When I was growing up, there were lots of examples of what a radio looked like. The instant we saw it, we immediately knew it was a radio.
My first radio was a Zenith Royal 50. It was red & white and came with a brown leather carrying case and a single ear phone. It opened up the world to me.
In high school & college my radio was a Grundig 2440 table radio with a 100-foot copper wire antenna running across my parent’s backyard from my second floor bedroom window. Another wire would run out that same window to the ground.
Once I got my license to drive, the radio that would get the most use would be the AM radio in my 1969 Chevrolet Biscayne.
My home radio of choice would be purchased after many years of longing and being brainwashed by the radio advertisements delivered by the one & only Paul Harvey during his daily news & commentary broadcasts over the ABC Radio Network. It would be the BOSE WAVE Radio.
When I bought my new MacBook Air, it came with a free pair of Beats Wireless Headphones.
My new iPhone7 uses the Apple AirPods.
Wireless headphones outsold non-bluetooth headphones in the first half of 2016 (just a year ago). I wrote about this evolution in headphone technology this past March 2017 in a post about the MAYA principle.
Things Forecast to Kill Radio
Radio still dominates in the automobile.
Over my radio career I lived through so many technical innovations that were forecast to kill radio, especially in the car.
There was the 8-track player, cassette player, CB Radio, CD Player, CD Changer, iPod, thumb drive, iPhone and streaming audio.
In each case we would learn that all each of these innovations did was replace a previous innovation by that percentage of the audience that wanted to curate its own music or programming. It never really replaced what over-the-air AM/FM radio delivered.
Hotels Eliminate Radios
I’ve just recently stayed in two different major hotel chain hotels that were either recently remodeled or newly constructed. The analog TVs have long been replaced by HDTVs, and showers now replace bath tubs, LED bulbs replaced the old filament ones, but the big surprise was the complete elimination of the radio.
They have been replaced by something called “CubieTIME.”
This device will tell you the time and you can set an alarm to awake you at the appointed time you wish to start you day. But those little radios (that never could pick up crap in more recent times) are gone.
Atlantic City Maid Checklist
For over a decade I ran the beautiful music/easy listening radio station in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Most of the casino hotels had a standard checklist of things a maid would do when preparing the guest room for the next patron.
One of those things was setting the radio to a pleasant volume and tuning it in to 96.9 FM for the soothing music of WFPG (the radio station of the World’s Famous PlayGround).
Today’s Kids vs. 1980’s Technology
In my recent college capstone class, I asked the students when they got their first cell phone. All the students said when they were in elementary school. The smartphone, not a radio, was what they wanted next as they were growing up.
The technology we grew up with and enjoyed is alien to today’s youth.
This short video brings home how things have changed.
You can view it on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v75QpvISUs
What Icon Represents Radio Today?
The big question for the radio industry today is what iconic symbol represents the medium today? Not a radio tower. John Hogan, former president of Clear Channel, said during all of my years working for the world’s biggest radio broadcaster that we were no longer about tall towers in big fields. Most radio sets look like something from the 20th Century or older, not the 21st Century world of today.
Should it be a microphone? A pair of headphones? A computer? A smartphone?
I think I will just turn on my RADIOradio while I ponder this question.
16 responses to “What Does a Radio Look Like?”
Excellent article!!! And SO true. Beside the car, I haven’t used a radio – per se in years- since the iPhone…
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Thank You Mark. Appreciate you stopping by the blog and adding your thoughts. -DT
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Thank You for sharing the thoughts. -DT
Dick, I was active in radio for three and a half decades, the first two in programming. When the radio is on I can’t help analyzing the format, the personalities, the promotions, the commercial production, even the mechanics (Why is he taking a break at :07? That makes no sense).
And most of today’s radio is marginal, at best. It depresses me to listen to sub-par radio. So, I don’t. In my car I listen to road noise. At home I either watch something specific on Television, or read/watch something specific on the Internet.
It’s a rare occasion that I say, “Hey, it’s time to blast some Led Zep (or Waylon Jennings, or Joe Bonamassa) through the house.” And when I do, I concentrate on that experience.
Good radio was never about the songs being played. It was always the company of an interesting personality.
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I no longer choose to have something innocuous playing in the background while I do other things.
I agree Chuck. For me great radio was (and still is) great personalities and stationality that made for a compelling listening experience that was all about community and companionship. Thank You for your contribution to the blog. -DT
My first radio was A Schaub-Lorenz. Connected to the frame of my bedsprings i had a great mw reception!
All true. One additional “Maid Service” given to us at WFPG was every room along the Coast would have the television reset to Channel 2, the Suburban Cable Weather/News rotator with WFPG FM97 as it’s soundtrack.
But when I say “Radio” to a Gen Xer, they now think “soundtrack”. Pandora, Spotify, Youtube, blogosphere, et al EQUAL to an aviation orange & white stick in the air with a red blinky thingy on top inhaling electricity.It’s all “Radio” to them. The delivery method doesn’t matter.
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You are so right Bill. Today’s folks think of radio as any audio delivery service and don’t make a distinction between AM, FM or anything streamed. (Most don’t even know AM exists.)
I remember saying to Senator Gordon Smith when he was introduced as the new NAB President/CEO, “who will be the first to say to the streamers and satellite folks, come into our tent, you’re one of us.” He shook his head in the affirmative and said, you make a good point Dick.
But it never happened.
You can’t stop change. You need to adapt or die.
Thanks for reminding me about the additional maid instruction Bill. I had forgotten about that. -DT
Where can I get one of those “RADIO” radios????
I won mine from the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) years ago. I think today you would need to find one in a garage sale or on eBay. -DT
Bluetooth headphones sound like crap.
I own a pair of AirPods and I think they sound amazing.
Like the tour guide at Buffalo Trace distillery said when asked “Which bourbon tastes best?” said, “The bourbon you like is the bourbon that’s best.”
Thanks for stopping by the blog. -DT
To each his own!
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