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why no weather bands in car stereos?

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  1. superhet

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    I have yet to find a car stereo with a NOAA weather band tuner built in.

    Why is that? If there's one place people need up to date severe weather info, it's in a car. You'd think these would be required as a safety feature on any cars with radios.

    I'm surprised that the major aftermarket manufacturers don't include this.

    Posted on December 26, 2012 - 11:44 PM #
  2. motozak3

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    A bunch of the Subaru factory-spec Clarions had it in the mid-late 1990s. A recently-divorced friend of my Mum's still has her '97 Outback with such a radio.

    The aftermarket Kenwood I had in the Bronco also had it, but actually receiving anything with it was another issue. (The tuner in that rig was a piece of shit with a dead front-end, so it was stone-deaf to nearly everything; that's why I eventually stuck an F1HD on it. But then, I really only bought it because its CDVD player could also run MPx files.)

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 12:14 AM #
  3. Andy_brown

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    The Alpine in my 98 M3 has a weather band. I don't know the model number, offhand, but it was the optional system with an Alpine AM/FM/WB 6 CD changer with a Harmon Kardon amplifier and 10 speakers. It was a little pricey but at the time that wasn't a big issue. It has served me well and only recently did one of the mid range speakers get fuzzy. Need to take the drivers door apart anyway to replace the electro-mecanical actuator in the lock system. Thought I'd do them both together when I have the money. The weather radio is handy when I'm away from my home area.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 12:41 AM #
  4. edust1958

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    There are signs on the interstate system with the local radio station frequencies posted... so that you can tune to a local station to get the weather if you are concerned about the looks of the sky

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 01:16 AM #
  5. superhet

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    I always to tune those local travel info stations when I am on the highway. I'd say about 10% of them are functioning, but maybe it's my radio.

    I've picked up some pretty distant stations though. Maybe these things only turn on when there is a weather emergency. Still, i think it would be really useful to have NOAA in cars, especially in places where tornados can pop up in an afternoon.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 02:16 AM #
  6. msndrspdx

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    Right. In remote places like Montana, you do see signs listing radio stations that air regular weather reports. (And there are low-power tourist info stations...I remember seeing signs on I-5 advetising one for the Salem area; oddly, Hwy. 99E never had 'em.) Why can't Weather Radio stations be assigned a regular FM frequency? And I agree, Weather Radio should be standard in car radios, especially rentals/Zipcars.

    Best, Mike

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 10:05 AM #
  7. Alfredo_T

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    There have been all-weather formats on broadcast radio in the past. When I lived in Austin in 1995-96, we had KWTR 1530. It was operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority. The electric bill and maintenance was probably too much for LCRA's budget, though, because the station was then sold to a company that made it into a commercial station and programmed CNN Headline News.

    I am interested in hearing the history behind the weather radio service. I recall reading somewhere that it goes back to the 1930s, but in that era, the broadcasts were on longwave.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 11:01 AM #
  8. Alfredo_T

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    You can buy them:

    http://www.crutchfield.com/p_522JHD1620/Jensen-Heavy-Duty-JHD1620B.html?tp=5684

    Car radios with weather band are easier to find than ones with shortwave reception.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 11:07 AM #
  9. motozak3

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    "Why can't Weather Radio stations be assigned a regular VHF FM frequency?"

    Uhhh.....probably because it would make sense and be a worthwile public service to do so?

    Can't make your mint that way, you know!

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 11:35 AM #
  10. W7PAT

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    162 MHz is a "regular VHF FM frequency".

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 12:06 PM #
  11. jr_tech

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    Coverage of the NOAA weather stations is fairly limited and usually centered around metro areas. There is likely very little service out in the "wide open spaces", where it might be desirable. Perhaps the weather "stations" on satellite services would better serve travelers.

    http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/nwrbro.htm

    Establishing a new higher power NOAA-type of weather broadcast network on, say 87.7 mHz for example, would cost TONS of $$$$... How would it be supported? More taxes???

