Random thoughts, dubious rants, curiosities and worthy citations on the media, politics, marketing, music, inanity, and animals, among other things. Words and pictures and stuff, mostly from south central Wisconsin USA
The clock radio. Most everyone has one. A lot of people rely on them. But likely no one thinks of their clock radio when listing their various home entertainment electronics. I mean, c'mon. It's just a clock with a radio.
What's more, it's radio. How quaint. How early 20th century. How low-tech. Recently, what we used to just call radio has been rechristened terrestrial radio, meaning old-fashioned broadcast radio instead of cable radio, Internet radio or satellite radio. High-definition radio is the digital upgrade of broadcast radio, and the broadcast industry in promoting the hell out of it, hoping it will save their collective reason to be. But it's still terrestrial radio.
My partner, Tom, owned the same old Sony clock radio since before I met him in 1994. It finally died last month, and he was thinking about getting a new one. Since his birthday was just around the corner, I told him to wait. This was my opportunity to get something I had only heard about but really wanted to try out: a WiFi radio. Simply put, it is a radio -- in this case a clock-radio model -- that allows the user to stream any of over 17,000 terrestrial radio stations that simulcast on the Internet. All one needs to use it is a high-speed wireless internet connection. Broadband and WiFi. That's it.
After checking out a few different models and manufacturers, I settled on Logitec's Squeezebox. They make a clock-radio version in addition to others including a boom box and audio rack component. The Squeezebox clock radio is about the same size as any other clock radio, sports a single yet clear, wide range and powerful speaker, and bright display that gives the time when not showing you what you are listening to. It has all the usual clock radio stuff. And it gets 17,000 stations. ($179 from Amazon)
I thought this might be complicated to use, and Tom is not predisposed to techie stuff. No matter. He had the thing up and running in about three minutes. All one need do is register it, and then begin entering the call letters of whatever stations you might want to hear. He chose our favorite Chicago station, WXRT, along with a handful of NPR affiliates* and two local Madison stations. But the real joy in this for him is the ability to listen to the classical station out of Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern lower Michigan. He spent over 15 summers working up there, and now he can wake to WIAA every morning.
It's amazing how easy to operate this thing is. And it sounds great. What's more, it's portable with an optional rechargeable battery
pack; as long as you have WiFi within reach you have all those stations
My friend Mike, an advertising art director and graphic designer, has been telling me for years that radio is dying. (This from a guy who mostly does print ads and posters.) If you are an art director, radio is the one medium you'll never work on, so it can't have value, right? Well, Mikey, once this WiFi radio becomes more mainstream, I think radio will be around for a while longer. After all... we all need a clock radio. And, Mike, this one actually does have a full color screen for cover art. So their is something in it for you to like too.
*NPR offers their own special version through their online store for $200. Manufactured by Livio, the radio is set up primarily to receive all NPR stations, but will also receive thousands of other stations. It's a nice way to support NPR, but after trying both of these, I still like the Squeezebox radio better.