Chaos? – Government announces analogue switch off

Posted by on June 17, 2009 in News and Comment | 3 comments

Chaos? – Government announces analogue switch off


The End of an Era

Not radio mics this time but something that is going to directly affect way more people. The Government has announced that all radio stations in the UK will be digital only by 2015. Most radios in the UK by far are analogue and they will all become pretty useless (in this country) in 2015 when the signal is switched off.

Just think how much junk that is going to generate. I don’t know how many analogue radios there are in this country but I personally own at least four so that’s got to be a lot of technology to throw away. I don’t want to throw it away either, we throw way too much away. My car radio also plays CDs and talks to my ipod, but what it’s doing most of the time is bringing me the wonderful radio four. I’m not sure I can even drive without it! On my allotment I listen to a wind up radio. I thought I was being green by buying it, but now I find that I am going to have to replace it with digital in 8 years time.

Sad that as I write that I’m thinking that 8 years is an ok lifespan for a piece of technology. Technology moves at such a pace we replace things like mobile phones and computers way more often than that, but radio had so far remained apart, sets my parents had when I was a child still continue to work with pleasurable reliability.

It’s an overwhelming shame, the radio is such a simple piece of technology and so cheap to make and power. I grew up in a house with radio in every room and while that may not change, with stations streamed over wi-fi a beautiful simplicity will be gone. As a child I built a crystal set and marveled at being able to hear a scratchy signal from something with so few components. Will the children of tomorrow have anything to listen to if they make such a set?

Don’t get me wrong, I love new technology. I love that I can listen to radio online or via freeview. I love that I can download programmes as a podcast or “listen again” these things have brought radio up to date. I shall miss the simplicity of analogue, it always works it’s not reliant on wi-fi or broadband or even mains electricity. If people are still broadcasting, we can hear them, can we really not have both? The FM spectrum we are told is going to be used for “ultra local” and community stations, so at least the amount of analogue radios that are bound to still be in use in home and cars in particular may help to boost their audience.

The blurry picture at the top of this rant is a crystal radio set I made a year or so back, well it would be, but the diode is missing, but you get the idea of how simple and how few components it has. It also needs an aerial that’s a piece of wire that goes all the way down the garden….. but try receiving a digital signal on something that simple that you can build with instructions from a ladybird book. The end of an era I say.

Radio switch-off
Crystal radio sets

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3 Comments

  1. Mary,
    I agree whole heartedly. Children will be unable to carry out this simple demonstration which demonstrates not only the basic but wonderful technology, but also the wonder of the universe in which we exist – Electromagnetic Energy crossing space and passing into a wire, and becoming sound.

    On medium wave at night we hear interference which can be annoying, but it can also be mysterious far away stations, or the interaction of those signals with the ionosphere. Maybe I'm mad to think these things amazing.

    I'm also sad to think of all the radios I have, each with its own individual history, quirks and design, becoming dead junk and falling silent. Maybe you should petition No 10 to keep analogue so our kids can still learn to experiment and don't just become consumers.

    Michael, Cumbria

  2. Thanks for your comments Michael.

    I too think it's sad that so many radios will become virtual museum objects rather than “living” things.

    While the government has announced that FM is going to be the home of “ultra local” stations with the power to transmit only a few miles I doubt if this is going to amount to many stations – particularly outside London. Who is going to finance them?

    There is indeed a petition on the number 10 website with 1,730 signatures as I write this. It's at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/AM-FM-Radio/

  3. Thanks Mary,
    I signed the petition and have already passed it to one friend and will continue to pass it on.

    Michael

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