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 12:36 PM #
  12. motozak3

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    "Regular VHF-FM" as in "broadcast band"; 88.1-106.9 MHz.

    Guess it wasn't obvious enough.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 01:29 PM #
  13. jr_tech

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    "Regular VHF-FM" as in "broadcast band"; 88.1-106.9 MHz.

    That seems highly irregular!

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 02:16 PM #
  14. Alfredo_T

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    Posts: 4,963

    An appropriate question (that I wish I had thought to ask) would have been, what are the power levels, HAATs, and coverage area of weather stations? I found one example that serves Washington, DC. This station broadcasts with 300 Watts of power.

    KWTR (1530 kHz), on the other hand, broadcast with 10kW of power! The groundwave signal could be heard past Waco (100 miles away) due to the high ground conductivity in central Texas.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 02:24 PM #
  15. motozak3

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    Yes, that would seem irregular, since the band runs from 88.1-107.9 megahertz!

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 02:28 PM #
  16. Alfredo_T

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    From a technical standpoint, I will make an educated guess that the reasons that weather band reception is not a more popular feature in car radios are:

    1) Limited coverage of weatherband stations (compared to most MW and FM broadcast stations).
    2) Weatherband reception requires an extra RF front end.
    3) Weatherband reception requires a different FM detector (because it uses low-deviation FM).
    4) Weatherband reception requires an IF bandwidth wider than what car radios typically use for MW but much narrower than what is needed for FM broadcast reception.

    Items 2, 3, and 4 mean that a complete extra receiver is needed.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 02:31 PM #
  17. motozak3

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    Of course, with software-defined/DSP radios becoming common, this "complete extra receiver" would, more likely than not, probably just be a few more lines of code than would otherwise have been specified for a "standard" 2-band broadcast receiver.

    Most of the "multi-band" (MW/VHF-FM/VHF-TV) rigs I've used, probably as a cost-reduction measure, just use the same wideband tuner for narrowband reception that would be used for broadcast and TV audio (particularly those marketed as "TV audio" radios with a little "weather" indication at the far left of the dial on the highband section.) Unfortunately this does give rather poor performance and selectivity on wideband signals. As I recall, the Subaru Clarion tuners were often extremely difficult to maintain a lock on, sometimes picking up two or three different signals simultaneously in areas with multiple weather stations (like this one) and bouncing back and forth between them as the car moves and the capture effect works its magic. I suppose they used that sort of design, rather than feeding it through a real narrowband tuner section.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 02:35 PM #
  18. jr_tech

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    Yes, that would seem irregular, since the band runs from 88.1-107.9 megahertz!

    Getting close! But actually the FCC also allows the use of channel 200 (87.9 mHz) in some fairly rare cases.

    http://transition.fcc.gov/fcc-bin/fmq?state=&call=&city=&arn=&serv=&vac=&freq=87.9&fre2=87.9&facid=&class=&dkt=&list=1&dist=&dlat2=&mlat2=&slat2=&NS=N&dlon2=&mlon2=&slon2=&EW=W&size=9

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 02:41 PM #
  19. motozak3

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    Yeah, I know about that but in the vast majority of cases it's not considered a "regular" broadcasting channel, is it? I always thought it was reserved to be used as a "buffer" or a "guardband", to prevent interference with the audio track of channel 6.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 02:45 PM #
  20. Alfredo_T

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    The reasons that I outlined apply mainly to analog tuners from years past. I have seen datasheets in the last few years for DSP based receivers that incorporate FM broadcast, weather radio, MW, SW, and LW. These receivers use image reject mixers to eliminate the front end tuning and tracking issues that traditionally have been associated with superheterodyne designs. The RF, regardless of band is converted to 10.7 MHz. A second frequency conversion occurs when the 10.7 MHz first IF is digitized. (If I understand things correctly, they are running the ADC sampling at just under 21.4 MHz so that deliberate aliasing takes place.)

