Tuesday, March 30, 2004

My Expensive Radio

My Expensive Radio

In Singapore, the BBC World Service is broadcasted in FM and I used to listen to it quite often when I was working there. I prefer listening to the radio than watching TV because it is less intrusive. You can leave it on and still be able to do your work.

When I was in Jakarta, I was staying permanently in a hotel, so I had a TV in my room. When the idiot box is so conveniently located, the temptation is always there to switch it on. So I didn't listen to the radio for two years. Moreover, my favourite station, the BBC is only available in poor quality shortwave transmission in Indonesia.

I'm not sure if anyone still listens to shortwave radio anymore; but during our parents' time, that was cyberspace. Surfing over shortwave could be your only means of connecting to the world, if you happen to be in some remote location without TV, Internet and cellphone coverage. When David Beckham sent England into the 2002 World Cup with a last minute equalizer against Greece, I was listening to its live commentary over BBC radio huddled in my coffin-like sleeping berth on the night train somewhere between Singapore and KL.

For a while, I even considered satellite radio when I was in Indonesia. Not many people are aware of this service. Worldspace has satellites that broadcast digital radio programs worldwide--it is free and the audio is near CD quality but you need to have a satellite radio receiver, which is only available in specific stores. Most of the popular radio stations such as CNN radio, BBC and Voice of America are available through this service.

Even though the service is targeted chiefly towards Third World countries in Asia and Africa, of which a great portion of the population still does not possess TV sets, let alone Internet connection, I'm not sure if this service is catching on. I hope it does, because it is a good replacement for unreliable shortwave broadcasts.

In Malaysia, BBC World Service is only available in shortwave. But I found a workaround: because it is also streamed on the Internet, I could also receive it live over my 512K Streamyx connection. I have a Wi-Fi LAN installed at home and suddenly my Centrino notebook can conveniently receive my favourite radio station anywhere in my house.

Imagine the sheer extravagance of it: All that expensive high-tech equipment just to get a service that one could receive using a 10 ringgit shortwave radio set!

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