cyberspacial musings
bits about the real and virtual worlds

09 Mar

Clock Radios With Digital Tuners

This may seem like a strange post, but what the heck. My old “Transcend” clock radio finally decided to stop working after over ten years of use (probably paid a hefty 15 bucks for it when I bought it), so I went out to get a new one today. The only new requirement I had for the new clock radio was that it have a digital tuner.

Well, let me tell you that virtually none of the low end clock radios have a digital tuner. It seems totally contrary to me that this would be the case. No new cars have analog tuners. In fact, many of the AM radio announcers have changed the way they identify the radio station because of this. Most older AM radios start with two digit identifiers, as in 54, 60, and 70, becuase most of the older analog radios identified the frequency as x10 kHz. (FM stations never had this problem since the numbers on the dial are the actual frequencies in MHz.) So what used to be identified as “AM sixty three” is now identified as “AM six thirty” to match the digital tuners in most cars. Very few radio stations still use the old designations in their jingles, although WFAN in NY hasn’t changed and identifies themselves as “AM sixty-six”. Even the famed Washington Redskins football announcer Frank Herzog has stopped saying that the Redskins are moving the ball from “left to right across your radio dial” because most radios don’t have dials anymore.

Well, that is, except the low end clock radio. The device that we rely on the most to ensure that we get up in the morning still has no digital tuner for its radio component. Even many of the models with CD players in them have analog tuners. Considering the number of people that wake to music or news (I’m an NPR news junkie), you’d think that having a clock radio with a digital tuner would be essential. It’s the closest thing at hand to switch between news channels for weather or for music in the early hours of the morning. Yet less than 10% of the clock radios on Amazon.COM feature a digital AM/FM tuner.

Shopping locally, I found no clock radios with digital tuners (except one that had a CD player also). I found one at Circuit City, a Timex, which they didn’t have in stock. Target finally yielded one RCA model that had a digital tuner for a mere $29. That’s what I ended up with.

What I find inconceivable is that digital tuners aren’t on every radio in the world. Digital PLL technology has been around forever. No automobile gets an analog tuner any more. Why do they still make radios with them? Is there really a cost difference? It seems to me that developing a single board with the right componentry and avoiding virtually all of the mechanical parts would keep the costs way down. The rest becomes packaging.

I did a search for information on this, but found nothing of real significance. I’ll keep looking and keep you posted …

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