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2/28/2007
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A $10 Wok Replaces A $20,000 Satellite Dish

A software programmer substituted a $10 Chinese cooking wok for a $20,000 satellite dish on behalf of his New Zealand television station.

Transmission techniques run the gamut from connecting tin cans with string to bouncing signals off the moon. But when it comes to saving money, it's likely no one can outdo the software programmer who substituted a $10 Chinese cooking wok for a $20,000 satellite dish on behalf of his New Zealand television station.

The New Zealand Herald this week reported the ingenious work of Ken Jones, who volunteered to help TV station 45 South transmit its signal from its studios to a distance spot that was 20 km (12.5 miles) away. A commercial satellite dish capable of doing the job would cost $20,000, according to the report.

Jones and a friend, Murray Bobbette, did mathematical calculations and proved "the curved metal face of a wok would have the same effect as a small satellite dish," according to the report.

"The $20,000 for a commercial link was just money we didn't have, so we bought several woks," said Jones. "We have spent a lot of time getting it right -- the first time we installed one we had it up a pole with the handle still on the end of the wok."

After tinkering with the approach, the system operated well over a 20-km range. The wok was reported to do the transmission job well and Jones said only a single wok is needed.

For a few years now, clever hobbyists have cobbled together woks and other parabolic kitchen utensils like strainers and vegetable steamers for wireless transmission, often for Wi-Fi enhancement.

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