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Letter: AM Radio Is Prepared for Your Worst-Case Scenario

Rolf Taylor says the AM debate needs to hear more from those who've turned to the senior band during times of crisis

In this letter to the editor, the author comments on Karl Zuk’s recent guest commentary “AM Listening Is Better Than Ever … in My Tesla!” Comment on this or any article. Email [email protected].

Regarding the Article AM Listening is Better Than Ever….

What seems to be forgotten, again and again, is the “what if” scenarios we pay experts to think about.

What if there’s a really strong solar flare that knocks out much of the grid and many satellites (they happen all the time but miss us, and they do sometime hit)? What happens if there’s a nuclear bomb(s) detonated over our country? What if cyber attackers knock out large portions of our infrastructure?

Just like the global pandemic, these low probability events can and do happen, and forethought is necessary. And experts agree that the ability to communicate is crucial in such scenarios (e.g. the fog of war phenomenon).

In the above scenarios, the ability of individual AM stations to broadcast to hundreds of thousands of square miles becomes relevant. And interference would actually decrease during a wide scale power outage. But this works only if there are receivers capable of working without commercial electrical power.

[Related: “Endless Audio Options in the Car Do Not Make for Easy Listening“]

The government’s public private partnership, where radio stations licensed to serve the public are fortified with modest government expenditure, makes a lot of sense. To remove AM from the equation, even if one stayed with broadcast radio or TV, would increase the cost by several orders of magnitude. Trying to engineer a solution that would maintain some redundant cellular or internet network, if even possible, would probably increase costs a thousand-fold or more.

What also seems absent from these discussions is actual listener testimonials. Where are the stories of the listeners who spent days in their attic, huddled next to their radio, while waiting for rescue from a flood? These people exist. Their testimonials should surely be included in the AM receiver debate!

The above is my opinion and does not represent the view of any other party, including my employer.

— Rolf Taylor, Rocket Engineering and Consulting, Springfield, Va.

[Also Related: “Letter: Radio Needs Tesla to Fix This Car Dashboard Flaw“]