From Marconi to the Internet

My Favorite Web Sites - Winchester Star - 11/21/02
 by Martin Zombeck

This is a bi-weekly column providing an annotated list of Web sites that may be of interest to the community. Each column will list sites that belong to a particular category: search engines, art, online newspapers and magazines, health and medicine, history, business and economics, etc. or sites relevant to a particular season, for example, skiing or gardening. Most sites will be non-commercial. To make it easier to access the sites, each bi-weekly column will be posted on the Town of Winchester's Web site so that the sites can be accessed and bookmarked without having to be typed. Previous columns will be archived at the Winchester site, also.

"Have I done the world good, or have I added a menace?"
- Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless telegraph, the forerunner of present-day radio.

It's obvious that Marconi had never watched television. If he had, he wouldn't have been worried about the misuse of his invention in comparison.

Internet radio, an oxymoron, if there ever was one, you say. Nevertheless, there are nearly ten thousand radio stations broadcasting on the internet. Why do they do it? Well, it requires very little power to transmit from any point on the globe to any other; the broadcasters ("webcasters") are feeding directly into the internet. They don't require large antennae and powerful transmitters. In fact, with the right software, your humble PC can become a radio station. Now, why would you want to listen to internet radio when the quality is relatively poor compared to your top-of-the-line AM/FM radio with its Bose speakers? Location, location, location. You can listen to a Web station that is located anywhere on the Earth without needing a huge antenna in your backyard and a very sensitive receiver in your living room. You can listen to your old college radio station, the local radio station where you grew up, a remote sports event, a foreign broadcast with late breaking news, or a station halfway across the continent broadcasting your kind of music in the background while you work on your computer.

All this comes at virtually no cost. However, your internet radio experience will be disappointing unless you have a high speed connection to the internet - a cable modem or DSL. A dial-up connection is too slow to handle the data rate to your computer. For quality sound, your PC speakers and sound card may not hack it. But don't go out and buy any new hardware until you get your feet wet. You may be happy with what you've got.

You will, however, need a software tool to play the streaming audio (or video). RealNetwork's RealPlayer ( or Microsoft Media Player ( will do just fine and can be downloaded for free. RealNetwork makes it hard for you to find their free version. Look carefully at each page on and follow the links that say "Free RealOne Player".

I've listed several Web stations to give you a feel for what's out there and a couple of directories where you enter a country, a zip code, or a format (news, 80's rock, jazz, classical ) to find a station.

Formerly the MIT list of radio stations on the internet but now maintained by a private company. This site provides links to over 10,000 radio station Web pages and over 2500 audio streams from radio stations in the U.S. and around the world.

BRS Web Radio
Over 10,000 stations listed with nearly 4000 broadcasting online.

BBC Radio
British Broadcasting Company's links to their live broadcasts. BBC TV is at

National Public Radio's Web site - NPR Hourly News, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, Morning Edition and many more of your favorites are online. You can search through seven years of archives for the audio of a story you heard on NPR. This is a fantastic service. You can also order tapes or text transcripts of your favorite programs.

The classical music station of the New York Times.

This is an internet only radio station with 24-hours a day of commercial-free audio and 31 hours of hosted programming each week.

Yahoo!Broadcast "offers a wide variety of on-demand audio and video content, from space shuttle launches to full-length movies. We have sports heroes in action, bands performing in concert, and TV shows that haven't been on the air in years."

Have fun!

Previous columns with live links can be found at

When he is not updating the Town of Winchester Web site (, Martin Zombeck can be found at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he is a physicist, or at the tennis courts in Winchester.