TV Cries Wolf

Chris van Rossman got an unexpected knock on his door one Saturday night last October. He opened the door and found himself standing face-to-face with a local police officer, several U.S. Air Force men, and a deputy from the county search-and-rescue office. They were responding to an international distress call that van Rossman had no idea he was sending.

Earlier in the day, two orbiting satellites had picked up an SOS signal coming from the city of Corvallis, where van Rossman is a student at the University of Oregon. The satellites alerted Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, and personnel there forwarded the alert to authorities in Corvallis, who traced the signal to van Rossman's dorm room.

When he opened the door, van Rossman was surprised, but not alarmed, at the sight of the men in black. "I have a pretty spotless record, so I wasn't overly concerned — just a little confused," he told The Associated Press. "The police office asked if I was a pilot or had a boat or anything. I said 'no'."

What van Rossman had was a new Toshiba flat screen TV. Unbeknownst to him, the TV was emitting an errant radio signal at a frequency of 121.5 megahertz. A hertz (Hz) is a unit used to measure the frequency of vibrations and waves. Radio waves are usually measured in megahertz (MHz), or millions of hertz; 121.5 MHz is the radio frequency reserved for international distress calls.

Van Rossman's TV is not the first electronic gizmo to shout "Maybe". In 2000, a scoreboard at a football stadium in Fayetteville, Ark., issued a false distress call. In the 1980s, a squad of police officers burst into a home electronics trade show in New York City in response to an SOS that turned out to be emanating from a stereo amplifier on display. To avoid more false alarms, search-and-rescue agencies have decided to switch the international frequency from 121.5 MHz to 406 MHz, a change that will take full effect in 2009.

After pinpointing the wayward signal coming from van Rossman's TV, the Corvallis authorities advised him to keep the TV turned off or face a $10,000-a-day fine. Toshiba has since replaced the TV.

  中文:

  去年10月的一个星期六晚上,克里斯-范-罗兹曼听到一阵意外敲门声。他打开门,迎面站着一名地方警官、几名美国空军和县搜救办公室的一名代表。他们此行是回应范-罗兹曼毫不知情的情况下发送的一个国际遇险信号。

  当天早些时候,两颗轨道卫星接收到一个来自科夫里茨市的呼救信号,范-罗兹曼是该市俄勒冈大学的学生。卫星信号引起弗吉尼亚兰利空军基地的注意,那儿的工作人员向科夫里茨当局发送了警报,当局跟踪信号来到范-罗兹曼的宿舍。

  乍一开门,看到这些身着黑装的人,范-罗兹曼感到诧异,但并不惊恐。“我从未犯过罪,所以我毫不担心——只是有点被弄糊涂了,”他对美联社记者说,“那名警官问我是不是飞行员,是否有艘船,或者是否有其它的东西。我回答没有。”

  范-罗兹曼有一台刚买不久的东芝牌平面电视机。在他不知情的情况下,这台电视机以121.5兆赫的频率在发射错误的无线电信号。赫兹(Hz)是计量振动和波频率的单位。无线电波通常用兆赫(MHz)或百万赫兹来计量;121.5兆赫的无线电波频率是专门用来发送国际遇险信号的。

  范-罗兹曼的电视机并非第一种发假警报的电子玩意儿。2000年,在阿肯色州费耶特维莱,足球体育场的记分牌发送过假遇险信号。20世纪80年代,一群警察闯入纽约市一家电子贸易展览会,回应一个呼救信号。原来,该信号发自一台参展的立体放大器。为了避免更多的假警报,搜救机构已经决定,将国际遇险信号频率从121.5兆赫改为406兆赫,这一决定将于2009年正式生效。

  确认了假警报来自范-罗兹曼的电视机以后,科夫里茨当局劝告他要么不开电视机,要么接受每天10,000美元的罚款。由此东芝公司调换了这台电视机。