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Who has seen the film "A Blast from the Past"?

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  • GRAHAM TAYLOR
    Has anyone seen the excerpt/trailers for a tacky looking (but perhaps also quite funny?) American film (sorry, movie) called A Blast from the Past ? The
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 15, 1999
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      Has anyone seen the excerpt/trailers for a tacky looking (but perhaps also
      quite funny?) American film (sorry, movie) called "A Blast from the Past"?

      The unlikely story is about an apple-pie all-American couple and their son
      who take to their own under-condo nuclear bunker at the height of the Cuban
      missile crisis, and (here's the very unlikely bit) stay locked-down for
      thirty years, as patriotic citizens accidently cut-off from reality
      (whatever that is) obeying the last orders they received before their
      transistor radio went phut. The main thrust of the story is, inevitably,
      about the (allegedly) hilarious antics of the son, who as a kind-of
      nylon-shirted 1960 defrosted caveman applies both a retro dress-sense and a
      home-spun mindset to a number of fairly predictable contemporary encounters
      (no, I didn't watch it, the excerpt /trailer was *just* about enough for
      me).

      But it got me thinking: how truly unlikely was it as a concept? Did it ever
      happen?

      I obviously don't mean the bit about thirty years underground by accident:
      what about even thirty minutes, *believed* to be *for real*? Did it ever
      happen, even for a short time, for real?

      I don't think the jungles of Asia will shake-out many more Japanese
      soldiers on extended E+E, but at the actual time of the Cuban missile
      crisis, my parents tell me that the real feeling even in the UK was one of
      seriously waiting for the end of the world to happen. How many people did
      actually jump the gun, and take to the shelters? If, by some chance, they
      were to have lost all comms (but stored enough beer) I wonder how long
      someone *would* have waited before popping the hatch?

      Has anyone got any personal memories, or cuttings on this, or did no-one,
      anywhere, anytime, go down below decks on a false alarm?

      Graham Taylor
      taylor23@...
    • Albert LaFrance
      Graham, I don t know of anyone in the US actually taking shelter due to a false belief that a nuclear attack was imminent. I think the closest we ve come was
      Message 2 of 5 , Aug 24, 1999
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        Graham,

        I don't know of anyone in the US actually taking shelter due to a false
        belief that a nuclear attack was imminent. I think the closest we've come
        was sometime in the 1980s(?), when an attack warning was accidentally sent
        to radio and TV broadcasting stations. My recollection of this incident is
        very vague, so I could be wrong about some/all of the facts. The stations
        were supposed to interrupt their regular programming and issue emergency
        civil-defense instructions. I think very few stations complied; most
        managers didn't believe the warning was real, especially since there had
        been no prior escalation of international tensions.

        As I recall, the false transmission was caused by a technician at a
        government facility (Cheyenne Mountain?) mistakenly running an
        attack-warning paper tape on a teleprinter, instead of the intended routine
        test message.

        There have also been incidents where early-warning systems gave false
        alarms, but I think all the problems were resolved before the civilian
        media were alerted.

        ...Albert

        From: GRAHAM TAYLOR <TAYLOR23@...>

        <SNIP>
        >Has anyone got any personal memories, or cuttings on this, or did no-one,
        >anywhere, anytime, go down below decks on a false alarm?
      • Dave Emery
        ... You have it correct. For many many years the AP and UPI low speed (60 wpm/45.45 baud) broadcast station newswires had special hardware provisions in their
        Message 3 of 5 , Aug 24, 1999
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          On Tue, Aug 24, 1999 at 11:21:32PM -0400, Albert LaFrance wrote:
          > From: Albert LaFrance <ALaFrance@...>
          >
          > Graham,
          >
          > I don't know of anyone in the US actually taking shelter due to a false
          > belief that a nuclear attack was imminent. I think the closest we've come
          > was sometime in the 1980s(?), when an attack warning was accidentally sent
          > to radio and TV broadcasting stations. My recollection of this incident is
          > very vague, so I could be wrong about some/all of the facts. The stations
          > were supposed to interrupt their regular programming and issue emergency
          > civil-defense instructions. I think very few stations complied; most
          > managers didn't believe the warning was real, especially since there had
          > been no prior escalation of international tensions.
          >
          > As I recall, the false transmission was caused by a technician at a
          > government facility (Cheyenne Mountain?) mistakenly running an
          > attack-warning paper tape on a teleprinter, instead of the intended routine
          > test message.
          >
          > There have also been incidents where early-warning systems gave false
          > alarms, but I think all the problems were resolved before the civilian
          > media were alerted.

