We are almost at the point where, if you talk about “turning on the radio,” or “listening to the radio,” people under the age of 20 may not even know what you mean. They will probably assume you are talking about your car.

I first saw this coming when I realized that broadcasting was finally dead, around 2001. This was the year the BBC stopped broadcasts to North America. And they were almost the LAST of the large first-world countries to do so.

FM radio was still alive, if you can call it that. AM was on life support (that support being in the form of infomercials aimed at old people, religious programming, angry political talk, and “sports.” I can’t see a happy ending there either. All those huge verticals and radial systems! I want one. I could finally finish 160m DXCC.

Who knew? VHF/UHF Scanners have been replaced by an open streaming service that is excellent! Unfortunately, cops have been using cell phones for anything really juicy for about 20 years now..

Sure, traditional broadcasting of information and entertainment is still twitching and convulsing every so often, but – personally, I have moved on. Now that I think of it, the decline of broadcasting roughly coincides with the decline of ham radio, but that’s another story. ( Don’t get me get started on television.)

Those of us who are hams and shortwave listeners, being early adopters, got to try some of the transitional stuff – digital FM, and even digital AM… not to mention the abortion called DRM. Then there were satellite radio, dongles, Internet radios, and I guess we should include IPods and ITunes, which is also on it’s way out.

The questions is, how narrow can narrowcasting get? One station per person? We are almost there. Now that I think of it, that’s what Chromecast is.

Have you tried shopping for a simple loudspeaker (maybe a pair?) lately? It appears that now, if a speaker doesn’t include Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, the average shopper is going to just turn up their nose and say, “what good is that?”

This reminds me of the death of the audio hobby; RIP, 1990, when people no longer understood why someone would sit in front of speakers for music with no video…

Soon, we will expect our speakers to listen to us. Just today, Sonos (the original “inventor” of wireless speakers, among other things) announced a strategic partnership with Amazon. What this means is that when you talk to your Amazon Echo, now you can say “play me some King Crimson, in the living room…” (I am picturing that I would be asked to confirm in some way, so then I could just say, “Make it so!”)

So, how do I listen to the BBC today? Asking my Echo/Sonos system seems like a safe (but expensive) bet. I don’t have either one anyway, of course. I am too cheap, and too tied up with old speakers, amps, equalizers, crossovers, not to mention miles of cabling, to ever think of the Echo or Sonos as fun. Soldering on those gold connectors is all that is left of my skills developed from building all those hundreds of Heathkits.

I guess I could still poke around looking for those few hours of BBC that public FM radio includes, but what I really get is carefully chosen slices aimed at US audiences. (Usually in the very early morning or the middle of the night.) I want the real thing – the World Service, the Local Service, Radio 1, 2, 3, and 4. I want The Archers, poetry, the shipping forecast, silly game shows, and cricket matches. I want Big Ben! Last but not least, I want world news as reported by the best journalists on earth. Without the USA spin. (Take THAT, 60 Minutes!)

Part of the reason this is difficult has to do with funding, since the BBC that I want is the one paid for by loyal British citizen’s taxes and monthly fees. They still don’t go to a lot of trouble to make it easy for us. Right now there are two ways:

The first is to just dive right in through the web, where you can stream live, and you can get at least the latest podcasts directly. It takes a bit of looking.

For a really great perspective of what is really freely available out there, check live radio.net – anything you can think of, from anywhere, endlessly categorized and indexed. College AM from Wales! But sooner or later you will run into player and format issues.

For this sort of thing my preference is to use an audio player like Rhythmbox. I fire it up every so often, and it automatically collects my favorite programs, like “The Bottom Line” and “From Our Own Correspondent.”

I can hear them right now, or copy them over to my phone, and listen to them at my leisure. When I want to feel like I am back in the USA, I can even get This American Life the same way.

But sometimes I wish I could still just turn on a radio, and be sure that with a few button presses and turns of a knob (remember knobs?) I will be hearing my favorites, even while out in the garage or yard. So that brings us to TuneIn – and my hardware of choice: an old tablet.

See, us suckers (I mean, “early adopters”) have a need for an excuse to get the latest hardware, even when the one we have isn’t very old. Thus it was, when I couldn’t stand how slow my Nexus 7 (1st generation) was while trying to simply read Slashdot, google news, wired.com, and other daily staples of my lunchtime at work.

So I retired it. First I wiped it, and told it NOT to sync my other junk. Then I just added the TuneIn app, and presto! My new radio!

It sits in the garage, in a charging cradle, with the headphone jack wired up to a radio shack preamp, and one of my Fostex 6301B powered speakers, which are all over the house. I have another speaker in the back yard, patched OUT of the Fostex. (Watch for the 6301B on EBay.)

The preamp allows me to switch between the tablet, and my SWL receiver for what’s left of shortwave, via (you guessed it) a 70′ longwire: Radio Australia, WBCQ, Radio Havana Cuba, and local AM via my Wellbrook loop.

I am happy as a clam with this setup. Now I can paint the deck while listening to “The 6 O’Clock News” (at 1PM of course…)

What exactly *is* a radio now, anyway?
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