We’re in the midst of a digital revolution in all media, and radio is no exception. You’re hearing about “HD Radio.” But not hearing much of it yet, because U.S radio is just now switching over to digital broadcasting, and the price of a digital radio receiver is still ridiculous. But these are not the only problems. AM radio stations (540 to 1600 kHz) have just begun to convert to this new method of pumping out electrons, and they’re interfering with each other, and themselves, at night. Nighttime has always been a problem and a blessing for AM — the original radio transmission platform. When the sun goes down, a station’s signal rushes skyward — it’s called the station’s “skywave”–and bounces off the ionosphere, then off the earth again, and skips over great distances. One of the geek joys of radio has always been “DX-ing” — distance listening. “Hey Maude, c’mere! I’ve got Del Rio, Texas!” Now, the big-nighttime-signal stations — those on what we used to call “clear channels”–are having fuzz problems because of their own and others’ new digital signals. It’s the system the U.S. adopted, called IBOC, (In-Band-On-Channel), which makes it possible to transmit the new digital radio information on the same frequency with the old analog signal. What it seems to be doing is killing the possibility of skywave broadcasting — picking up San Francisco stations in Houston, and so on. A lot of people in U.S. radio are unhappy about this, though radio has long been considered a local-only medium. You can read more about this in the radio trades (see my right column for links), but here’s a telling little article by a broadcast engineer, writing in Radio World this week. This guy, in his dispassionate (sorta) way, delivers his analysis of the problem. It’ll give you a taste of radio guy talk. Just plow on through the technical terms and jargon. Will the radio guys have to fix this bug, or will the clear channel station owners just have to get over it? Stay tuned.


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DIGITAL NIGHT SOUNDS — A NEW BUG FOR AM RADIO.

RADIO GUY GALLERY


hertzsketch1
Heinrich Hertz's experiments proved the existence of electromagnetic radiation. Cycles-per-second, the standard measure of radio wave frequency, was named for him. He died in 1894, at 37. Wikipedia: Hertz

RADIO GUY GALLERY


STERN-3
What do you do with a problem like Howard? After decades of profits and FCC indecency fines as routine budget items, Howard Stern, king of all pottymouth radio guys, followed his enabler Mel Karmazin to Sirius Satellite Radio, leaving CBS to make up a hundred million in revenue (They sold stations) and fill the void for the half of Howard's loyal audience who didn't choose to buy a new radio and pay fifteen bucks a month for a few more, ranker epithets.
Wikipedia: Stern

RADIO GUY GALLERY


PALEY-S
CBS might have become the Cigar Broadcasting System. William S. Paley was the scion of the family business. In 1927, his cigar tycoon dad, Samuel, bought the struggling network of early radio stations from a group of poor schlumps who were trying to – would you believe: sell programming to radio stations! Every syndicator since has had to relearn that this doesn't work. Bill and his dad figured out the right business model -- you sell commercials to advertisers, and give the programs to stations. Got it?
Wikipedia: Paley
zenithfloor

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