Whither Radio^
^including its evolved progeny and other audio media:
PODcasts, Internet streams, FM/SCA, Satellite, audio CD and MP3s
updated: May 15th, 2018
fast-find> why, Radio of the future, reviews, recording programs, great downloads!,
you're at: http://craigeroochi.neocities.org/radio.htm
contact: craig er oochi  a t  outlook dotty com

* Today's smart phones, i-Phone/pads/things have FM tuners, or the capability. If you're toting something proprietary which runs under a contract, you might have to ask whoever you're dealing with to "jail break" that function. (Of course, there are also streaming versions of current broadcasts, that you can get via WiFi.) However, the emphasis on this page will be on the downloading of MP3 PODcast files (music or talk radio programs), the content of which can be woven into your life as time and life's interruptions permit.

Simple through sophisticated MP3 players were cheap and plentiful just a few years ago.  They're still available, some with excellent touch screen displays, but they cost between $30 and $140 in stores I shop at. The most recent MP3 player we own (Phillips brand "GoGear") had an FM tuner, but despite that it had a microphone and voice record function, there did not appear to be a way to record from an FM station. (Downloading PODcast MP3s makes more sense anyway.) Affordable MP3 players are probably still available on-line through Amazon.com.

* It's my understanding that including an AM tuner in a compact device is not only difficult, due to the need of a bulky "loop stick antenna", but that the loop stick's directional pickup, plus AM radio's inherent vulnerability to noise and hum, are simply unacceptable in a mobile device. (Car radios use a large, non-directional antenna, perhaps built into the windshield.)

* My experience (coastal Oregon) has been that "talk radio" is seldom to be found on the FM band, including from our available NPR stations, except during the limited morning and evening news hours. We have to suffer along with boomy, garbled and commercial interrupted voices on the AM band. I find women's voices particularly difficult to understand due to the limited audio spectrum of AM radio, which must fit within a clipped five kilocycle band width (which is hard on syllibants).

* It's my perception --as a years long, actively interested, talk/news listener --that most of the available, over the Internet shows are "streaming" and often live --meaning that unless you sign up (and often pay) you have to listen when you're "on line" and at the showcast web site. A "PODcast" refers to "program on demand" meaning you can at least select and access an archived program (if only the current one). Preferably, you can download any of a number of past programs as well, such that you can play and listen to them at your convenience (say: whilst commuting or mowing the lawn) --without having to be "on line" (WiFi) or using up smart phone minutes.

Many people use smart phone applications which automatically download, store and organize their favorite PODcasts, perhaps even allowing 15 second jump-aheads for bypassing unwanted segments.

** Since I've never succumbed to smart phones (I just have a hello-goodbye, $10/month Tracfone), here's a link to modern times information:

> https://www.wired.com/story/podcasts-beginners-guide/

* We have precious resources in today's audio media: the opportunities they afford us to stay on top of current events,  commentary/editorials, political and other cultural developments, literature (old and new) as "audio books", music and poetry. When I'm doing such scut work as manually surfacing an optical component, cutting the grass (while wearing -38dB muffs plus ear plugs) and scraping paint --I can absorb a wide array of wisdom, opinion and information (mostly as downloaded MP3 PODcasts, via a cheap little MP3 player).

* Keep an eye on library book sales as they bail out of audio cassettes. You'll find plenty of fiction and you might find a still current college level literature course for a dollar or two --one which would cost hundred$ to buy new on CDs. (And: you can get a deluxe cassette player at the Goodwill store for just a few dollars more.)

* The problem lies in getting at a particular audio program or piece of music that you're interested in, perhaps due to download pay walls. Day-to-day live radio news broadcast programs and live talk shows might require you to endure mind numbing, insultingly stupid, repetitive commercials --should you decline pay walls around the commercial-free PODcast versions --the sharing of which is in turn restricted by claims of copyright.

(There are exceptions!)

