Friday, 21 January 2011

Ultimate Expat Devices I: The Internet Radio

I often used to think how wonderful it would be if you could have an internet radio.  I mean a radio that sits in your kitchen but that connects to the internet so that you can listen to Radio 4 and 5 Live at your leisure while you do your housework.  Surely such a thing could not be too difficult to invent?  I used to talk to others about the idea and sometimes, if I was lucky, I would get mild interest.

Of course there is the laptop, and of course the expat listens to the radio on the laptop all the time.  But it's not ideal.  I can never get the volume loud enough on mine, and you end up mucking about trying to enhance it by plugging different things in.  And in the mornings, it's hopeless.  I want to come downstairs and have the radio on within seconds while I feed the cats and make the tea.  I don't want to wait while the laptop boots up, and while I find the web page and the link.  The tea's made by the time I've even begun to hear Victoria Derbyshire's voice.

So I've long thought that an internet radio would be a fantastic thing.  Surely it could not be that difficult for a bright techie to invent one?  It's easy to get hold of DAB digital radios -- they are always going on about them on Radio 4.  How much more difficult would it be to invent a radio that links in the your WiFi at home?

Well, it emerges that there already is such a thing.  Although I had never heard anyone talking about it, I went looking, on a whim, to see if I could find an internet radio.  And it's one of the best things I've ever purchased.  The ultimate expat device!

It turns out that there are several on the market.  The one I went for was the Grace Digital Wireless Internet Radio featuring Pandora and NPR (GDI-IR2000).  I've had it now for several months and I absolutely love it.  It takes a few minutes to configure to link to your Wireless router, then you can add in your BBC presets, in my case Radios 1, 2, 4, 5 Live and 6 Music, and then the radio comes on to your preferred station in a matter of seconds.  The sounds quality is excellent and I get a real buzz from just "having the radio on" for a lot of the day.  It's like rediscovering the joy of the radio again.

I usually listen to live stuff on the radio, but you can also go to On Demand programmes and I sometimes do that -- though there is the disadvantage that if it does cut out in mid-stream, it goes back to the beginning of the programme again -- you can't pause, rewind or fast forward.

I get the feeling that there are great riches to be had on the internet radio, thousands of stations from all over the world, but I barely scrape the surface.  I don't care.  For me, it's the ultimate British expat's device -- a pipeline to BBC national radio.  I'm back to having a BBC soundtrack to my life again, and I love it.  Every British expat should have one -- best $120 or so I have spent.


Culturally Discombobulated said...

Hope you don't mind, but I put a link to this article on my tumblr page.

Curious to see what other devices make your list if this becomes a regular series of posts.

For me, personally, I've found that moving abroad and listening to podcasts have roughly coincided and that really has changed how I listen to the radio. I always just listened to a few shows (In our Time, Kermode, 6-0-6) and I'm happier downloading them as podcasts. Can see how for other it would be a godsend though.

Culturally Discombobulated said...

Oops, my bad, forgot to put that link.

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks for the comments and the link. Yes, planning this as a series -- two and maybe three more to go.

Yes, I'm with you absolutely on podcasts. Same with me -- move to the USA five and a half years ago coincided with the proliferation of podcasts, esp. from the BBC, now a staple for me. Now more than I can manage, which is great.

Expat mum said...

Ooh, that's interesting. Mind you, the odd time I try to listen to Steve Wright while I'm working is an epic fail. I can't write and listen to music at the same time, so god knows what an Internet radio would result in!

Mark Goodacre said...

I think I'm the same -- no internet radio while writing. Great for housework and general pottering around, though.

Lazlo Valentine said...

I hope you got the radio in time to witness our awesome thrashing of the Aussies in the Ashes!

We wont mention the one day series. :-S

Mark Goodacre said...

Unfortunately, the internet radio doesn't get Test Match Special because of rights restrictions but I was OK and watched it all on Willow TV.

Peter M. Head said...

Please don't mention the Ashes.

Trenchfoot said...

I hate that - when you think you have come up with something new and then you realise its been around for ages.

It reminds me of the time I came home to be greeted excitedly by my girlfriend who wanting to tell me about her new invention. She had been back and forth to the hardware store trying to get the right sized spanner, and had become so frustrated that she drew up plans for a revolutionary "Adjustable Spanner". I didn't have the heart to tell her it had already been invented and there was one in my toolbox.

There was also the time I had been doing some work on the Matthean Genealogy for my ill-fated M.Phil thesis, and I was descibing to supervisor my exciting, amazing, original theory that the first century Jews considered themselves to still be in exile. You utterly deflated me with the line "Oh no... you've not gone all Tom Wright on me, have you?!"

If only I'd been doing that M.Phil a few decades earlier. It would have been ground-breaking :-)

Mark Goodacre said...

Hi David. Sorry about the deflation. Great story, though.

Trenchfoot said...

No worries, I'm working on a brand new theory now - that Q never actually existed.

Mark Goodacre said...

Haha, excellent.