Every day, when I get in the car, I turn on the radio. At the office, I often listen to it. Some times when I a physical FM receiver is not within reach and I want to keep abreast of local news or just enjoy music, I tune in and listen via TuneIn Radio on my smartphone. I am not alone. Around the world, billions of people still listen to radio on a daily basis.
Radio has refused to die. When television arrived, the hype machine screamed that radio would soon die off. People also said the PC would kill it, the internet would kill it, and most recently that mobile would kill it. But the damn thing has refused to die. Radio just won’t go away. Why? How is such an old technology able to withstand the onslaught of newer technologies?
What Makes Radio So Ubiquitous?
- Unobstructive. Perhaps the most user-friendly attribute of this medium is that it is one of the few media channels that you can use without distractions while doing something else. You can safely drive while listening to the radio. You can listen to the radio while cooking, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, reading, writing, or painting. Radio is very unobstructive. No other media is that unobstructive. Television? Internet? Mobile? Nah. They all need attention to fully enjoy them. The good old radio can play away in the background while you carry on with almost any task you have at hand.
- Affordable. Almost anyone can afford a lowly FM receiver. It is cheaper than even the most affordable mobile phones.
- Low Power Consumption. Put in two AA or AAA batteries and you have enough power to run your small radio set for days at a stretch. Radio is such a low power technology that only the most basic feature phones have matched it in that area. As such, countless populations in rural areas – who are often without power supply – are locked on to their radio sets as a means of staying in touch with news, information and music.
- Wide Reach. If there are places where a television signal is unavailable or where mobile internet is available, chances are that an AM or FM signal – no matter how weak – will be available. Radio waves have a much wider reach than most other media technologies. At one time, some AM stations could be picked up worldwide. Till now, some FM stations can be picked up as far as 100 kilometres away. Amazing reach.
- Immunity to bad weather. Compared to other wireless technologies, FM radio is relatively immune to lightning and spark interference.
Alongside mobile phones, radios remain one of the most accessible forms of technology, covering over 70% of the world’s population.
The good old radio trudges on. It isn’t fancy. It isn’t cutting edge. But it is proven and is truly available almost anywhere you go on the planet earth. For how much longer will it hold out? Maybe no-one knows. But seeing that new stations come on stream every other day (and every car still being manufactured with a receiver built in), it looks like it is going to be around for quite a while.
Update: Very odd coincidence that this article was published on the 13th of February, 2017. I had no idea that it was World Radio Day – 13th February every year.