On The Radio (Oh-Whoa-whoa-whoa!)

There was a time when the radio was my entire technical world. I won’t bore you with the harrowing details of my early childhood, but I will say that radio, particularly AM radio, got me through some tough spots.

Back then I couldn’t care less about the loud and silly commercials that filled the airwaves between the music because it was the music I was after, and those ads gave me time to mentally digest the tune I’d just heard. I went over lyrics, trying to understand the references which tended to be a bit beyond me, and I usually learned them wrong.

Look at the hay
We gotta hide what we’re doin’
‘Cause what would they say
If there’s a new…

If there’s a new what? Why did they have to hide? What did Tommy James know that I didn’t?

OK, I was a naive kid, and those aren’t the exact lyrics, but I learned quickly enough and think I got gist of why Tommy and his Shondells wanted to be alone (that old dog! Wink, wink!). Maybe it was those new experiences that ultimately killed radio for me, or maybe it was the over abundance of obnoxious, intelligence insulting commercials, or maybe it was the cassette tape that let me create my own playlist sans DJs and cigarette ads.

Whatever the reason, radio fell out of favor with me, and it took 15 years and a two hour daily commute for me to find it again. What I found was NPR (National Public Radio), and All Things Considered (ATC). While the shows occasionally showcased musicians, they were not about music, they were about people and the world around us. When I started to listen to ATC I had already been around the block a few times metaphorically speaking, and there wasn’t much that I thought could surprise me, make me laugh, or feel such deep concern for people I’ve never met.

I’ve mentioned the NPR for iPad a while back, but I’m mentioning it again because it is such a great app and no iPad should be without it.

A recent update has made this great app…umm, greater. Now there’s offline reading, which makes it ideal for use on flights. When you are near WiFi or have a 3G iPad then you can get audio of the article of interest or read that article while listening to the latest NPR News reports!

And the articles are every bit as interesting and as colorful as the radio versions I remember. More so, actually because they include amazing photos.

I honestly don’t understand why this app is free, but it is. The last time I wrote about NPR for iPad a reader reminded me that NPR and the local stations that air their programs get only a small amount of their operating costs from the U.S. and local governments, the rest of the money comes from grants and donations from regular Joes and Jills like you and me. If you’re a fan of NPR and like the app, which I am positive you will, then I implore you to crack open that wallet or purse and donate to NPR what you feel the app is worth. Me? I’m going to give them US$10, I feel it’s easily worth that and I’ve spent that much on a game I didn’t like.

If you’re more into music then Pandora Radio is the app you need to have.

I’ve had some version of Pandora Radio on my computers ever since the application appeared back in 2005, and it’s pretty much the way I find most of my new music and reacquaint myself with music I’d forgotten about.

All you need is an app on either your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, laptop, or desktop computer, and a Pandora account. Open the app and give it the name of an artist, song, or album, and Pandora Radio starts streaming good stuff to you. If you like the song you’re hearing give it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down if you hate it, or you can just skip passed it.

What I like about Pandora Radio is that it gives you background info on many of the artists of the tune being played and, of course, you get to see the album cover art. You can bookmark the song, album, or artist, and click to buy the tune directly from iTunes.

Pandora Radio for the iPad is ad supported, but the ads are not obnoxious. Pandora Radio, regardless of which platform you get it on, is an app you want.

When I was a kid there wasn’t much a parent could do to tunes of questionable content from young ears. Radio programming specifically aimed at kids were few and far between. Today there’s Radio Disney, a family friend station that’s available in many urban markets. For those poor souls outside the reach of The Magic Kingdom, there’s the iPhone/iPod Touch Radio Disney app.

It’s a pretty straight forward application that streams Radio Disney content and add a visible playlist. You can’t go back and listen to songs listed earlier in the playlist or skip over the current tune. It is radio of the non-interactive kind. Still, the content is kid friendly. Some popular songs have even been edited so that they can play to younger audiences.

If you have kids and care about what they listen to, the Radio Disney app should be on their iPod Touch.

OK, that’s a wrap for this week.

More free stuff below with direct links.