          You have it correct. For many many years the AP and UPI low
          speed (60 wpm/45.45 baud) broadcast station newswires had special
          hardware provisions in their VFT telephone line networks to allow a TTY
          message from Norad headquarters at Cheyanne Mountain to automaticaly cut
          in and override the relayed news feed from the wire services. I think
          there were actually several relay points distributed throughout the AT&T
          leased line network each of which had relay circuitry to cut in the feed
          from Norad so there was redundancy. The stations all got their AP or
          UPI signals from a huge leased line AT&T network that spanned the whole
          country and reached almost every little hamlet with a radio station or
          newspaper with a leased voice circuit with 24 channels of multiplexed
          VFT fsk teletype signals on it. These multiplexed VFT networks were
          regional and fed from news beauruax of the wire services in major hub
          cities where the local news was added to the national news and the local
          newspaper news wires addeed to to the stream along with relaying the
          national news wires from NYC.

          And all radio stations were issued official sealed envelopes
          with authenticator code words in them to enable them to determine that a
          message from Norad was the real thing. These codewords, similar to
          rotating military call signs were random words chosen from a list that
          were changed every so often (I think every day, but memory fades). They
          came in a fancy envelope with big letters on it in red and black, and
          were required to be kept guarded at the station and stored near the news
          TTY machine. Unsealing them except in emergency was a criminal
          violation, and I vaguely think they collected them back after use to
          make sure. Each envelope had 15 or 30 days of callsigns in it and
          there were two lists, one for a warning and one for recalling a warning,
          and some call signs for tests. I think the list of authenticators for
          tests was in a different envelope you were allowed to open and post -
          you only got to open the real codeword envelope after seeing an open
          codeword that said this is a real message...

          The important part of all of this is that every day they tested
          the EBS notification system by sending a TTY message with the test
          codeword on it saying this is a test and if there was an actual
          emergency this message would contain the emergency codeword and an
          emergency message from national command authorities. This was usually
          sent some hour that there wasn't a lot of news, and came over every day
          at about the same time. People got used to seeing it, along with the
          ringing of the TTY bell every morning to indicate the message was
          important. I think at one time one was supposed to actually log
          reception of the message in the station log...

          And apparently they had a military tech sgnt type punch two
          tapes every day, one with the authenticator for the test and the test
          message, and one with the authenticator for the real thing and a
          general message saying that this was not a test and to stand by for
          further instructions as a national emergency was in progress. I
          guess they figured that by the time the slow tty circuit printed the
          boilerplate message someone would have figured out what to send to tell
          people to get them to duck and cover...

          The obvious happened, and the wrong tape got stuffed into the 28
          ASR at Norad. It was sent out at the usual time for sending the test
          message and a lot of stations ignored it, but it had the correct
          authenticator code word for an attack and few people saw it and
          completely freaked. At least one station went to solid hymes and
          funeral music and some others left the air entirely. And of course
          because so many assumed it was the usual test message many other
          stations continued their radio shows as if nothing at all had happened.

          This incident happened in the early or mid 70s - I think around
          1974 plus or minus... and the wire services were most upset. They had
          been forced to allow Norad to connect directly to their wires,
          overriding the news feed from the wire service and were not pleased that
          there was nothing they could do about the message and no way to stop its
          transmission even though on a slow TTY machine it took several minutes
          to send it. The upshot was that the direct overide hardware was
          disconnected and the wire services given the responsibility to validate
          and relay EBS messages.

          I believe also that the FCC and the relevant military agencies
          responsible for emergency preparedness were also very unhappy about the
          fact that so many stations ignored the message or responded to it in
          ways that were not consistant with the rules and what they were expected
          to do.

          As for what other provisions existed for other places to
          directly send traffic on the broadcast news wires other than Norad I
          never learned. One suspects that Mount Weather probably could, and
          perhaps other facilities.

