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A Brief History of the Early Days of Radio Stations Streaming Online

Around the time of the first Gulf War, I got into something called DXing, the obsession of trying to pull in distant radio stations. AM, FM, shortwave–didn’t matter. The thrill was seeing what stray frequencies could be pulled in by your multiband radio. Audio quality was awful, signals faded in and out and if the broadcast was in a language you couldn’t speak, you had no idea what you were listening to.

That seems quaint now given that there are tens of the thousands of radio stations that stream online. But twenty years ago, this was the thing of science fiction. Broadcasting over the air and over the Internet? Magic.

Radio consultant Sean Ross has this look back at those early days.

I can make no claims to being a digital native, but I did figure out this morning that I’ve been streaming broadcast radio for more than half of my adult life. It was almost exactly twenty years ago, early June 1997, that streaming became the primary way that I listened to the radio.

At that point, streaming had finally burgeoned past a handful of early experiments (going back to late 1994). The previous year, I’d gone to a friend’s place and he’d proudly shown me that he could stream Capital FM London. It sputtered. It buffered. It was listenable for about one song. (This one.)

I can’t remember why it took me another six months, but when I did start streaming Capital FM for myself, they became my P1 radio station within days, wresting me away from WHTZ (Z100) New York. And since Z100 was pretty terrific in summer 1997—during the full flower of CHR’s comeback, and its own—that took some doing.

Read the whole thing here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37884 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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