Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: December 24, 2008

I often seem caught in a twilight zone between the digital future and my old friendly analog past. The other night I was coming home late and decided to surf AM to tune in the Packers/Bears game. It brought me back 30 years, when I was a weekend DJ at a station, WCOW (really), in Sparta, Wisconsin. I would work until midnight and drive the 40 minutes home listening to AM stations in Chicago (WLS, 890), Little Rock (KARK, 920) and the Mutual Radio Network out of Miami, which had a hotshot radio host named Larry King. The same Larry King who started a show at CNN in 1985 (he’s not nearly as good an interviewer as he was on radio).

The AM signal skips around at night and the so-called AM superstations can be picked up far and wide. I was able to listen to my Packers overtime loss listening to the New Orleans station (WWL, 870). By the way, the reason WOSU 820 goes to low power at night is because the FCC designated WBAP 820 AM in Arlington, Texas as a clear channel station, which means they can send out 50,000 watts at night. Apparently, even a full power 820 signal in Columbus might interfere with this station in Texas.

Contrast my AM surfing with this social media tidbit from CNET News:

Google will be mapping Santa Claus’ trek from the icy North Pole to rooftops around the globe on Christmas Eve. But this year, good girls and boys can track their gifts via mobile phones and Twitter, too. Starting at 3 a.m. PST on Wednesday, a Google Map with Santa’s current location will be displayed on the NORAD Santa Web site, operated by Google and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Google will be displaying high-resolution “Santa Cam” video of the gift-laden airborne sleigh. And for the first time, people can track Santa’s journey on mobile phones with Google Maps for Mobile and follow him on Twitter by adding “@noradsanta.”

I think I’ll send Santa a twitter suggesting he surf the AM dial and let us know what cool stations he can pick up.


  • tigersgrowl

    I never knew about that. Had I known, I would have listened to local radio because my data is capped within the first week due to all the 3G radio I listen to. This will be a great help however, I use the Kyrocera Event (don’t laugh, it was only $20 and I got a mortgage) with the Virgin Mobile service using the Sprint network. I contacted Virgin just now, we’ll have to see if they give me the run around as expected with most phone companies or not. If they do, I won’t give up there, I will consult the blogs and forums. If there is a way, I will find it.

    • Jessie

      @tigersgrowl, I also have Virgin Mobile and they use the Sprint network. I will call them also, but I would really appreciate if you post your updates.

  • Yoga Bear

    “I want my FM Radio! Unlock the FM chip in all smartphones you sell so I can get important emergency information when data networks are unavailable and reduce the amount of data I use each month.

    Thank you. I have a HTC one m7 I have looked and the phone has a FM chip and I have Verizon I have called there tech support and they told me all I need to do is find a radio app, you can’t find one that will work without the net, theses company’s just lies to get you off the phone, so I called HTC by the way Verizon told me not to do that, so me being one not to do what I’m told lol I called any ways, HTC told me that they will be updating to lollipop in a few months and then they’re going to come out with the update that send you a FM radio to your phone that they have been working on it for several months without any support from Verizon Wireless so they’ve taken it on their self to go ahead and make a program to turn on the FM chip so that it will work so that we can have free FM radio on our smartphones, we will see. I’ll give them two months if they don’t do it I’m calling back.

    • Joseph Ogidan

      I had a Nokia phone back in 2008 that had a radio. All I needed to activate it was my head phone, and it worked perfectly well.

  • jeremiah stansbury

    please its our rite we paid for the phone why cant we have fm radio it wont cost you any thing to keep the public informed

  • callthemanufacture

    you’re provider has nothing to do with this they do not make the phones so be sure to call the manufacture the provider does not have a way to unlock this so don’t blame them and give more information on fm chips besides call your provider

    • Irwin Busk

      You are very incorrect. The provider orders the phone with their preferred software load, and with certain features and applications locked. The carrier can provide an “unlock” code, but is not required to by law. many will do so, if you are near the end of your contract.

  • sm spfld ma

    Radio is not a right. I’m all for the chip being activated but come on. npr is using you to push their agenda and getting this activated. It’s a scarf tactic. We all got text messages from the weather service when the tornado was on its way to western ma. Say you did have a radio on the phone then; how many people would put the radio on? I Google the tornado then and got the info I needed. Don’t be fools: you’re bejng used by public radio cronies to get more people to listen to PUBLIC RADIO. It’s a cheap marketing initiative.

    • Mrpockets

      If you are all about activating the chip then why are you urging people not to ask for it? Sure it’s an agenda. Everyone has an agenda. For all we know, you could hold a bunch of stock in Pandora and are pushing your own agenda by trying to make people feel stupid for wanting access to something that they’ve always had. That’s what you sound like to me.

  • Floyd Durham

    I just contacted Virgin and they claimed to have no knowledge of any of this. I was told that basically it probably not real and that just because it says so on the internet it doesn’t mean anything. They don’t want people using it then they loose money for data use….Like the owner of Virgin needs more money..lol

  • Byron Edgington

    What a wonderful, warm and kind human being. Fred Rogers will always be my hero. When my daughter Amanda was four, her grandmother (my mother) died, and ‘Manda was bereft at losing her. She decided to write to her TV friend, ‘Mikkah Rogers.’ The letter went in the mail, and a month later, Amanda received a warm, understanding letter from Fred Rogers. In the letter, he wrote as he spoke on TV, a show Amanda wouldn’t miss for the world. He said the very same people who are glad sometimes are the very same people who are sad sometimes. He told my daughter how sad he was for her loss, and he signed the letter, ‘Your friend, Mister Rogers.’ Amanda still has the letter. It’s one of her cherished possessions. The world needs more people like my hero, Fred Rogers.