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Chromecast – Barbarians at the gate

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If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last five minutes (in Internet time), you probably know about Google’s Chromecast.

Chromecast is a $35 HDMI dongle that hangs off the back of your TV set.  It allows you to stream YouTube, Netflix, and just about anything you can view in your Chrome browser to your TV.  This is nothing new.  A modern TV with wireless can do the same thing.

I am not going to review the Chromecast – there are already hundreds or thousands of those.

But I am going to tell you what I thought about when I hooked mine up.


A television is an end device.  By this I mean that a traditional television set has been a specialized device that only certain content can appear on.  In the old days, about five or so years ago, you had to be someone special to get content to a television.  You had to be a “Network” (CBS, NBC, ABC, etc) or a cable provider delivering content such as AMC, CNN, CNBC, and so on.  To have content on a television, you had to have millions of dollars.  Development of television programs was done by professionals and it cost millions of dollars to produce and distribute.

The same was true with books.  In the old days, before self-publishing and easy global distribution on if you picked up a book you kinda knew that someone (the author(s)) probably spent a year of so researching and writing the content.    There was a tacit assumption of professionalism.  We had corporate entities called “publishers” that filtered the good from the bad.

What about radio?  The physical end device called a “radio” was like a television end device.  To be heard on a traditional radio station meant that you had hundreds of thousands of dollars and the value of the content was somehow commensurate with the cost of the broadcast capability.

Assembly of the Hordes

Anyone can offer an e-book on Amazon and get global distribution.  And anyone can put a video on YouTube and get global distribution.  If you listen to “radio” as Internet streams you know that anyone can be a broadcast radio station with global distribution.  The cost of the global distribution of content is approaching $0.

What has changed, is that there is no longer a vetting process for what we have traditionally understood as books, radio, and television – and lets add journalism to this as well.  The Wall Street Journal web site can appear in a tab in your browser next to any blogger on the Internet.


So when I hooked up the Chromecast to my television I knew that the Barbarians were at the gate.  My television end device is no longer a gatekeeper on the quality of content (with all respect to Newton Minow) and now a video of “a cat flushing a toilet” can appear on the same device as AMC’s Mad Men.

The Take

It may be an odd thing to say, but I think it’s true.  The traditional role of radio, television, and books was to serve as a coherent guideposts for the culture.  In a certain sense, before all this new media, we (the society and the culture) were “all on the same page”.  We all watched, listened to, and read the same limited variety of content on the television end device, the radio end device, and books and newspapers guarded by publishers distributed on paper.

But now, these “filters of coherency” have been breached by modern technology.  Content from everyone and everywhere washes over us like a tsunami on all devices.

With no gatekeepers there will be a chaos.  And in chaos, people wander aimlessly.

At $35, Chromecast has breached the walls of my television set.  The last bastion of protection is your own mind and decision-making.  There will be no “cats flushing a toilet’ on my television anytime soon.  Hope I can say the same about you when you hookup Chromecast to your TV.

Read More…

FCC Chairman Newton Minow 50 years later: a vaster wasteland


Written by frrl

September 29, 2013 at 5:51 am

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Fire Bottles: The 1928 RCA Radiola 18 and the Tuned Radio Frequency Design

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 So, what are some of the historic events of 1928?

  • February 25 – Charles Jenkins Laboratories of Washington, D.C. becomes the first holder of a television license from the Federal Radio Commission.
  • March 21 – Charles Lindbergh is presented the Medal of Honor for his first trans– Atlantic flight. 
  • April 12–April 14 – The first ever east–west transatlantic aeroplane flight takes place from Dublin, Ireland, to Greenly Island, Canada, using German Junkers W33 Bremen.
  • June 17 – Aviator Amelia Earhart starts her attempt to become the first woman to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean (she succeeds the next day). Wilmer Stultz was the pilot.
  • September 25 – Paul Galvin and his brother Joseph incorporate the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation (now known as Motorola).
  • September 11 – Kenmore’s WMAK station starts broadcasting in Buffalo, New York.
  • November 18 – Mickey Mouse appears in Steamboat Willie, the third Mickey Mouse cartoon released, but the first sound film.
  • December 21 – The U.S. Congress approves the construction of Boulder Dam, later renamed Hoover Dam.

Oh yes, and the RCA Corporation built and sold the RCA Radiola 18 Tuned Radio Frequency Receiver

Were you around in 1928?  Probably not.  But the antique radio I just acquired was there to hear it all.  You can just imagine a family, “watching the radio”, as they listened to the news of Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Boulder Dam, and of course Mickey Mouse.  1928 was just a few years after the first radio broadcasts.  You an imagine that radio broadcasting was as exciting and full of possibilities as was the beginning of the public Internet in the mid 1990’s.

