Blog Post No. 444
I was struck with a thought the other day while trolling Youtube for new content. I am a huge Youtube viewer. That is to say, I am a huge viewer of the channels that I like. Some of the content that really grabs my attention is about old technology, vintage computers, and for some reason, radio. There’s something about the service and the technological object themselves. I have an old Realistic short wave radio that used to be my grandfathers. I used to turn it up way too loud (for the little speaker) when I would mow their lawn way back in the day. I have a nice Sony boom box that I use as my computer speakers that I picked up a few years ago. And I also have the tuner on my stereo system which was a very generous hand-me-down from my oldest brother when he upgraded so many years ago.
I don’t really listen to the radio, though. I think about it. I plan to listen to shows that I enjoy (especially ones that focus on local music). I rarely do, though. Most of the radio I listen to is in my vehicle when driving somewhere. There is some special mystique that radio holds for me. The early days of radio could be mirrored by the early days of computers. People on the bleeding edge of technology, building their own equipment, reaching out to anyone who may be in the void. It’s fascinating and romantic. The technology is interesting, the way radio changed the word is exciting, and the content was special. It’s not a stretch to see why it’s inspirational to a science fiction writer.
I know I’m risking sounding like a typical out-of-touch middle-ager who used to be with it and now has no idea what it is, but I think I’m safe in saying that the radio stations in my area (Windsor-Detroit) used to be interesting. Now it seems like half of them are trying to be everything stations playing a mix of classic rock, 80s new wave, 90s grunge, and 2000s blandness. There are a few stations dedicated to a single thing, but not many (and not any dedicated to the kind of music I still like to listen to). But I don’t listen to the radio much, so it doesn’t really matter, right?
I remember when I was in high school, 89X would play their top nine at nine (something I think they did until their demise in 2020). I didn’t like every song that made the list, but I honestly felt that when I missed the countdown, I was out of touch the next day at school. Sure, that’s the reality of a teenager and I’m decidedly not a teenager anymore, but that kind of passion lasted a long time. I was lucky enough to have a brother who was a musician. He and his friends were on the bleeding edge of music they way radio pioneers were with technology. What they listened to (and I was exposed to) was a little more narrowed in focus to what was on the radio, but I would still listen to the stations I loved and find new music on my own.
That thirst for new music is still with me but other than half-a-day of modern music on CBC and a few shows on the local collage station CJAM (and the odd broadcast from Detroit Public Radio when it comes in clearly) I get most of my new music from digging it up on my own. It takes work to find something new and lots of sifting to find what I like.
I’m not that picky, either. I just wish what was broadcast on the radio matched my fascination with the medium. There used to be a station in Windsor that was a relay for a Toronto station. I think it was the Edge, or something. It didn’t last long, but while it did, I would often listen to it at my first job. It wasn’t any better than the home grown stations, but they had this great show where they would play a whole album by a band and interview them between songs. It was awesome. The closest thing I have found to that is on the college station.
I know the DJs don’t have a lot of control over what’s played and that most people are probably fine with the current state of radio. I still listen when I’m in the car and to be fair, I do find the odd new band and I jam out to my old favourites from when I was in high school when they come around in the rotation. Most people have Spotify or a variant, and that’s not my thing, so I am probably hamstringing my self by not taking part (a lifelong trend of mine). I like to own my content (music especially).
I’m sure there are a ton of great radio shows that I’m missing out on by being dismissive, but when there are so many other things competing for my time, searching for them isn’t at the top of my list. I have that vision (that I mentioned a few weeks ago) of writing late into the night. I have a radio going in those fantasies. The perfect station, that comes in just right through the night sky, plays music that fuels my world building and the DJ only comes on to tell me what that song was so I can jot it down and look it up later. Is that too much to ask for?
3 thoughts on “Radio used to be So Important to Me”
We just got Jett an old-school (looking!) boombox, and some blank tapes so he can make mixed tapes…! It sounds great…the radio function works well…it’s loud. Why’d we stop using these?! Hip hop parties are forthcoming!
That’s cool. There is something special about making mixed tapes. So tactile.
I could get into all kinds of conspiracy theories as to why we didn’t get widespread adoption of Digital Audio Tapes, Digital Compact Cassettes, or MiniDiscs in North America. Mostly it had to do with music companies being scared of home taping. Apparently it kills the music industry.
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