scratchytcarrier

Analog Weatherstar machines

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weatherstar
https://youtube.com/user/theweatherchazz/videos?flow=list
http://www.twcclassics.com/articles.php?title=weatherstar-3000-jr-timelines
http://web.archive.org/web/20030719202358/http://rhino.twc.weather.com/

Anybody on here have and use one of these things? (Hopefully doesn't have a ROM that's too badly deteriorated) What can be done with them nowdays, besides various demo/emulation and test modes, since Weather Channel discontinued their Videocipher feed a couple years ago, and (I assume) no longer stream data in the VBI on local cable systems?

I want to try and get my hands on a WS3 or 4000 someday (these are the type of system I remember seeing a lot of around here) but wonder if there's some way of streaming data off of NOAA's site and getting them into a format the Weatherstar would understand.

There *is* the Taiganet WS4000 simulator, but in its present form I don't have a machine powerful or compatible enough to run it. (From what i understand it has some pretty specific hardware and software demands.) This may change soon as they procede to overhaul the code base like they apparently are doing now.

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Assuming the graphics ROM use some relatively easy to understand format, I'd think about replacing some of the graphics with whatever you think fits best. If there's lots of opportunity for animations, maybe some dancing 8-bit video game characters? And something thematically appropriate, like chiptune music.

 

Considering the weird cult following these things have, one thing that would be really cool is figuring out the way the modem protocol works, maybe make a simple program to talk to the box, and encourage people to call in change the messages around. Not just to let people have a hands on experience playing with it, but also because people seem really, really fascinated by this, and like they're bound to go through great lengths to have the opportunity to interact with one.

 

EDIT: Looks like the 4000 uses some sort of sound samples too! I've had to identify my share of weird sound formats. If you ever get a copy of the ROM, lemme know and I can help you identify it.

Edited by ThoughtPhreaker
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Allegedly the 3 and I think the Jr. also could play audio samples. (Dan Chandler's talkovers initially debuted on the model 3.) I don't know if this was integrated like it was in the later 4000 or in another external machine tied to it and I don't ever recall hearing it firsthand on TV, but there are recordings floating around of it doing this. They also had a very primitive graphics mode for a little-used RADAR display thingy but any hope for animations would more be a thing for the 4000 I think, since it was designed for high/er resolution graphics. Ironically it too started out as a text-and-solids machine like the WS1-type machines were.

The real difficulty is getting them to get along with modern tech. On the satellite there was a FSK data stream above the audio carrier (kind of sounded like an old Bell modem) in addition to the data stream carried in the Weather Channel's VBI. I've heard of people getting them going using only the VBI stream since most cable companies simply passed it through to the customer premises. Since this is presumably not available any more, What we need is some sort of device that polls NOAA every so often (perhaps reading METAR-format reports and forecasts) and contains an NTSC video generator converting them to the VBI, and may or may not have a capability to say add video to it. (Maybe just superimposing its own VBI data onto a composite video input or a static card or just a black screen.) I don't think a Raspberry Pie would be remotely sufficient for the task and I wouldn't waste my money on those things anyways. Just saying.

And unfortunately I know too little about analog video hardware or designing circuits to make that work at this point...

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Do you have a teardown of any of the units? Chances are, if the FSK/PSK/whatever is being decoded by hardware, and it sounds like one of the Bell modulation types, it won't be hard at all to find the datasheet and figure out how to talk to it. Maybe for cost cutting reasons, they have some modem on a chip circuit (the TDK 73K212AL is a good example of one) answer the phone *and* receive satellite programming? Though it'd seem like a bad design decision to not let it receive both simultaneously.

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I don't have a teardown since I don't have one of the units, there was http://star.fru.me/ which had lots of photographs of IIRC WS3, 4000 and Jr. internals and some documentation and audio captures off the data subcarrier. Unfortunately I don't remember if it was all in root (site 403s on me) or in a subdirectory.

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Hi there,

I setup that star.fru.me site awhile ago. The Weather Channel stopped using VBI with the STAR III, where they switched to only an audio subcarrier. You would be correct in that it uses FSK. Any audio (except for the beeps during warning scrolls) were broadcasted nationally, at one point they used the left and right audio channel to keep the product narrations relevant between the 4000 and the III. The data is using a derivative of UK teletext. I have been working with this old hardware for awhile with a few good buddies of mine. If you have any questions feel free to ask and I'll see if I can answer.

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Hi...i am a new user here. As per my knowledge the Weather Channel has no way of knowing who receives their signal on what equipment unless said equipment answers back to them. 

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