    EDIT ADD: If memory serves me correctly, the datasheet that I saw had three different mixers, one for weather band, one for FM, and one for all of the AM bands.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 03:14 PM #
  21. Alfredo_T

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    Here's a block diagram of such a modern tuner* http://www.silabs.com/products/audiovideo/amfmreceivers/Pages/Si474x.aspx

    Look, ma, no more varactor diodes! No front end tuning!

    * This diagram doesn't show the weather band input.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 03:54 PM #
  22. Broadway

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    There's a "NOAA weather station" on 1650AM in Salem---gets around town pretty good for 10 watts...day and night...

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 05:15 PM #
  23. '06 Subaru stock radio has weather band. Works good. Sensitive.
    No problems on trips through Seattle & Portland.

    BTW, it's been illegal for those TIS stations to rebroadcast the Weather Radio. They have givin out substatiial fines for doing that. FCC was looking into changing that rule. Haven't heard if that's been done.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 05:26 PM #
  24. msndrspdx

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    With the expanded AM band as it was introduced a few years ago, there could be room for a Weather Radio station there, couldn't there?

    In rural areas, low powered AM or FM stations hooked up via microwave to a main station, along the lines of what OPB does with their radio and TV networks, might make sense...say, I-80 in Wyoming or Utah, for example. Or US 20 between Sisters and Burns...
    In Canada, there are signs showing the AM and FM channels for CBC and SRC (their French network) along the major highways (i.e. Trans-Canada)...

    Best, Mike

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 05:33 PM #
  25. Broadway

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    >>They have givin out substatiial fines for doing that. FCC was looking into changing that rule
    They have been on the air for years broadcasting weather data...think it's "filler material" for the local TIS station that can give emergency info when needed.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 05:53 PM #
  26. littlesongs

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    Posts: 1,167

    If you have a scanner, finding current local weather conditions is not as difficult as it might seem.

    http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/weather/asos/?state=OR

    Even in remote locations, listening to nearby traffic can provide insight about weather in the area.

    http://www.aopa.org/pilot/features/ii_9811.html

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 06:06 PM #
  27. motozak3

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    Posts: 4,469

    Problem with the ASOS channels/dialups is everything's in metric or nautical measurements. So if you only know the Imperial system, you're kind of screwed. At least they give the GMT time, so they can still serve as "time and weather" numbers.

    "Here's a block diagram of such a modern tuner. Look, ma, no more varactor diodes! No front end tuning!"

    Huh, it even supports OIRT. Wonder how hard it would be to turn one of those chips into a VHF/400/800 police scanner.....

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 06:58 PM #
  28. Alfredo_T

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    I had no clue that TIS stations cannot carry NOAA weather. In the Austin area, I recall seeing signs and/or hearing announcements on KWTR that boaters could tune to AM 1610 to hear current weather and stream conditions.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 07:36 PM #
  29. Might be a sign of the times on getting the latest weather info. Anyone else get the blizzard alert about 3 weeks ago on your smartphone?

    "Weather alerts coming soon to smartphone near you"

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-06-28/weather-alerts-smartphones/55898356/1

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 08:35 PM #
  30. motozak3

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    "I had no clue that TIS stations cannot carry NOAA weather."

    Yeah, didn't know that either. I guess the operators of 1610 in Pendleton are setting themselves up for a rude awakening!

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 08:43 PM #
  31. W7PAT

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    There is a TIS in Salem on 1610 also rebroadcasting NOAA.

    KIG98 in Portland has 330 watts from Goat Mountain and covers most of the valley. The Brookings transmitter on Palmer Butte has 1000 watts.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 08:57 PM #
  32. motozak3

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    Posts: 4,469

    There's another one, WNG604 out of Woodland on .525, which broadcasts out of Davis Peak (which, if I recall correctly, is not far from Cardai Hill.) It can be received well into eastern Vancouver and into western Camas (gets pretty drifty around Washougal), but I don't know how well it hits the Portland area. As I recall, they started it up only within the last 10 years or so.

    (Where is Goat Mountain, anyways?)

