McAdams On: Engineers, Guns and Money

HUSKERLAND: There’s a movement among broadcast engineers to get their own kind on the staffs of FCC commissioners. The commission has a tendency to defy the laws of physics, according to engineers who agree upon the laws of physics. If you are an engineer and you are reading this, you know darn well that if one engineer says, “the laws of physics are black and white,” another will say, “no, they are a multicolored array of pastels with neon edges.”

Which, let’s be honest, contributes greatly to engineer aversion by people with regular-sized brains.

It doesn’t help that the commission is comprised primarily of lawyers whose duty it is to create laws in opposition to those of nature. Barry Thomas of the Society of Broadcast Engineers notes that “social differences” between lawyers and engineers creates a natural “cultural chasm.” This cultural chasm nearly led to riots at University of Nebraska in May, 1927.

The skirmish began during Engineers’ Week when the engineers woke to discover their theme-week dirigible had been vandalized. Instead of “Engineers’ Week,” it read, “Pharmacy Week.” Pharmacy students were not suspected because they had more interesting things to do. A long-standing feud with law students convinced the engineers it was they who renamed the airship, and thus draped the law school with a massive “E-Week” sign. The law students, upon seeing it, proceeded to torch and dismember the ill-fated balloon. The engineers, upon seeing this, proceeded to “avenge the burning and wholesale destruction of their dirigible,” according to the Daily Nebraskan. The avenging continued into the week with a law frat house egging that turned into a brawl in which firefighters were engaged. Both schools charged each student 75 cents for damages.

This cautionary tale does not in any way advocate an FCC egging by broadcast engineers so that hacks such as myself can write about something besides spectrum. Honest.