Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Wireless Future of Web Radio and the Internet - The Radio Blog By James Bean


The Wireless Future of Web Radio 
and the Internet - The Radio Blog
By James Bean


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   Radio is Sacred: An Example of an 
       old Philco "Cathedral Radio".


Some major news this week. This quote is courtesy of CNET.com, excerpted from, "Tech Companies Poised for White-space Spectrum":
 
"The 300MHz to 400MHz of unused "white space" spectrum is considered prime spectrum for offering wireless broadband services because it can travel long distances and penetrate through walls.....Next week, the FCC is expected to vote on new rules that will pave the way for companies to begin development of new products that can use this unlicensed spectrum.....
 
"Signals that use the white-space spectrum travel at least three times farther than signals transmitted over other unlicensed spectrum, such as Wi-Fi. This means it can cover an area that is almost nine times as large as one that uses Wi-Fi and because it operates at a much lower frequency than Wi-Fi, it can penetrate buildings much more easily.....
 
"Microsoft showed off its network to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in April. Genachowski has been bullish on the use of white-space spectrum to spur innovation in the mobile broadband market."
 
Move over satellite and traditional terrestrial radio! What will become of those older technologies in an age of the unlimited, ever-evolving, infinite listening possibilities of the worldwide web? Will those frequencies also end up being rededicated someday to transmitting a wireless web on an even grander geosynchronous global scale perhaps?
 
This trend toward a wireless experience is so positively liberating, especially for web radio channels such as HealthyLife.net. With more and more people able to listen, not only at home or in the office, but on the go: in cars or using portable devices supplying headphones with audio -- this new ubiquitous untethered reality may represent the dawn of a new golden age of radio. 

The AM "transistor radio" was invented in the early 1950's, and first hit store shelves in 1954. Traditionally, radio listening has been a wireless experience for many. Nice to be getting that back again, only this time taking it to a new level with web radio!
 
I have so many fond memories listening to radio in various contexts over the years, including using portable radios. Once upon a time, people would listen to "AM radio" at night. Some still do. During the day AM broadcast signals travel mostly by "groundwave". One is fairly limited to local stations in one's area, but after sunset is when the magic happens. The ionosphere of the earth changes, and acts as a kind of "mirror" or "parabolic dish" of sorts, reflecting "skywave" radio signals from much, much further distances. Even a portable radio tuned to the AM broadcast band, powered only by a humble nine-volt battery, and with no external antenna, at night has the potential of hearing stations a thousand miles away.
 
International shortwave radio, using a somewhat higher part of the radio spectrum, is blessed with the reflective properties of the earth's ionosphere, even during the day, and allows listeners to directly tune in stations as far away as India, China, and Australia. Shortwave clearly was the world's first attempt at global mass-communications, and is still alive and well, used for broadcasting, also for transmitting data. The only difference is, now many of those same broadcasters have also added streaming audio over the web.
 
As a result of being exposed to shortwave radio from a young age, I thankfully got my world expanded greatly, and was introduced to news from diverse points of view, culture and information that flowed from various parts of the globe. Some examples:
 
the BBC World Service;
 
jazz coming from Radio Prague;
 
countless unfiltered news broadcasts from the Voice of Germany and Radio Netherlands;
 
some rather pleasant Greek music from Radio Athena;
 
the classical instrument known as the sitar being played over All India Radio;
 
Islamic Call to Prayer via many stations emanating from the Middle East;
 
religious broadcasts on "The Voice of the Andes", HCJB in Quito, Ecuador;
 
Tuvan Throat Singing being featured on an ethnic world music show at The Voice of Russia (Radio Moscow);
 
being surprised by hearing a station in the Persian Gulf play The Who, or Radio Tehran playing "Breathe" by Pink Floyd;
 
'subversive' peace-oriented political discussions clandestinely shared by pirate radio broadcasters at secret locations somewhere in the north eastern US for a few hours at a time, then shutting down before their signals could be triangulated, disappearing into the night;
 
hearing "numbers stations", mysterious voices chanting numbers in Spanish or other languages and wondering what purpose they might serve -- Note: Wikipedia: "Numbers stations are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. They generally broadcast artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters, sometimes using a spelling alphabet, tunes or Morse code. They are in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually female, though sometimes male or children's voices are used.");
 
discovering the first new age music and spirituality program in North America broadcast by Radio Canada when that was a virtually unknown genre;
 
or tuning into a most unusual religious broadcast with someone discussing near-death experiences, and wondering to myself, 'who IS this guy?' 'What group does he represent?'
 
Radio can be a fun hobby as well as source of vital information. It's rather mind-boggling and exciting to now be witnessing the evolution of a truly wireless worldwide web, especially web radio with unlimited potential. "You choose. Programs you want, never anything you don't. The way radio should be: HealthyLife.net."