TBT: Tower Power!

Growing up, most kids enjoy playing sports or video games. For me, one of the things that peaked my interest was electronics, especially RF/Microwave systems.I grew up in a rural area with very few things to actually do. I would ride my bike, help mow the lawn, and spend the rest of the time on the internet learning about stuff. One of the things I learned was about the electromagnetic spectrum. RF and microwave systems peaked my interest, and I learned more about types of antennas, transmission systems, etc.

Little did I know something very interesting was in my backyard.

Every time we went to town, we passed by a lonely tower site. The tower was quite small, but supported itself and had four legs – unlike the popular guy-wire towers that were everywhere. Also unlike those towers, this tower had four giant “cornucopia horns” on top and a huge dish on the side. At the bottom was a white concrete block building.

The place I’m talking about is the Long Lines site in Slater, MO.

The site interested me as a kid partly because I had no idea what it was used for. It would be nearly another decade before I discovered its true purpose before it was sold. The even more interesting thing was that I found a nearly identical tower – albeit much larger – about thirty miles away. Same tower design, same horns, same base building. Another thing that interested me about the tower was the absence of a indicator light beacon on top.

Of course, I learned that the two sites were once a part of the national AT&T Long Lines network. The towers relayed microwave signals containing telephone calls, television broadcasts, and computer data between the 1950s and 1980s. The system was eventually replaced with newer, faster, and more reliable fiber optic technology.

I recently got a chance to revisit the site on July 16 to get pictures for the Long Lines section on my site. The horns have been removed, but the tower lives on. (Click here to learn more about the Slater site.)

This post written on the IBM ThinkPad T42.