Back in the 90s it took a little more effort and planning to get a weather forecast. You could look at the newspaper when it arrived. There was the local morning news. A few radio stations might have it at 10 and 40 after. But for me I would go to Local on the 8s on The Weather Channel. I’ve recreated this with WeatherStar 4000+ and you don’t have to wait until the 8s any more! Oh, and the forecasts are current, no reruns from the 90s.

WeatherStar 4000+ Screenshot

The technology was really impressive at the time. The Weather Channel was on cable and at that time talked about weather forecasts on a national scope. But on the 8’s a local forecast was inserted into what was otherwise a regular, nationally broadcast cable channel. Wow! And if you went on vacation and watched The Weather Channel it was a different local forecast for where you were.

There is a lot of nostalgia for these forecasts. First there’s TWC Classics which documents and discusses the history of The Weather Channel through screenshots and video clips. Then there’s the WS4000 Simulator which strives for accuracy in both look and information that is presented. It runs on desktop OSes.

This project is a fork of ws4kp and runs in a web browser. As a refresher course in JavaScript I’ve made it my own by updating the interface to use new techniques such as Classes, and JavaScript standard replacements for jQuery. The project does not strive for accuracy as much as the Simulator does. This is much more of a no-fuss, just get a forecast project. I also made one addition that wasn’t present in the Weather Channel’s original hardware: an hourly forecast for the next 24 hours replaces the travel forecast in the default lineup. You can follow it and view the source on Github.

New hourly forecast display

The project’s name comes from the line of hardware that The Weather Channel provided to your local cable office to show the forecast. WeatherSTAR includes the acronym Satellite Transponder Addressable Receiver. As the acronym implies all of the data came from the satellite feed, and was hidden in clever ways right along the video broadcast. The first three units I, II and III were used throughout the 80’s and could only display text information, no icons with sun and clouds and no current radar. In 1990 the 4000 was introduced and was used for most of the decade. It featured graphics depicting current and foretasted weather and initially a still local radar image. A few years later it was updated to show several animated frames of the local radar. Wikipedia has a lot more information about the WeatherSTAR lineup.

I’m excited to announce I am releasing a long-running side project of mine It’s built to get you a forecast quickly in a graphic format.

Example Temperature Express forecast

The basic code for it is open source and available on Github. A few excerpts from its FAQ help to explain the project:

What is this?

The National Weather Service provides a huge amount of forecast and climate data for free including an hour-by-hour forecast for the next 7 days. Unfortunately, getting it displayed in a concise format is not something they do well. The main graph attempts to display the most relevant parts of the forecast (high and low temperature, wind chill, heat index, clouds, precipitation and dewpoint) in an easy to digest format.

Why is this better than my weather app?

This web site is meant to be fast, fast, fast. If you add a bookmark to this web site to your home screen I’d be willing to guess that this web page loads faster than your weather app and gets you the information you’re looking for 2-3x faster every time.

I chose an intentional minimal design to leave as much space as possible for the data. I’m an engineer, I prefer accurate information over cute, bubbly buttons.

Why a graph?

It makes it quicker to answer the typical weather questions like: Will it be warmer or cooler tomorrow? – Just compare the heights of the red line. Is it going to rain tomorrow? – Look for the blue filled areas. Will the sun be out on Saturday? – Look for no grey filled area on Saturday.

The graph makes it much easier to convey how the weather will change during the day. Your favorite weather app, or search result card might simply say “Sunny, High of 80” today. But that tiny little bit of information might mask something important like the temperature dropping to 60 by 5 pm. That big temperature drop might mess up your evening plans if you were going to be outside.

If you’re interested in the exact values, just tap any point on the graph to get the exact value and the time for that value. Or, If you want to view most of the data as a table, you can get one by clicking the table icon on the menu. I think you’ll quickly see that the graph is a much easier to digest format.

Why do you work on this?

I’m a programmer. JavaScript, HTML, Node.js and other web technologies are not part of my day job, but seem to be where the innovation is happening. I use this and other side projects to keep myself up to date with them.