Frederick R. Vobbe, Sunday, January 03, 1999
Don't you just love Doomsday Sayers? That is the name I give to people who will E-mail me to tell me how the Internet is going to kill broadcast band, and short-wave DXing. It's interesting to note that all the claims the demise of the radio listening hobby have come in E-mail, and not one person has spent a stamp to inform me that I need to sell my Sony-ICF2010 quickly before it becomes a fire sale. In fact, I was even misquoted by a professor at a major Ohio University whom I exchanged E-mail with that the end is near. For some reason, the Internet is taking more credit than it deserves.
Ok, let's weigh the options here. First of all I admit that from a nerd point of view, listening to radio stations via the Internet is kind of fun. I also found it interesting to listen to a station in North Dakota via the Internet just before members of my family who live near Minot North Dakota made the trek back to southeastern Michigan for our Christmas gathering. But do I think the Internet will replace broadcast radio? I don't think so.
I do think that there are people who get a kick out of hearing a radio station come out of their computer's speakers, and again I can see that it could be fun to see how many of these stations you could receive. But why do I think that net-casting will not replace radio.
First and foremost, I'm not one that spends a lot of time parked in front of my computer. I have a life which evolves work, my kids, a ham and broadcast band radio hobby, church, and editing a magazine for the blind. No matter where I go, I can take a radio with me, including in the car. However, I do have to say that I don't DX from the pew of my church during services. But the point is I don't have to be locked into listening just as I'm in front of a computer.
A second reason is best exampled by what is happening outside right now. As I type and read this column, western Ohio is going through a major winter storm. We have emergency conditions here in our community with churches, schools, and businesses completely closed down. While I can dial across the AM and FM band and hear hundreds of stations talking about how to deal with the storm, there is no internet broadcaster that offers me anything of substance. Last night I settled down to the dial before going to bed and heard four new stations that I never heard before, all because of the weather emergency in adjacent states.
A third reason is that just because someone on the Internet has access to these net-casts, does not mean the rest of the world has that same access. In fact, I would like to see some honest numbers of the number of people with radios, versus the number of people actively listening to net casting for the same amount of time each day.
Finally, and this is a personal preference, I can live with the sound of a distant AM station, but the sound of Internet radio becomes kind of fatiguing on my ears. It's like listening to something broadcast through a 2" wide, 20-foot long piece of PVC pipe.
However, I do think that the Internet as helped DXing in several ways. The Internet has provided a way for DXers to let other DXers know when conditions are good. Through list-serves, or automatic remailing systems, those of us in the radio listening hobby can be advised of the latest changes and new stations to listen for. During this storm in the Mid-USA, I've received several E-mail messages alerting me to stations that I might have passed over by accident that are on the air for emergency broadcasts. Also, there is a plethora of web pages with information ranging from receiver modifications, to antenna building hints, and a whole lot more.
So, I say, welcome Internet, to the hobby of broadcast band DXing. And if you are on the Internet, I invite you to visit theNational Radio Club.
My predictions for 1999? I think that radio will be here to say. I think radio on the Internet is fun, but it will not replace the real thing. I think that HCJB will be here in years to come and the hobby of broadcast band and short-wave DXing will be around for a long time. Put things into perspective, and common sense. While it's not coming out of a new 300 MHz Pentium, radio in its present form has a lot to offer!
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