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AM radio is fading

They forgot to put an AM bandwidth in my new clock radio

By John Toth The Bulletin

I excitedly opened the parcel. Inside was a new alarm clock radio, Bluetooth connection, CD player and phone charger, all in one neat box with a big LED display.

It took a while to research this purchase after I decided that I needed a new alarm clock radio. Actually, it was more of a want. There was nothing wrong with the old one, which had only one fault. It would not wake me up to the radio, and it played the same tune each time. You may say this is just another First World problem, but to me, it was getting irritating.

I looked past it for a long time, even ignoring the fact that I always had an alarm clock radio that could wake me up by turning on the radio at a certain time.

My mother used the old wind-up clock that had a buzzer or some sort of other manual alarm. That’s what she was accustomed to. I fell asleep to the radio, and I have woken up to it for most of my life.

I opened the box and held in my hand the ultimate, all-in-one alarm clock radio. Well, almost everything else.

I read the instructions on how to program the clock. Then I moved on to the radio tuner setting, and it started to digitally recognize all the stations it would store in its memory.

It went through the FM stations, and then it started to play the very first station on the FM dial. What happened to the AM stations?

I reverted to the manual to try to find out how to tune in the AM stations.

Yes, I still want to listen to AM. That’s where most of the sports talk stations are. When I was in high school, I used to listen to baseball games on AM radio at night. I still remember listening to a totally forgettable game between the Washington Senators and the New York Yankees.

It was the last game of the season. Both teams were terrible. I don’t remember who won, and it’s not worth looking up. I just liked listening to the game on the radio. I still do. It’s a habit of sorts. My father used to listen to soccer games on the radio when I was a child. Maybe that’s where I got it from.

The Senators packed their bags after the game in 1971 and became the Texas Rangers.

I’d rather listen to a baseball game than watch it, because I can do other things also while the game is being played - like write this column. So, there’s no AM bandwidth on the new clock radio. I must have missed that in the descriptions. I just assumed that something this elaborate would also have an AM radio. After all, AM has been around for a lot longer than FM.

It is generally recognized that the first radio transmission was made from a temporary station set up by Guglielmo Marconi in 1895.

Commercial AM radio broadcasts began in the 1920s on a limited basis. In the 1940s, AM was joined by its much clearer and higher quality FM bandwidth. It wasn’t until much later that AM became a second-class citizen. I was still listening to Top 40 hits on AM radio in the 1970s.

Compared to FM or digital transmissions, AM transmissions are less expensive and can be sent over long distances. However, they are much more susceptible to interference and often have lower audio fidelity.

The music moved over to FM, which could also broadcast in stereo. AM slowly became relegated to news, sports, fishing reports and opinion shows.

I recently heard a report on an FM station that car manufacturers are beginning to install radios in their cars without an AM bandwidth. How are all those new car drivers going to listen to sports shows and games on the road?

The Internet, you say? That’s correct. I have an MLB radio subscription and can dial up any game. But it’s not the same as turning on the old AM radio and listening to the game. It doesn’t feel the same.

I can guess what will happen. To get an AM radio in your new car, you’ll probably have to buy an AM receiver that plays through a bluetooth connection on your car’s radio. I’ll probably buy one if I ever get a car without an AM bandwidth.

If you’ll excuse me, I will now relax and enjoy one of my vinyl albums as it spins around on my record player and emits high-fidelity sound through my Bluetooth speakers. Much better sound than AM radio, and the Astros aren’t playing now.

I may return this almost-magnificent clock radio and get one with an AM radio included. Is that too much to ask? Are you listening, car makers?


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