* The available personal tools of change are mainly the pressure of our collective patronage in the marketplace, and becoming more aware of what alternative choices are already available to the listener/consumer. These tools might make little difference to the world of media, but they can make an effective and immediate difference for the aware individual. ("With it" young readers of this page are more aware of smart-phone, notebook/i-pad/i-tunes and Spotify options than I am and can run circles around barriers to and burdens upon cultural content.)

I'll itemize some of the choices and coping options we have at hand (that I'm aware of) as well as what seem like poor or non-options.

Smart phones, i-Pads and such: With an Apple product, we had to get onto area WiFi, select Google search services, and carefully select (or ask for, if voice command is optioned) --the desired PODcast. Access was the same but seemed easier with an Android operated phone. (I believe "i-Tunes" carries a fixed subscription charge, but I'm not aware if there are extra access charges. Again: I only pack a $10/month hello-goodbye TracFone.)

XM Satellite Radio: * I do appreciate that it avoids the vexing problem of stations fading as one drives, but I otherwise don't understand why XM/satellite radio is much of an alternative option. From reading commentaries about XM, I gather that you pay maybe $10, $15, (whatever the package) per month, but the music channels still have blabbering "DJs", the talk/cultural stations are locked into broadcast type commercial blocks of time, and maybe you end up listening to even worse commercial/break material to fill in those blocks. (It was over 17 years ago that I last used a (pioneering, hackable) XM radio device, so my experience is way out of date.)

Recording broadcasts: There's a straight-forward product to buy from Sharper Image:
> http://www.sharperimage.com
--a programmable AM, FM, Short-wave radio/recorder for $59.99 (which sounds like a good value).

* Recording, capturing or copying digital content --as digital media, as is often facilitated by an available MP3 download --to your computer, smartphone, or other MP3 player device. There are a ton of software options for doing that, including automatic download applications for smart phones, i-PODs, and advanced MP3 players. After learning to reflexively operate the controls and fast forwarding, such a digital device might become practical.

I manually download what interests me (using a Chromebook), then transfer it to and play it on a simple (think I paid $15, years ago) MP3 device, which holds a caboodle of files and remembers where I last left off. (My MP3 player's fast forward sucks, however, so be sure to check that feature before you buy a player. A small "graphic user interface" helps.)

  ~ For downloading (say) a 50 megabytes of audio over public WiFi, you want a strong, near-by signal so your download doesn't get interrupted.
 

For live listening: * Both satellite radio (as I've read) and your local commercial stations subscribe to predictable schedules for those commercial blocks of time --but that's something I'd expect to change from network to network, weekday to weekend; day, to "drive time", to evening, to night.

Lumping together news, weather, PSAs and sports along with commercials into program breaks (since all such segments are short, clipped, and intertwined with commercials), I timed those blocks via a local station for a short period. They ran 4, 4, 6, 8, and 4 minutes. The common denominator was 2 minutes, so one might employ a device which, upon pushing a button, silences either the radio or one's head phones for (say) 115 seconds at a time (allowing 5 seconds to recognize follow-on commercial content and push the button again). It would be easy for a technician to make such an electronic delay switch (based on a timer chip).

* Fortunately, full featured PODcast applications have a "fast forward" feature --maybe a 15 second jump.

* Were it necessary to simply silence those blocks as quiet time, they might be spent thinking (oh my!) or talking to a friend about the program content you were listening to. "Muzak" type background music vendors long ago realized how much more pleasing and effective their content was if rather long pauses were periodically included. Those long blabbering commercial breaks might be just the ticket for an ideal program break --if they could be easily and methodically silenced.

However: my problem with simply turning off the radio during commercials is that I quickly get into some other interest and usually forget to turn it back on again. A simple "back on" timer function is exactly what's needed.

So: how about a semi-automatic radio commercial termination and restart system --?

** I think the radio broadcast industry has long passed up on a precious opportunity by not promoting what I call a "magazine format" for commercial content. Think about it: although newspapers and magazines charge plenty to carry ads, the reader does not have to read them (an A-mazing concept!) --unless s/he is interested. Radio stations and programs would be far more popular (particularly with upscale demographics) if repeat stupefying commercials could be easily silenced.

