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2010/08/17

Every Now And Then, I Turn It On Again....


Slashdot reports that broadcasters and the RIAA are considering getting Congress to order FM radio into cellphones. On a tech level, I'm surprisingly OK with it. Cellphones already have GPS, cameras, MP3 players, keyboards, Wi-Fi, texting and email, plus a billion apps. I wonder if I can get an iPhone cover that makes it look like a Swiss Army knife.

And there was a time, once, long ago, where I would've loved to been able to have a programmable recording interface to radio. Something like this in my crontab.
0 17 * * 0 /usr/bin/radio-record -freq 98.9 -band fm -duration 60 # Blues hour of 98.9FM
But that was years ago. Honestly, the ONLY time I listen to radio these days is when my wife is driving, she only listens to talk radio and mostly listens to AM stations on the fuzzy edge of reception so that the experience is indistinguishable from white noise. And, notice, they want to have FM on phones. Not AM. There may be a technical reason. I kinda doubt it.

I have two issues with radio. First, there's variety. Within the classes of music I am interested in, radio gives me few choices. I have a greater chance of hearing a cool song I've never heard before in my MP3 directory than on the radio. And for many whole classes of music I like, there's no chance I can find it in my dial.

Then there's the advertising. I don't object categorically to advertising. I once did, but I don't anymore. I was taking an advanced editing course in J-school and was told that advertising was as much newspaper content as the news stories. I balked. Afterward, I had some downtime, opened up a copy of Maximum Rock'n'Roll and saw a Dischord Records ad showing that Fugazi had a new album coming out, and I was enlightened.

Taking it into a more computer-related forum, I can see on the back cover of the August issue of Maximum PC that you can get an Antec case that would allow you to hot-swap laptop-sized SATA drives out the front. We've hit drive sizes and data sizes where any personal backup choice besides putting it on a hard drive is too slow and too small to be practical, and here's a solution. This is Antec trying to sell me something. This is also news.

Radio is filled with ads trying to sell someone something, but it stopped selling stuff to me a long time ago.

The Slashdot audience dragged out the buggy-whip analogy, but I don't think that radio has no place in the 21st century. I think that cellphones would already have radios if there was a market for them. I think that Pandora on a smartphone will always sound better than an FM radio on a smartphone. It is the forcing of the issue that most bugs me, but I'm not

The thing I'd put into a cellphone if I had a choice is an LED flashlight. I've used the screens of my Palms and phones as a field-expedient light through many power outages before but would like more candlepower.