AM is a victim of its own contributions to science


ChartBill Schweber, writing for EE Times/Planet Analog, wonders  if we should be mourning the slow demise of AM radio. He said that the process of making it work in cars is what made possible the newer platforms that are relegating it to irrelevance.

Despite being the medium that gave birth to music intensive and highly successful and compelling Top 40 radio stations, the medium is now pretty much limited to spoken word formats heavily focused on politics, sports and religion, or as a home for other forms of strictly niche programming.

He noted the herculean tasks engineers from another era had to overcome to get AM radio working effectively in an automobile, and noted that the guiding principles still apply to more modern solutions that were built on those early successes.

“Should we care about this sharp decline in both casual and dedicated AM radio listenership?” wrote Schweber. “It’s always a little sad when a system, which has served us for decades and done so much to advance technology through mass-market production and needs, fades out (here, literally and figuratively), but progress is progress.”

He noted that many of the hobbies the special attributes of the medium spawned, in particular the “joy” of tuning in a distant AM at night due to its own peculiar skywave distribution pattern has pretty much been rendered completely irrelevant by an internet that allows the same person to access material from anywhere on the globe at will.

Schweber noted that the spectrum occupied by AM radio is still useful, and made no predication about the ultimate fate of it or the stations resident there, asking only if those reading his words cared if the medium remains in cars and indeed survives at all.