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FM or TV?

This year and especially during the next one is one major anniversary - 70 years after the second worldwide war ended. In the second part of 1944, third Reich ultimately started to collapse and German soldiers with their allies began to withdraw from occupied territories, toward the last days in April back in 1945 when Hitler committed suicide and toward officially surrender of German army week later. In the aftermath, couple of months after May 8th, the War finally ended with devastating and completely unnecessary dropping of two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia, on 25 July 1946.

Looking to it from this distance, these very two bombs, immediately after the war, initiated the race between major developed countries in fast developing technology in both military and civil environments within various sciences. Especially within military. If we look into the history of wars and even before 20th century, the winner of any war was always the one who had better toys. Or came in bigger numbers. The race for the best player in the world started that very day. Still ongoing.

Well, if we disregard all military aspects of the technology development in latest 70 years, what I really want to write in this post is something that affected all of us regardless where we live on the planet. It is the race within development of communication within home appliances and their usage in our daily entertainment. Many years before WW2, radio and television broadcasting were already invented and in commercial use, but only after the second world war, it all began to grow rapidly and television sets started to move into our living rooms, occupying the best spot in the house, replacing old and large radio receiver with scary vacuum tubes inside. Ever since then, there is no doubt that no matter how we placed or removed our living room furniture, the almighty TV would always get the major position. Even for all those people who said that TV is just a distraction and moved it outside of their living rooms, the question is where they spend more time now - where TV is moved or in the old living room? The simple fact is that your living room is not the place you set to be the one - it is the one where you spend the most of your time. Yep, even if you hanged your state of the art HDTV in the hallway and built a fireplace in your living room on its former spot, if you are spending lots of time in the hallway now ... well ... you can freely re-think if what you did was the right call.

TV size and resolutions over time

But really, is TV indeed that bad and loosing battle to the NET today. The same the FM radio lost its battle to TV before? Hmm, well, I am not so sure this is the case. For that matter, I am not so sure that radio lost the battle too. Let's see what is going on in our houses. Well I surely don't know what is going on in most houses so I will tell you what is in mine. It is the same as in all other houses I know. Houses of my friends, relatives, business friends, acquaintances.. There are TVs, FM receivers, and computers all hooked to the NET. In living room you ask? Yes. And in many other rooms. I don't live in denial. It's most likely that I live according to that saying - if you can't win them, join them. And I am trying to get the most of them all. And to keep (remote) control of them. What I did was to isolate dozen of channels that fits our mutual interests into several lists and programmed the TV to ignore all the others.

It was much simpler in the days when my father was in my age. In that "black and white" era, in Serbia only national operator existed, broadcasting only one channel within VHF band and with use of large antennas on the roofs. When revolutionary color TV set arrived with new, state of the art, broadcasting towers, using new UHF technology, my father and his peer friend, took the opportunity and started a small business of manufacturing smaller antennas that were able to catch more channels. Competition added new dimension into quality of the broadcast as well with inevitable trashing the content and accepting commercials in business-fying the whole thing. The result? What we have now. Zillion of channels and you have to add all your efforts to sort the good from bad. Today, we are living in a world of cable, satellite and terrestrial TV feeds along with YouTube and other various NET based channels with the cost of requirement for your viewers to possess higher level of education than in my father's days - all you needed back then, was to power your TV, connect it to antenna, click on a big red button and browse up and down within few channels. Today, the smallest HDTV is a computer with a operating system and complicated settings page(s).

Of course, nowadays, with tons of channels, cable video stores, content on demand or online, more questions are popping one after another related to security, parental guidance, absurdity and shallowness of the shows, education concerns, etc... Is watching television good or bad and in what 'dosage' or whether or not TV affects your children in a bad way, there are tons of sociological studies and articles, but the cruel true is that you are given the ultimate control of it. You are the one who decides what to watch or whether or not to watch it at all. You are the one who are responsible for your children and how to use TV to provide the best education for them. You are the one who selects the good and bad based on your taste. If you think that shallow 'reality' TV shows or pornographic content or bad taste music channels are not suitable for you then delete those feeds or don't subscribe to them in the first place. If you think news channels are controlled by some powerful people and affect your mind in a bad way, just do what I do - move them in a separate list and block them from appearing on the screen.

You have the remote. Use it. If you don't know how, learn it. If you don't know how, well ...

But enough with TV. What about the Radio? Unfortunately, I can't be objective with the Radio. Simply put, I belong to the FM generation. The one who witnessed the first FM pocket receiver. The one who owned one of those tape recorders with radio tuner on the top of it and the one who played the radio during all of my university days in the back and foreground of my student room. I am also the one who lost fate in Radio after the internet arrived and pressed the off switch. I haven't listen good music or radio talk shows for years. But I am also the one who restored that obsession and in recent months, after the net and it's glory days with social networks collapsed beyond good taste, returned to the old habit and not just in the car. So, in order not to spread my subjectivity with FM radio I will not talk much about it. But still, I have to say this: FM broadcasts have one big advantage over the TV - it occupies only one of you senses and if it is good - it focuses all of your attention and if it's 'bad' - you can always listen the music in background and even while you are working. It has that magic that it can take you when wanted or leave you at your job if it's on idle. It doesn't insist. If you are living in large cities, the better, listening radio in background has it's own advantages - it can hide all those unwanted sounds, like traffic from outside or your neighbors fighting outside thin wall of your apartment or even isolate good tunes from your own habitat and block the other ones...

Jack Killian*

But it is not the fair fight. TV and FM are two different things. Even during the day I draw the flat line between them. It's simple - I listen the radio in the morning and watch the television in the afternoon. It is never the other way around. And I can't remember the last exception. Perhaps the last one was on September 11, 2001 when I turned the TV all day long. Also during several days after. "Break news" are something that doesn't go along with only audio... Sometimes you have to see it to believe. Or comprehend.

Nevertheless, even though TV and FM are not real rivals per se, from time to time you can catch a good television show or movie that are based in Radio studio. One of the best in the past I can think of was "Midnight Caller". It was one of those when I had to turn radio off in order to watch Jack Killian's adventures that all started behind the FM microphone.

Nevertheless, in the verdict, from my point of view they both wins, each in it's own category. Even though Television requires much filtering, the results is fun and ... watchable. On the other hand The Radio has something mysterious and more than fun. Just to illustrate this I'd like to share one FM-related experience of mine. Once I called a radio station during the live talk show and got lucky to be one of those chosen to request a music wish. It was a jazz related talk show I was regularly listening while learning for exams and I waited for it eagerly every Friday night. I remember I wanted to hear a tune from the movie "The Sting" and when the speaker eventually answered my call, my brain actually blocked - in that moment I forgot what I wanted and why I even called. I guess I never expected my call would be transferred to the live studio in the first place, but fortunately, the host with one of those radio-friendly crispy voice (and clearly possessed by couple of whiskeys), correctly recognized Scott Joplin's famous "The Entertainer" when I whistled to him directly on the air. What he played for me after, was something extraordinary like the video from YouTube I embedded above. Enjoy.

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