Monday, October 8, 2012

MP3 Players Killed the Portable Radio Star

Because I spend quite a bit of my time out in the garage doing non-mental work, I like to have a radio tuned to talk radio going to allow me to do a little bit of mental workout too. At our old house, I had an old stereo out in the garage and though it still works, the old speakers attached to it were shot. I would have to turn up the radio way too loud to get them to work or they would just be filled with static. I dutifully moved the old stereo and speakers to our new place but haven't put forth the effort to mount it on some sort of shelf only to blast myself with sound assuming it survived the move.

So while in the general vicinity, I dropped by one of the large box stores (other than Walmart) and walked back to the electronic section to check out their radio selections. I was thinking I could buy a small boom box (ghetto blaster as we called them back in the day) that had a CD player and a tuner radio inside. I found shelves of speakers that plug into your phone or MP3 player, I found lots of home theater type of stereo systems but not one single radio. What was I missing?

Finally I asked the lady manning the expensive electronic desk where they keep them all under glass where the radios were. She looked at me puzzled so I said I just wanted a portable radio that I could play out in my garage. She looked puzzled but finally something clicked and she led me back to the aisle I was just in. I should pause here to say that she was probably only in her early twenties.

Back in the aisle, she walked clear to the end and pointed to the last shelf spot on the lowest shelf at the far end of the aisle and told me that they only carried that one portable radio. She said that if I went over to the alarm clock section, I might have more options and then left me alone. I looked at the one radio that they had and I must say it wasn't quite what I had in mind. It looked like something you might buy your young daughter for Christmas knowing that she will probably break it in a few weeks and you don't want to waste all that money on something more expensive. It was a small bubble shaped thing with a little six inch antenna and nothing like a much larger square shaped boom box with an antenna that could stretch out several feet for good reception.

As I paused and looked at the radio it finally hit me that I had just found out about the death of the portable radio. I'm sure it died long ago but I just learned about it. Judging by the selection on the other shelves, it has long been replaced by portable MP3 players or more likely smart phones which you can tune into radio stations of your choice anywhere in the world. I did end up buying that radio and despite the smallish antenna, it does receive the local radio station that I mostly listen too but I'm still in morning.


sage said...

The only constant is change... I still have a small radio that uses an AA battery that I will take backpacking to try to listen to the news when bored, or find the weather, but I am afraid when it gives up the ghost I'll be out of luck.

Vince said...

Here we can get retro Bush* radios. I have one beside me as I write this. I got it as a gift for I could never justify the spend of €100 on what is 50 cent of plastic.

Ed said...

Sage - I generally leave all radios at home when out in the wilderness just to truly get away from it all but once a person with me had one and it ended up saving me a lot of discomfort or worse by warning me ahead of a huge ice storm. Because of the warning, I was off the river a day early and then got trapped in a cabin without electricity for the next week waiting for things to melt so I could escape.

Vince - I wish I had held onto the metal boombox given to me by my grandfather when I was a kid. I bet it would still work today just fine.

Ron said...

I fire up the radio once every couple of months, often when I'm out cleaning and organizing the shop... and after a couple of hours of hearing the same darn songs over and over and over and over and over... I ask myself why I listen to the thing.

There have to be billions of songs on this planet, sung by millions of capable people, but it seems every radio station I tune into is only interested in playing 20 or so of them, sandwiched between a whole lot of advertisements for things I don't want or need.


Ed said...

Ron - I gave up listening to modern radio years ago. I only listen to talk radio not which is much more entertaining anyway plus I learn quite a bit this way. If I do listen to music, it is generally to a favorite CD.

Practical Parsimony said...

I suppose I should pet and cherish and protect my boombox. The only time I use the radio is to hear weather alerts when I hear a tornado is on the way. Last April 27th, a friend called me and told me a tornado was heading straight for my small town. I turned on the local channel. The station is about 4 blocks from my house.

When I heard a man screaming, "Take cover. I see a tornado heading right into town," I ran from the kitchen and into the bathroom. The tornado tore up the town but was still one block from me. It stays loaded with 8 D batteries. I used the radio to hear news for a week. Because the radio towers were in the direct line of the storm, I could only hear about the devastation in Tuscaloosa.

The batteries make it weigh a ton, but it is worth having it, weight and all. I do listen to the occasional CD on the boombox. Now, I regret giving away my other boombox!

Ed said...

Practical Parsimony - Hang onto that thing. It will probably be highly collectible one day!

Bone said...

You should try finding a rotary dial phone :)

I still have a "stereo" in the living room. Never use it. But still, a stereo? That used to be an entertainment staple. Not so much anymore.