Fred Lundgren: “What happened to AM radio”

We all read articles about the utility and the demise of AM (mediumwave) broadcasting. In this short article via the Huffington Post, Fred Lundgren (Founder and CEO of KCAA) discusses “What Happened To AM Radio (that’s NOT a question)”:

On Christmas Eve morning, the electricity went off at our house and panic quickly spread among our younger guests.

First, the TV sets went dark. Then, the desktop computers began to die as UPS back up batteries failed. For a while, we were reassured by the sound of familiar alarms, but then suddenly, total silence. Could this be the end times? Is this the onslaught of the apocalypse?

Smart phones were quickly deployed and guests began calling each other from room to room. The panic began to subside when several millennials volunteered communal usage of their wireless data plans. The kingdom would be saved…crisis abated.

[…]As the younger generation huddled around the smart phones with data plans, I began to think of the outage as an opportunity to listen to AM Radio, so I went to my office and dusted off my old RCA SuperRadio III.

I couldn’t remember the last time I replaced the batteries but to my surprise, it came to life with its signature popcorn sound when I pushed its big silver button. “IT’S ALIVE” WOW…the AM band was extraordinarily quiet and responsive.

[…]I scanned across the dial from 610 AM to 1590 AM. All the stations were as clear as a bell. Then, I decided to press my luck. I tuned to KTSA 550 AM in San Antonio and then I moved the dial slightly to the right and heard KLVI 560 AM in Beaumont, Texas. Every station was booming in loud and clear.

I felt like a child with a new toy. I dialed up and down the band, experiencing the clear booming sound of AM Radio without any noise or interference. It was a feast for the senses. It was beautiful.

After a few minutes, one of my daughters walked in and asked about the source of my entertainment. I pointed to my SuperRadio and said joyfully, “listen”. She looked at the big black box and asked “How can you listen with the internet and electricity off?” I responded, “It’s my portable SuperRadio III.” Before I could explain further, she shrugged her shoulders, closed the door and went back upstairs, convinced that her Dad was conducting some sort of high tech experiment.

In a manner of speaking, her assumption was correct. I was listening to AM Radio in a big city without the interference of computers, wireless modems and an overloaded electrical grid. For the first time in my recent memory, the “Senior Radio Band” sounded beautiful. Sadly, my experiment ended with preordained results when the electric power was restored.[…]

Click here to read Lundgren’s full article on The Huffington Post.

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6 thoughts on “Fred Lundgren: “What happened to AM radio”

  1. Jason

    It is an interesting read, but how can young people not know what a radio is?
    In my country, kids still listen to the radio.

    I must be pretty lucky in that once I replaced a few power strips in my home with better newer models, my AM reception was cleaned up. Plasma TVs are also a great interference source, as well as older LED/LCD models. I noticed a huge difference when I upgraded my old plasma to a new model TV.
    When my parents recently replaced their TV with a new model their reception was cleaned up as well.

    My point is look for local sources of interference first. Maybe we have better electrical standards in Australia but the huge amount of interference experienced by this author is only common in buildings (apartment/office blocks) where many people and appliances are squeezed in together.

  2. Jeffrey McMahon

    570 Sport Radio here in so Cal keeps me listening to AM: Dan Patrick, Colin Cowherd, Clay Travis, Jason Smith and others. I can’t listen to ESPN or shouting political voices, but 570 is my final AM channel for now.

  3. Marty

    Interesting read. I was spending some time in the Davis Mountains of West Texas a couple of months back. It was amazing the amount and clarity of stations I received on both MW and SW AM. Many more and much clearer than I receive in the suburbs using outdoor antennas. It was refreshing to hear all of these stations and I often wish I could be back out there receiving all of those stations. With propagation recently has made listening an even bigger challenge. There are still plenty of signals out there to keep me entertained.

    The issue I see with MW AM is that you can tune all of these stations and hear the same syndicated programs from one to the next. DXing US stations at night will make you wonder if you actually moved the dial.

    1. Kire

      I agree, the conglomoration of the radio spectrum is the root of why most people have stopped listening to radio. For the kids, who are the future, the web is much more varied!
      For me the commercialisation of the web is its own doom. Already I go to the same sites, am bored quickly, by the predictability of major news sites, curated dj’less music, etc. So I go to my shortwave, tune in Radio Zanzibar, or Voice of Greece and enjoy the day.

  4. Tha Dood

    Heck, I do this several times in my truck. If I’m out in the middle of no-where, I’ll check out what I can get on the truck’s stereo for both AM and FM. And I’ve been deep in gullies where there was absolutely no FM reception, but AM stations still reached there. This has been both day and night times. Anymore, from the mobile is when I DX AM and FM now-a-days.

    1. HoustonListener

      An interesting mention of KTSA in San Antonio, Here in Houston, the news/talk of San Antonio, Dallas and Austin are all audible and worth programming into autos and trucks (along with the Satellite ands, of course), for a variety of info, especially in case of an emergency. KTSA is pretty good about airing press conferences and other up to the minute reports.


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