          There were two generations of technology that supported this,
          originally the AP and UPI wires were distributed as DC telegraph circuits
          and the orignal cutins were no doubt part of the VFT network at AT&T
          central offices that supported the DC telegraph lines for the wire
          services. But in the late 60s all of this got changed over from
          multiple DC telegraph circuits to a single 24 channel VFT multiplex
          over a voice grade channel which originated at the wire service.
          In recent years satellite communications have been used to replace
          a lot of this, and more recently internet connections.



          --
          Dave Emery N1PRE, die@... DIE Consulting, Weston, Mass.
          PGP fingerprint = 2047/4D7B08D1 DE 6E E1 CC 1F 1D 96 E2 5D 27 BD B0 24 88 C3 18
        • GRAHAM TAYLOR
          Graham Taylor GM6JDZ writes: This is fascinating- I seriously expected Hollywood to have devised these false DEFCON alert type of movie plots without *any*
          Message 4 of 5 , Aug 25, 1999
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            Graham Taylor GM6JDZ writes:
            This is fascinating- I seriously expected Hollywood to have devised these
            "false DEFCON alert" type of movie plots without *any* real basis in fact.

            Dave, you have provided us with a lot of detail as to how the wireline
            override system worked, and the paper codecheck mechanism: I had no idea
            (as a 'european', and hence notionally closer to what would have(?) been a
            cold war ground zero) how much of a war footing the actual mainland USA
            must have been on in the 70s and 80s.

            The HANDLE network in the UK (for warning of Air Attack Red and the All
            Clear) certainly had some degree of human operator input (at what were
            termed Carrier Control Points based at major Police HQs), but the national
            siren system was largely operated by a serial subcarrier tone sequence that
            I understand was kicked-off by a votive system tied-in to NORAD and the
            principal air operations centre.
            I am not aware of any 'falsing' in all the decades of British stand-by, but
            something tells me that it must have hapened even by the law of
            averages......

            I think it has already been covered on this mailgroup, but is it the case
            that the EBS does still exist for the main purpose of attack warnings for
            the US. On the other side of the coin, does anyone know about the final
            days(?) of SKYKING and GIANTTALK?

            Dave Emery N1PRE and Albert La France wrote:
            Message text written by INTERNET:coldwarcomms@onelist.com
            >> There have also been incidents where early-warning systems gave false
            > alarms, but I think all the problems were resolved before the civilian
            > media were alerted.

            You have it correct. For many many years the AP and UPI low
            speed (60 wpm/45.45 baud) broadcast station newswires had special
            hardware provisions in their VFT telephone line networks to allow a TTY
            message from Norad headquarters at Cheyanne Mountain to automaticaly cut
            in and override the relayed news feed from the wire services.<
          • Dave Emery
            ... It has just been replaced with an entirely new system called EAS. This uses FSK data at higher baud rates (around 1200 baud but not exactly 1200 baud)
            Message 5 of 5 , Aug 25, 1999
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              On Wed, Aug 25, 1999 at 03:14:24AM -0400, GRAHAM TAYLOR wrote:
              > From: GRAHAM TAYLOR <TAYLOR23@...>
              >
              > I think it has already been covered on this mailgroup, but is it the case
              > that the EBS does still exist for the main purpose of attack warnings for
              > the US.

              It has just been replaced with an entirely new system called
              EAS. This uses FSK data at higher baud rates (around 1200 baud but not
              exactly 1200 baud) sent after the dual alerting tones on broadcast
              stations. Contained in the data stream are rich formats of messages in
              extended ASCII text formats that can be displayed on individual LCD
              screens such as weather radios (that use this format on a special VHF
              frequency) and computer screens and even suitably equipped TVs and PCs.
              Messages carry codes identifying what they are warning about (like
              floods and tornados) and what areas they cover (counties in most of the
              US). This allows messages to be targeted at subsets of the listening
              population and sent with different levels of priority.

              And the distribution of EAS messages in an area has been completely
              changed from the chains of stations that used to relay EBS messages.
              Stations have EAS terminals that display messages from the stations they
              monitor and other sources and allow encoding of local messages to be
              sent out on their signal.

              While this new system does the same basic things as the EBS, it
              works rather differently... and offers a whole lot of new capabilities.


              --
              Dave Emery N1PRE, die@... DIE Consulting, Weston, Mass.
              PGP fingerprint = 2047/4D7B08D1 DE 6E E1 CC 1F 1D 96 E2 5D 27 BD B0 24 88 C3 18
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