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 09:31 PM #
  33. paulwalker

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    The Interstate signs that say weather info "on these stations" are for the most part a joke. Most of the stations listed have either a) limited weather info, b) some weather info but only during certain hours, or c) changed their format.

    Best to check your smartphone for weather channel updates. Much more accurate and timely.

    The blizzard alert system needs some refining. In King County, many got the warning who were in no danger. This is because King County runs right up to the Cascade Crest. Someone in Redmond or Issaquah isn't anywhere near. This system was obviously designed for smaller counties with similar geography, unlike counties in Western WA or OR.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 10:02 PM #
  34. jr_tech

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    "(Where is Goat Mountain, anyways?)"

    About 5-10 miles East of the Molalla Colton area in the foot hills of the Cascades (about 4200 ft).

    I indeed can hear the Davis peak station from Hillsboro with a simple (no gain) ground plane antenna about 25-30 ft AGL feeding the Icom 8500 VHF receiver, but it is a little scratchy.
    Scanning the band; I can hear stations on 162.400, .425, .475, .525, and .550. Nothing on 162.450 and .500.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 11:09 PM #
  35. motozak3

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    (Going to have to look that up on Wikimapia--do you have the lat/long coordinates for the transmitter site? It doesn't look like NOAA go out of their way to disclose in much detail where their transmitters are, and I wouldn't know where to start looking on the F¢¢'s site.)

    Olympia on 475's a regular catch with the 3' pull-out whip on the PRO-2004 or -96, if I have it oriented such that I can null out Salem. With the longwire, I can sometimes even get Astoria on 400.

    I did hear something on 450 last night around this time which I recognised as Speechify speech, but the signal was too weak to make out what it was. It wasn't crosstalk from 475 or overload from 525, as referenced on my PRO-96 handheld. Probably WWF56 in the Tri-Cities (Richland), according to the chart.

    Posted on December 27, 2012 - 11:23 PM #
  36. RadioBuggie

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    http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/Goat_Mountain_0860.asp

    Posted on December 28, 2012 - 12:46 AM #
  37. "...signs on the interstate system with the local radio station frequencies posted..."

    Those are way outdated. Some of the frequencies on those haven't had a live body in the station giving info in over 30 years.

    Posted on December 28, 2012 - 12:48 AM #
  38. jr_tech

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    RadioBuggie: *That* Goat Mt. is near Bellingham WA... not a likely spot for the Portland Wx transmitter; KIG98.

    This is it:
    Goat Mountain
    Summit in Clackamas County, Oregon, USA.
    Latitude: 45.13167 : Longitude: -122.29556 : Elevation: 4219 ft

    Wonder how many "Goat Mts" we have in the US.

    Answer: At least 20. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goat_Mountain

    Posted on December 28, 2012 - 12:58 AM #
  39. Up at Goat Mtn, the NOAA WX station gets its feed from a UHF Maxtrac, which gets a good laugh out of me.

    Posted on December 29, 2012 - 05:59 PM #
  40. motozak3

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    Thanks, jr_tech:

    http://wikimapia.org/#lat=45.1316624&lon=-122.2965417&z=15

    Not sure how accurate my outline is, but there it is. (If anybody else on here with a Wikimapia login wants to go in there and fix it, by all means be my guest.) I also added an outline for the KIG98 transmitter facility.

    @JFF--

    Which frequency does the STL (feed) go out over?

    Posted on December 29, 2012 - 07:52 PM #
  41. superhet

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    NOAA does have these inscrutable maps of local coverage, though I cant tell if it shows exactly where the transmitters are.

    http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/pqr/radio.php

    Ive often wondered why I get the Newport coastal station as clear as a bell in close-in SE Portland, but the "local" broadcast is weak.

    Posted on January 3, 2013 - 01:13 AM #
  42. The last time my in-laws visited their relatives in Germany, they witnessed a system that could easily be expanded to include emergency weather information.

    As many of you know, the Germans are fanatics for transportation systems that avoid unexpected delays as much as possible. So, I wasn't surprised when my father-in-law told me that car radios in Germany will suddenly move to a standard frequency whenever there is a local traffic alert, possibly just covering the Autobahn (freeway system).