If you own one of these older radio’s you have at least three things.  First, you have a piece of history.  Second, you have an example of early radio receiver design that is not around any more.  And third, you have a usable radio that you can use everyday.  The AM broadcast spectrum has not changed much since 1928 so your vintage radio will still be able to receive the AM broadcast band as it exists today.

What people are willing to pay for these radio’s… well… depends on how much you value history.  There is a link below of a mint condition RCA Radiola 18 for sale for $450.  Lucky for me, I was able to get my fully restored and working RCA Radiola 18 and matching speaker for just $50.

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Written by frrl

June 23, 2011 at 2:00 am

Radio is dead; Long live radio

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Radio is officially dead, especially when wireless internet access comes to your car.
–Seth Godin

When disruptive technologies comes along it sometimes requires us to look more deeply at the traditional concepts we have and the terms (words) that we use to describe these concepts.  There are many changes taking place simultaneously having complex interactions that no one can predict in advance.  Complicating all this is human reflexivity in response to technology and cultural changes.  What’s happening?  We are all living in a maelstrom of change.  For some, it is the biggest opportunity of their lives.  For others, it is nothing but fear, trepidation, and avoidance.  Change initiates the great sorting out of people and companies – an act of differentiating individuals and companies, one from another.

So what about Radio?  What is “radio” anyway?

Seth wrote the above in the context of Podcasting back in 2005.  There is a segment of the time of day that each of us prefers to listen to media that is limited to an aural presentation.  One of these places is your car.  When the wireless internet comes to your car will “radio” be dead?

When wireless internet comes to your car in a “taken for granted reality” sort of way what will take a hit for sure is your traditional AM/FM radio.  What will also take a hit is your local radio stations.  Local radio stations along with the traditional delivery mechanism of limited reach (transmitters, antennas, and power) may be in a fight for their life.  The FCC granted your local radio station a license to operate at a certain frequency within a certain limited spectrum of available frequencies.  They (your local radio station) have a privileged position due to scarcity of available frequency spectrum and the reach of the traditional distribution mechanism.  You (the consumer; the listener) don’t have much of a choice when listening to your AM/FM radio in the car.  Locality and limited choices may trump content as a preference for your listening.

What if the spectrum of  available frequencies for AM/FM radio was infinite?  And what if no one needed a license from the FCC to broadcast into that radio in your car?  What if the reach of your radio was not just the local stations but stations anywhere in the world?  What if, as a listener, you had infinite choices?

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Written by frrl

April 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm

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Vintage e-Book Collection – Radio theory, design, engineering…

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Check this link out for a huge collection of  vintage e-books related to Radio Theory, Electrical Engineering, Vacuum Tube Theory, Audio Amplifiers, Test Equipment, and much more

Written by frrl

July 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm

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The History of Communications – the past 150 years

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The Pew Internet Project has put together a retrospective of the past 150 years of communications. 

You can find a link to the full paper (24 pages) at the end of this posting.

In addition to the historical facts, this paper includes some interesting predictions made in the historical context in which these communications inventions emerged.

Here are a few predictions about radio from the time:

Sir William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, a Scottish mathematician and physicist, is quoted as saying in 1897:

Radio has no future.

According to a report in Dunlap’s Radio and Television Almanac, Sir John Wolfe-Barry remarked at a meeting of stockholders of the Western Telegraph Company in 1907:

…As far as I can judge, I do not look upon any system of wireless telegraphy as a serious competitor with our cables. Some years ago I said the same thing and nothing has since occurred to alter my views.

A June 1920 article in Electrical Experimenter titled “Newsophone to Supplant Newspapers” reported on an idea for a news service delivered via recorded telephone messages and also predicted the:

 radio distribution of news by central news agencies in the larger cities to thousands of radio stations in all parts of the world” leading to a time when “anyone can simply listen in on their pocket wireless set.

H.G. Wells wrote in “The Way the World is Going” in 1925: 

I have anticipated radio’s complete disappearance…confident that the unfortunate people, who must now subdue themselves to listening in, will soon find a better pastime for their leisure.

In 1913 Lee de Forest, inventor of the audion tube, a device that makes radio broadcasting possible, was brought to trial on charges of fraudulently using the U.S. mails to sell the public stock in the Radio Telephone Company. In the court proceedings, the district attorney charged that:

De Forest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it would be possible to transmit human voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public…has been persuaded to purchase stock in his company…

De Forest was acquitted, but the judge advised him

to get a common garden-variety of job and stick to it.

Here is the full paper –
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Written by frrl

June 14, 2010 at 4:44 am

A 1952 Gates BC1F 1,000 Watt commercial broadcast transmitter converted for Ham use

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“Never operate any transmitter that isn’t heavy enough to kill you if it falls over” – W4BVT

Take a look –

Written by frrl

December 26, 2009 at 1:00 am

Video tour of the Antique Wireless Association Museum

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Written by frrl

December 23, 2009 at 1:01 am

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