10 November 2009

portable radio memory systems

I have never been satisfied by the frequency memory systems in portable radios. The primary reason is that, in the year 2009, I'm expecting so much more than I'm getting.

The simplest memory systems only store a fixed number of stations in a simple list. The list can be stepped through with up and down buttons, or sometimes by entering the number of the memory location. A slightly more complex system adds the concept of pages, which provides a way to group frequencies together, and usually increases the total number of memory locations. Improving upon that, pages or even individual memory locations can be labeled with short alphanumeric strings.

Simple memory systems work fine for FM and the AM broadcast band, where stations are broadcasting 24 hours a day. In shortwave, I find that this is the exception rather than the rule.

With shortwave broadcast schedules widely available on the Internet, radios could easily sync with a computer and save the schedules to memory. Then, a portable radio could add a schedule browser to the memory system. The internal clock could keep track of both local time and UTC, and the user could specify their geographic location, and perhaps even which languages they understand. Then, the internal schedule could show them the appropriate broadcasts.

Sure, this concept has several flaws. More screen real estate would be needed to make this work well, and most portable radios commonly available today use limited LCDs. Schedule data can easily go out of date. Shortwave reception within a target region doesn't come with a guarantee.

This is the kind of enhancement that would take portable radio memory systems from the level of computerized intelligence up to the level of human intelligence. Maybe radio manufacturers will make this happen, and we'll ask, "why hasn't it always worked this way?"

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