    As I understand it, the traffic alert system is totally government-run, and laws require that cars sold in Germany are equipped with radios that automatically switch to these traffic alert transmitters.

    The only alternative I've seen was developed after a killer tornado in Edmonton in 1987. Equipment was placed at the transmitter sites of many Alberta stations that allowed CKUA Radio to take over those transmitters in case of an Emergency. CKUA lost the government contract for that setup a couple of years back, and I'm not sure what the new guys are doing.

    Of course, if you go back to the 1950s, there was the Civil Defense alert system that used 1240 and 640 KHz as places where everyone should tune their radio in case of nuclear attack. I still have my parents' 1957 Philips transistor radio with those frequencies marked.

    I guess my point is that anything like this requires a huge amount of organization to carry off, either backed by government laws or huge industry groups.

    Posted on January 4, 2013 - 07:27 PM #
  43. fm_dxer

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    "...can hear stations on 162.400, .425, .475, .525, and .550"...

    162.425?

    Posted on January 4, 2013 - 08:34 PM #
  44. jr_tech

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    Posts: 3,889

    "162.425?"

    Yes... I just double checked and it was quite weak and scratchy, then faded out for a while. I have no idea where it is located... Randle perhaps?

    Posted on January 4, 2013 - 09:11 PM #
  45. msndrspdx

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    Are AM 640 and 1240 still designated as national Civil Defense/Homeland Security stations? Does the FCC still enforce this? The Canadian and German systems are interesting. If such a system were in place here, and enforced by the Congress and/or FCC, the logical HQ in Oregon for such a setup would be OPB (The City of Portland has designated KOPB-FM as the emergency radio station in the event of an earthquake or other disaster. KWVT/KSLM-DTV in Salem holds a similiar designation for that area.).

    best, Mike

    Posted on January 5, 2013 - 10:09 AM #
  46. Alfredo_T

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    640 and 1240 were decommissioned as emergency frequencies in the early 1960s with the introduction of EBS. In the old Conelrad system (the 640/1240 system), all radio stations were to instruct listeners to tune to these frequencies and then sign off immediately. The film A Day Called X (produced in part by KOIN-TV) contains a dramatization of the Conelrad system.

    Posted on January 5, 2013 - 01:05 PM #
  47. Those two frequencies really sounded weird in operation. With a bunch of stations on the same frequency, I have faint recollection of stations drifting in and out, especially if you were moving a little bit in a car.

    The purpose was to prevent the enemy from using radio stations to navigate with if they flew bombers over the U.S.

    I also remember during WWII that aircraft used 50,000 watt broadcast band signals for navigation. One of the most used was KGMB in Honolulu. Aircraft from the U.S. could just follow the signal to the island. Seems like I remember a flight of bombers using the KGMB signal when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. That may be fiction or an urban legend, however.

    Posted on January 5, 2013 - 03:51 PM #
  48. fm_dxer

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    Posts: 234

    http://ospreypearlharbor.com/encyclopedia/KGMB.php
    KGMB 590
    KGU 760

    Posted on January 5, 2013 - 08:18 PM #
  49. Showing my age here...

    But I remember we had this big deal National Conelrad Test in 1961. It was on a Saturday, so I was home from school. All the radio and TV stations went off the air on a prescribed schedule..only one radio station was on the air in Seattle Tacoma after all the radio ran their tones and announcements..and as I remember it was on 640..eventhough we didnt have a commercial broadcast station on 640 in that market of course...It seems to me there was only one TV station on the air , and I dont remember which one it was..but I am sure it was which ever one was the designated primary for Seattle.

    President Kennedy was the featured speaker that day on AM 640 and whatever TV station it was ..

    Posted on January 5, 2013 - 10:36 PM #
  50. And yes..the Japanese Naval Air Command did use KGMB to home in on Honolulu..a relatively simple matter for those days..

    Posted on January 5, 2013 - 10:38 PM #

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