WTVT Mobile Units

WTVT Chief Engineer Bill Witt designed and built this versatile mobile unit in 1959.
Photo courtesy Earl Higgins



WTVT's first mobile unit was a small truck similar in size to one of our present-day UPS vehicles.  Designed as a turnkey setup by RCA, television stations could purchase Model #TJ-50A, a unit ready-made with all the necessary equipment for producing remotes including two cameras, a switcher, and a microwave transmitter to relay the signal back to the station.  

RCA's camera package as seen in a corporate brochure

WTVT's remotes were limited to areas within line-of-site of the station's original single-mast tower, or there would be no reception of the microwave signal.  

In 1955 Tampa, there were no buildings tall enough to make a microwave relay practical beyond certain distances.  That changed in the 60's when WTVT mounted a microwave relay on Tampa's downtown First Financial Bank. 

By the late 1950's, the mobile unit hauled its own antenna truss with the microwave positioned on top.  Other times, the microwave dish was positioned on scaffolds or roofs, as seen at left.



Ed Shaw, Bill Rennie, and Walter Rhoads inside Channel 13's first mobile unit.
Rennie selects different cameras from a small RCA switcher.

The mobile unit was not very practical for breaking news stories.  In addition to the line-of-sight limitation, the RCA TK-31 image orthicon cameras used vacuum tubes that required a half hour to warm up and stabilize.  Parades, sporting events, and remotes from the Florida State Fair were the mobile unit's main duties in the early years.