Dude, Where’s My AM Tuner?

Brett Moss is gear & technology editor.

One of our modern Christmas traditions is the “gadget.” Traditionally the gadget was ever-so-cool (bonus points if it was “James Bondish”) and usually not particularly useful. And despite its sometimes jack-of-all-trades theme, it was pretty much the master of none. Wristwatches with radios, pens with lights, all-in-one pocket toolkits, pillows that vibrated, et al.

But like so many avenues of our lives, digital technology changed all that. Maybe it was the PDA that made the “gadget” into a reliable tool that shed its “gadgetness” and became a must-have. Now cell phones surf the Internet and play games; music players play video and tell you where you are and even TVs are getting apps and crawling on the ’net.

Larry Foltran is one of the elves who make Crawford Broadcasting go. In a recent edition of that company’s engineering newsletter the Local Oscillator, he opined on a handful of gadgets that had come to his attention: a USB drive, a pen and a car cigarette lighter plug-in.

The uniting factor was their radio-ness. That is, two of them included FM tuners while the third allowed one to record Internet audio and then play it back in the car. Larry, bless his radio heart, sees this as a positive trend for radio. Maybe so, though possibly it’s simply something Chinese contractors toss in for the Mark II version just to keep the contract.

But don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right? It can always be sold to the glue factory …

And in another encouraging sign, many of the latest media players have built-in FM tuners. Perhaps the lowly iron could get a tuner. A few “hot” or “steamy” tunes to while away the drudgery … You heard it here first!

However, Larry didn’t mention how well the FM tuners sounded. I know my cool little radio wristwatch way back in the 1980s sounded like crap and picked up all of two stations, at best. But still, it was a radio wristwatch!

It was also AM. Doesn’t look like anyone is putting AM tuners in anything … Maybe doorstops could be fitted with AM tuners; that might spur both industries. Or backscratchers. Or nutcrackers! I’m on a roll…

On that optimistic note, we’d like to hear from you if you see any interesting or clever installations of tuners (FM or otherwise). Write to me at bmoss@nbmedia.com. And you can read Crawford’s latest newsletter here (PDF).

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