Goodbye old technology and hello new

By Marcus Wilson 31/03/2010

First the new stuff:

Judging by the excited twittering of the last day or so, there are a few rather excited people at CERN. . It’s now running and producing collisions at 3.5 TeV per beam. We are well in the realm of new physics.  The Higgs boson might feel a little nervous now – it will find it increasingly difficult to hide from those experimenters (assuming of course that it exists). And the PhD students finally will be getting some decent data to work with.

Now the old stuff:

I came across this blog yesterday, moaning about the UK’s decision to cease broadcasting analogue radio in five years time. Every single comment was negative, and I must say I share this view. Digital radio gives noise free reception, because it’s signal is discrete.  In crude terms it’s like broadcasting a series of ‘0’s and ‘1’s.   Now, the receiver might pick up a ‘0.003’ because of some noise, or some event on the way, but the receiver is smart enough to recognize that this is far more likely to have started life as a zero than a one, and sets it back to its original value. The result is crystal clear reception, and that is supposed to be what the listeners want.

Except that analogue radios are, in their simplest form, really very easy to build and very very cheap. Anyone with a small amount of electronics experience could build one. You have a power source (battery), an aerial (a length of wire) a tuner (a resonant circuit with a variable capacitor and an inductor), an amplifier (a transistor and a few resistors), and a loudspeaker.  And hey presto, a working radio.  Who cares if the sound is a bit fuzzy on occasion.

Analogue radios have made a huge impact on communication throughout the world – and going the digital-only route starts excluding those who are happy to pay a few dollars for an analogue radio, but not a few hundred for a digital variety. Sure, noise free gives a good sound, but, when all you want to listen to the cricket commentary while out in the garden one afternoon, why is it deemed necessary?

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