a profile in vision, innovation, and courage. I highly recommend it.
Available on Amazon, HERE