Globe editorial calls FM radio "outdated technology"

Dave Doherty
Mon Aug 30 00:38:39 EDT 2010

Hi, Don-

I worked for GE Broadcasting in Schenectady in the late 1960s. The story I 
heard back in the day was that GE had tested the FM stereo system under an 
STA at WGFM as early as the late 1950s, and when it was approved by the FCC 
in the early 1960s, they signed it on officially the same day. That would 
have been consistent with the history of the GE stations in Schenectady as 
being on the bleeding edge - WGY claimed to be the first 50kW AM station in 
the world, and WRGB-TV was an industry leader in TV broadcasting.

FM was an option then. Around 1970, I bought a hot aftermarket AM / FM 
under-dash unit that got about 50 FM stations at my home in Glenmont (I 
recall that it was 56, but it was a long time ago). About half showed a 
stereo pilot strong enough to light the light.

In those days, there were a lot of new stations going on the air, and a lot 
of excitement in the radio tech community about newly sensitive solid-state 
tuners and receivers that could pick up an FM signal as weak as a few uV/m, 
but there was still no good economic model to pay for the service.

In 1970-1972, I worked for an AM/FM station in upstate NY. The FM simulcast 
the AM and ran a basically homebrew SCA background music service on 67kHz 
using Marti SCA receivers and outdoor antennas. The SCA paid the power bill 
for the FM transmitter, so it didn't hurt to run the FM, and that was about 
as good as it got from the standpoint of the owner.  FM Stereo?  Hell no, if 
it cost five bucks.

IMO, the major thing that hurt the adoption of FM Stereo was that the system 
was a mix of an AM pilot at 19kHz and AM sidebands centered on 38kHz 
impressed on an FM carrier. It worked OK for static receivers with outdoor 
antennas and little or no multipath, but it was - and is - fundamentally 
dreadful for mobile reception.

If you want to see a great historical model of consumer market adoption of a 
new tech standard, take a look at the history of color TV broadcasting. It 
took about 30 years from the FCC decision adopting NTSC as the color 
standard to achieve 100% network color broadcasts and 50% color TV set 

The recent switch from NTSC to digital transmission was government-mandated, 
with subsidies to consumers to buy new TV sets or convertors. It took about 
15 years from the first proposals to the final analog shutdown.

Contrast that with today's consumers.

While broadcast standards have historically taken decades to evolve, today's 
iPhone is yesterday's BlackBerry and tomorrow's Droid. In a month or two, 
today's hoo-hah will be yesterday's Droid.

The point is that all stations - AM / FM / TV  - need to have a voice in the 
digital delivery world. I really don't care what device you use to listen to 
my stations, I want you to be able to hear them. That means we need digital 
transmission standards, carrier-neutral transmission, and devices that 
adhere to, or at least accept, those standards.


From: "Don" <>
Sent: Sunday, August 29, 2010 1:15 PM
To: "B-R-I" <>
Subject: Re: Globe editorial calls FM radio "outdated technology"

> From: "Aaron Read"
>>  Well, HD Radio
>> has been around for seven years, so why the hell haven't we had at
>> least two or three years of HD Radios as standard equipment?  Or at
>> least optional equipment?
> When did stereo start?
> How long did it take before it was standard equipment?

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