Feature Writer Terri Winaught – A History of Internet Radio

From childhood to early adulthood, I loved radio and listened to it constantly. Though I seldom listen to radio these days, I recently found myself wondering how Internet radio got started. Researching that topic then motivated me to do the following series: In this first part, I’ll outline who pioneered Internet radio and how it progressed. In Part Two, I’ll discuss the very different offerings of ACB Radio (American Council of the Blind), and billspark.org, the latter having been suggested by a Ziegler reader. I’ll conclude by reporting what persons knowledgeable about this topic say about the future of Internet radio.

According to Wikipedia, Internet radio can also be referred to as E-radio, Net radio, Streaming radio, Webcasting, and Web radio. (Streaming refers to uninterrupted information or music which cannot be paused or stopped.)

Whatever you choose to call it, Carl Malamud pioneered Internet radio in 1993 when he broadcast that medium’s first talk show. During his weekly program, Malamud interviewed computer experts. Also in 1993, the band Severe Tire Damage performed the first Internet concert.

In November 1994, a Rolling Stones concert was multicasted on cyberspace along with comments from lead singer Mick Jagger. On November 7th, 1994, WXYC 89.3 FM out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina became the first traditional station in the United States to broadcast on E-radio. Although 91.1 FM out of Atlanta, GA began broadcasting the same day, that fact was not immediately announced.

In 1995, the quality of streamed music improved significantly as a result of “real audio” which enabled the listener to hear music in “real time,” to use the wording of a Time Magazine article. With Real Audio being a free download, companies like Microsoft and Nullsoft made real audio players available, also as free downloads.

In 1996, Edward Lyman introduced sonicwave.com, the first Internet station to be legally licensed by both DPI and BMI to broadcast 24 hours a day. That same year, Virgin Radio in London became the first web station to be broadcast in Europe.

As the 1990’s progressed, many new Internet stations began broadcasting, and investors became more interested in this new venture. For example, on July 20, 1999, Yahoo paid $5.7 billion to purchase broadcast.com

Some final points to make about Internet radio are that some stations are web-based only; still others broadcast on AM/FM bands and on the Web, and some are major networks like CBS.

For more information about E-radio, visit Wikipedia or internetradiohistory.info which describes itself as “an unbiased source of information.”

Tell us in Reader’s Forum what Internet stations you listen to and which ones need to increase their accessibility. Also let us know if NFB (The National Federation of the Blind), has an Internet station.

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