The Radio of the Future --how it might work: * All standard radios would be equipped with a blab-blare silence button and/or such a button on a remote control.

* Each single commercial block of time would end with a "back on" tweet signal, such that no radio receiver timer is needed --nor any additional listener attention/distraction (so important while driving).

* Be my guess that TV/cable programming would soon get on board with something similar.

Questions and comments:

PODcasts: * There are a half dozen progressive talk shows I'd love to be downloading, but they think I should be paying them $5 to $7.95 per month each to do so (except for Peter B Collins' show) .

* While "Air America" style talk show co-operation is unlikely to be tried again, I think a popular willingness to send in a one-time (at a time) token of support for an existing alternative media (PODcasts) is very likely. Be my guess that vastly more money would be coming in to progressive shows by setting their support levels at (say) $10 per year --and without placing premium content behind a "members only" pay wall.

But why not instead --simply do PODcasts for free --but using commercials? * Quality commercials would sure be nice, but since a PODcast lets us easily fast forward (manually or via a player application feature), the quality, repetition and stupidity of each commercial would matter a lot less. Simply leave that to the advertiser's discretion. An ordinary MP3 player with fast forward jumps would also work fine.

Let's hear it for FM radio! * While our car's AM radio works pretty good, our AM pocket radios are horrible, as well as horribly directional. One has to stand just so (radio in pocket, "hold that pose!") to get the station loud and the hum/buzz down to a low level of annoyance. Add to that the din of repeat repeat idiot commercials and AM radio is simply a non-starter for many of us.

Meanwhile, our FM reception is excellent and non-directional. While there's been little by way of progressive talk (out here in small town America where I live) --just a few milquetoast NPR type shows, those tireless Bible thumpers, and music-music-music, --"low power" FM stations are beginning to make better use of the FM wasteland.

* Surely: there's a dim future for commercial AM radio (since, be my guess, most AM stations would rather die than change), and a bright one for commercial PODcasting.


Audio Media Reviews
(Well: more like comments)

* IMHO, plying the waters of free PODcasts is difficult. The unwary traveler is beset by snares which attempt to funnel your search and access through middle-man operations which offer to organize and list what's available by categories, artists/hosts and genres. They tend to hide direct links and offers of simple downloads (direct or indirect) --in favor of subscribing to and using their automated downloads (when available).

That's fine, and it's probably more compatible with today's hand-held mobile device lifestyles (than the methods I use). Just be aware that you can often Google up the source, bookmark it and make your own arrangements for access. By way of example, I offer https://podsearch.com/, through which you might discover https://podsearch.com/listing/hourly-news-summary.html, which freely originates at NPR, but at which site we seem limited to streaming their PODcasts. (My wife and I don't have on-line/public WiFi time to listen that way. We need to take our PODcasts home.)

* We have an excellent progressive talk show option. Much of its current content is free to download and we're encouraged to bootleg it out to others: Peter B. Collins --at:
> https://www.peterbcollins.com/

--and be sure to catch his:
> https://www.peterbcollins.com/2016/09/09/interview-special-911-fifteen-years-on/

--which is one of the "extended interviews" --which become freely available after two weeks. (Thanks Peter!)

However: Peter B. is given to taking short vacations, so here are some alternatives:

* The Young Turks --at:
> https://player.fm/series/series-2163996
( I don't see an MP3 download link on TYT's home page, so simply right click on the play arrow at their Player.fm page and save to your choice of drive.)

* The Majority Report with Sam Seder --at:
> https://majorityreportradio.com/
--is very conversational, sometimes hard to follow (they talk over each other).

* The Humanist Report --at:
> https://player.fm/series/the-humanist-report
( I don't see an MP3 download link on the HR home page, so simply right click on the play arrow at their Player.fm page and save to your choice of drive.) Production values could be better. (We need a spiritual humanist movement.)

