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Streaming Audio Evolution (July 26, 2021)

OK. This is why I decided to resurrect my old radio column. I wish to post my view of the evolution of streaming audio and my adventures with it. So let's get started.

It was 25 years ago today, in fact, it happened around 1:36pm that afternoon, when yours truly was heard on Groove Radio 103.1 (more on that in a minute) talking to former San Diego radio jock Holly Adams in Newport Beach/Santa Monica.

Groove Radio 103.1, which broadcasted on a transmitter in Newport Beach and another one in Santa Monica, was one of a handful of broadcasters that bitcasted, that is, streamed audio on the Internet, which was a then-new way of distributing audio to people worldwide. Bitcasting, or webcasting, or as I prefer to call it, streamcasting, began the year before on one station, KPIG, licensed in the city of Santa Cruz, California.

KPIG might have been the first radio station in the world to webcast their radio signal all over the world via the Internet as it went online on August 2, 1995. Webcasting was a then-new way to broadcast a radio station's audio over the Internet to many simultaneous listeners. I'm not sure about the order of early Internet webcasters so I'm guessing that Groove Radio 103.1 was within the first dozen of radio stations that were webcasting.

Now before we go any further, I need to set you up with the technology and software we used back in 1995-96 to listen to KPIG, Groove and whatever radio station was webcasting then.

We didn't have broadband cable, that is, a high speed Internet connection that ranges from 1 megabit to 1,000 megabits. Back in 1996, we had 14.4k, 28.8k and 33.6k bit (baud) connections depending on the modem we had at the time.

We didn't have an instant on connection like we have with cable broadband. Instead, we had dial-up software and a plain old telephone line. We had to hunt for and find a local service that sold Internet access and used software to make the modem dial the phone number to make a connection to the Internet. After it dialed the number, we heard a series of high and low frequency beeps and buzzes, then if we're lucky, we were connected on the Internet.

We didn't have Alexa or Google connected to broadband wi-fi to dial up radio station streams with a voice command. We needed a lot more stuff than that to listen to radio.

I mentioned the 14.4k, 28.8k and 33.6k modems. I also mentioned the dial-up software you also need, and you got those on a floppy disc. You also needed a phone line and an Internet service provider you dial into.

You needed a desktop computer with a web browser. Most of them were Windows 95 or 3.1 and most of the dial-up software on the floppys would work. Apple had its own suite of dial-up software to connect.

You opened up a web browser and typed in the name of the radio station website in the browser URL address. If you didn't know what it was, you went to Yahoo or another search engine (there was no Google until 1998) and searched for your radio staiton website with the hope you'll find it.

Once you found the radio station website in the search results, you clicked on the link and went to the radio station website.

After letting the website of the radio station load up in your browser, you begin looking for the "Listen Live" link if it existed. This is where it got tricky. You would then need to have a streaming audio software program installed on your computer, whether it was Real Audio, Windows Media Player, Radioactive or some other obsolete streaming format, before you clicked on the link. If the software wasn't found on your computer, then you were out of luck until you installed the streaming format's matching streaming software program. Many stations in the late 1990s used Real Audio but I encountered a few that used other formats.

As the years went on, more radio stations began streaming their radio signals on the web, and radio stations without a broadcast stick began webcasting. The problem with listening to streaming audio was that space on the server side (you and I were on the client side as listners) of the radio station were limited in space. If you were lucky, you got connected to the station's server and listened in. If not, you got an error message stating that server space was full. Once connected, you hoped that your phone line would not cut out unexpectedly or someone tries to call you and knocks your incoming webcast signal silent.

If your modem speed was too slow or you had a slow connection, you would experience the Max-Headroom effect of streaming as the sound would echo over and over again until you got the packets resuming to your end.

As broadband replaced dial-up, the Max-Headroom effect was minimized as listening to webcasting improved and more people would be able to listen to radio stations that were webcasting and a multitude of stick-less webcasters specializing in many formats and ideas.

Webcasting apps, such as iHeartRadio, Audacy (formerly Radio.com), TuneIn, and others plus radio station's own branded apps appearred in stores for Apple and Android phones. This made it possible to listen to your favorite webcasters on the go, anywhere you want to go. With a bluetooth or auxiliary connection to your car radio, it would be like listening to your favorite radio staitons with a car radio, except it's not coming from AM or FM radio.

It also got complicated as listeners had to figure out which stations were on what webcasting apps. In 2018, Audacy under its former name moved all of their webcasting radio stations out of TuneIn and into their just-launched radio.com app (now Audacy app).

Enter Alexa Echo and Google Assistant and perhaps others. After connecting them to your wifi connection (many cable modems have them, if not, go buy one), you say a command, something like "Alexa, play 91X" or "OK Google, play Energy 98." And in a few seconds, it begins playing.

No more searching for websites with search engines, hunting for "Listen Live" links, installing streaming radio decoding software, using dial-up modem programs, and even using a desktop computer. No more Internet Yellow Pages, typing in links clicking links or streaming server full errors. Switching from station to station takes seconds, not minutes.

We've come a long way in the 26 years of streaming audio. Don't take it for granted. Look how hard it was for us to listen to a webcasting radio station in 1996.

That was my first article in the new reboot of my column.

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I've Returned...Sort Of (July 25, 2021)

This is David Tanny and I've decided to do a relaunch of my old media blog after a six and a half year abscence.

It's been a long while since I blogged on a website I pay a registrar to rent a domain and a server to host my own website. After all, what once began as Dave's Radio Waves in 1999 was before any social media networks even existed at the time. All I had back then to communicate with privately was e-mail.

I figure since many people take exception of Facebook for reasons I won't get into, and for those who don't care to read news and views on social networks, I decided to bring back a blog on an irregular schedule. I'll post something new when I think of something that needs to be said.

This new format for my blog is about radio you can listen to via Alexa Echo and Google Assistant, as opposed to radio you can listen to from an antenna only restricting yourself to whatever your radio can pick up depending on where you are on Earth. If you have any favorite radio stations you listen to streaming from anywhere, please let me know about it by sending me a message to, as you have guessed, the dreaded Facebook Messenger, as I don't have an e-mail yet specifically for that purpose.

Here is my Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/davidtanny2021. Once you're there, send me an e-mail and tell me what staiton you listen to and how you use Google or Alexa (by Amazon) to tune it up. I'll still be covering local radio in San Diego but if the stations are very low power or limited range, they need to be streaming in order for me to consider publishing the article.

I'm not going to go heavy on the articles and links like I did in the final days of the SDN blog in the mid 2010s when it became nothing but links to articles and I was just phoning it in, then quitting due to exhaustion.

I might publish some old articles of mine from the past from time to time.

You can find me on the Facebook page as well as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, MeWe and Linked In pages.

Facebook: http://facebook.com/davidtanny2021

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