What happens when part of a radio transmitting service listened to by over half the country needs to be replaced? That was a recent challenge for the BBC’s Research and Development team last year, and if you’re from the UK — you wouldn’t have noticed a single thing.
[Justin Mitchell] is a principle engineer in R&D at BBC, and just this past year had to transition the audio coding system installed in 1983 to new hardware due to failing circuit boards and obsolete components. The encoding is used to get audio from a central source to broadcasting towers all over the country. The team had to design and build a replacement module that would essentially replace an entire server rack of ancient hardware — and make it plug-and-play. Easy, right?
The new module called the NICAM Codec takes care of data combination, RDS data transmission (this is what displays song names on your car radio), the 6-channel audio coder, CRC inserters & checkers, decoding, and data splitting. It’s all based off of a Xilinx Zynq chip which uses both an FPGA and ARM processor, which had to comply with all European directives to be CE marked.
On November 20th 2015, the system was installed in the basement of the New Broadcasting House, and at 4:15AM the system went live without a hitch — and no one the wiser.
Are you part of an engineering team that solves problems the general population doesn’t even know exist? Do you have any stories about how you saved the day, and no one even knows it? Tell us about it!
[via Hacker News]