* Bradblog.com --at:
> http://bradblog.com/?cat=675  (At the end of each synopsis is a "download MP3" link.) --Brad finds a replacement host when he's away.

* --and --and:

* At first I got muddled with trying to register/sign up for downloads of the Thom Hartmann show. There was an indication I could do so for free (and then access archived shows), but (as I gathered later on) it was actually for the consideration of accepting a tool bar (arghhh). I did download one show, but my access evaporated as soon as I deleted that tool bar intrusion. Then I realized that we could get (but not anymore?) the previous day's show (Friday's show available on Monday) by finding this page and clicking on its download symbol:  for the MP3. (Even as day-old fare, Hartmann's program was infinitely better without repetitious commercial interruptions.)

* Howsomever: as of 12/27/2017, that access changed. What you get of the current and the most recent (5 PODcast days?) shows is just a "tease" (and that's Hartmann's term for it). The 12/27 tease lasted 29 minutes, which included 4 ding-dong clueless callers. 12/28's and 12/29's teases were about 9 minutes long and no callers. If you wait a week (or access back a week), it appears we can download about an hour-long portion of the show. If you want more/sooner, then you have to subscribe to get past Hartmann's pay wall. (Same if you want to lodge a comment. I see no USPS or email contacts.)

* Hartmann consistently distances himself from --the obvious, concerning the events of 9/11. Be my guess that not crossing this particular "red line" is about not getting himself banned from mainstream media outlets.

* My jaw dropped when this amazingly well read, traveled and experienced man took a call from a staunch anti-capitalist --and it turned out that Hartmann had not a clue that in 1918 the United States invaded Russia. (It didn't strike me that Hartmann was feigning ignorance.)

This was allegedly in an attempt to protect a huge cache of WW-1 military material and to escort a 50,000 man Czechoslovak Legion into battle against Germany, privately to keep an eye on the Japanese contingent (from 7000 to 70,000, depending on the source, but probably about 12,000). Our military ended up clearly in support of the "White" (old Tsarist and Kerenski counter-revolutionary) factions, but not in direct conflict --which intervention further prejudiced Russians against the Whites and started the cold war. Graves, our general in charge, came off as a moderating factor who lamented this early example of a poorly defined military mission. About 12,000 U.S. troops were involved, in poor co-ordination with Japanese, British and French forces. The U.S. forces left in 1920. Japan was forced out in 1922.

* You'd think that listening to a socialist talking about economics would require propping your eyelids open with toothpicks. Uh-uh: this guy can talk! Try on Prof. Richard D. Wolff's "Economic Update" for size, fit and a few laughs at:

> http://www.democracyatwork.info/

Again: my page here is oriented toward clean and simple downloads of MP3s. If you can afford a home or office ISP connection ($55/month here), then those of you with plenty of time to stream at or away from home will have no problem watching Wolff's videos. I, however, have to snag the spoken word via fast public WiFi around town.

* Download MP3 files from D@W by following these simple steps:

            ~ Take the headline/topic that appeals to you.
            ~ If you see "read more", click on it.
            ~ If you then see "Direct download", right click to save the MP3 version --to where you want it to go (usually, the default folder/directory). (Left clicking on "Direct Download" started my Chromebook streaming the topic.)

Elsewise, I've seen (apparently older) lectures/shows with a little download symbol: , and that works too.

* You'll want to follow and archive many of the interviews offered at "To the Best Of Our Knowledge":
> http://www.ttbook.org/

* It would be nice if you're able to send at least a token donation to the above sources, should you enjoy and want to help support their offerings. Some have USPS mailing addresses (not Hartmann) for sending a small check or money order. (One must never do donations or purchases when using public WiFi --right?)

* Amazon.com and your public library might have audio CD versions of books written (and well read) by the author: Simon Winchester. Title suggestions:
    ~ The Professor and the Madman
    ~ A Crack in the Edge of the World
    ~ The Map That Changed the World