2012-02-14 08:25:42

World Radio Day

February 13, 2012 marks the establishment of World Radio Day by UNESCO, and I would like to celebrate it by drawing attention to one particular kind of radio, the transistor, an instrument which has accompanied me my whole life through. I got my first when I was quite young in the 1960s and it was my prize possession. I would listen to pop music on it on summer mornings when I didn’t have to get up early to go to school. My favorite stations were the ones that broadcast Motown music.

My hometown was suburban Murray Hill, New Jersey, home to Bell Telephone Laboratories. At its peak, Bell Labs was the premier facility of its type, developing a wide range of revolutionary technologies. Seven Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work completed there, including the 1956 Prize in Physics for inventing the first transistors. My little transistor therefore, meant more to me even than being able to keep up with the latest music coming out of Detroit; it carried also a sense of civic pride.

I remember my first transistor as looking something like the model pictured here to the left. I believe that it was bright red, and it sat on my nightstand where it could be activated by the turn of a dial. My current transistor has a pushbutton switch and is a regimental black color according to modern design sensibility, but it still follows me around from the kitchen to the bath just as it did back then, keeping me informed, keeping me company and playing the music that I so dearly love.

It behooves me to report that up to a billion people still do not have access to radio today. World Radio Day is therefore of the utmost importance in raising awareness to radio’s power as a low cost medium in reaching remote communities and vulnerable people. Radio’s strong and specific role in emergency communication and disaster relief, its ability to reach the illiterate, the disabled and the poor, irrespective of its listeners educational level, is to me serious food for thought.

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