Saturday, 21 February 2015

About the webmaster

I've been a radio nerd since I was 9. That year I got a Panasonic Model R-1159 AM-only transistor radio for Christmas. It was tiny – smaller than a paperback book – and extremely simple: just on/off/volume and tuning, with (and this part is awesome) a headphone jack. Mono earpiece included! This enabled me to spend hours in bed when the folks thought I was sleeping, listening to the waves. My love-affair with radio – and quirky, eclectic programming, those late hours – started there.

I became fascinated with every angle of broadcast radio: technology, business, law, programming, history. Some years later I caught the DX bug, dug deep into my paper route money, and bought
Dynamic earpiece
a Sony ICF-5900W multi-band receiver. Arguably the best all-around shortwave ever made, it still works great (aside from a few minor effects of abuse and neglect and plain old time). I remained an avid SWL into my 30s, and became an amateur radio operator along the way.

The Internet revolution of the mid 90s found my radio consumption limited mostly to North America's two public networks (CBC and NPR), with a little commercial AM/FM around the edges. Soon I heard that radio stations were streaming online, but between dial-up access and the stumbling livestream tech of the day, my attempts to reconnect with the BBC (favourite shortwave service) were discouraging. Skip ahead a few more years and the podcast revolution happened. I got my first iPod, and after that all my radio was canned.

But I never stopped loving real radio, at least in theory; I felt guilty, like I'd abandoned a friend, with no receiver on my kitchen counter.

Another half-dozen years passed, and web radios began appearing on department store shelves. Hmmm… Could this thing be happening at last?

The tumblers finally fell when I got a net-ready iPod – again for Christmas, again from my mom, more than 40 years after that old Panasonic. Trolling for apps in the following days, I happened upon one called VirtualRadio. It was already out-dated by then, and rock-knocking primitive, even by iOS standards. But it was free and I was exploring; I downloaded it.

I'll say this for that creaky old VR: it livestreams well. OK, it's so old-school that it only plays the stations in its own directory; you can't add one yourself. And I'd never heard of any of them. Except for that one called "Radio Caroline".

Caroline? You mean the Radio Caroline? No way!

As it happens: way. Within hours I was sitting up in bed when I was supposed to be asleep, listening to Caroline through a white wire. Just for ten minutes more. OK, maybe twenty. Well, until this DJ finishes his shift... The schoolboy thrill was back.

'Course, what're you gonna do, sitting in the dark, listening to Radio Caroline? Browse the other stations in the VR directory, of course.

Long story less long: I became a rabid net radio geek. This blog is my effort to give a little back, maybe support and encourage a hobby that's still pretty obscure for now; at least I haven't yet met anyone else who does it.

So if that's you: Welcome! Let's be anoraks!


(The vintage Panasonic Model R-1159 AM-only transistor radio pictured above is for sale on Etsy! Photo of 60s-era 1/8" radio earpiece courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer. Photo of Sony ICF-5900W from Herculodge. All posts on Net Radio Blog are running documents, updated as circumstances warrant.)

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