When Radio was King

I was a child when radio was in its heyday, when radio provided the full range of entertainment and informational programming that television does today. There were, of course, news, talk shows and recorded music that comprise the radio world today. But there were also concerts, opera, sporting events, drama and comedy, – even soap operas – and almost always live.

In addition to local broadcasting there were national networks similar to the national TV networks today – some are the very same organizations. There were quite a few radio stations, all in major metropolitan areas, each with exclusive rights to a specific frequency on the AM dial, and authorized to broadcast at great power, some as much as 500,000 watts. Because of their powerful signals and the lack of any interference at their frequencies they could be heard at great distances. I can recall listening regularly to stations from Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago and St. Louis, and others, at my home in Rochester, New York. Our local newspapers even provided schedules of significant out of town programming.

Of course, television came along and rapidly took over as the dominant media. Radio’s glory days were over. Ironically, there are probably many more radio stations today, and a larger listening audience – but radio is now largely limited to music, news and talk.

As much as I enjoy my hundreds of channels from satellite television on my large screen HDTV I sometimes miss those days when I didn’t have to have to be physically confined, my eyes glued on a screen. With radio you could move about and be occupied with other activities and not miss a thing. I miss being able to use my imagination, making up in my own mind what people looked like, and visualizing the ongoing action and scenery – much like reading a book. Television has robbed us of that. What you see is what it is. Often it is disappointing.


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