FM Radio, The Choice Of An Old Generation

Had the pandemic not upended many of this summer’s fun and games, many of my friends would have made a trip to the MCH hacker camp in the Netherlands earlier this month. I had an idea for a game for the event, a friend and I were going to secrete a set of those low-power FM transmitters as numbers stations around the camp for players to find and solve the numerical puzzles they would transmit. I even bought a few cheap FM transmitter modules from China for evaluation, and had some fun sending a chiptune Rick Astley across a housing estate in Northamptonshire.

To me as someone who grew up with FM radio and whose teen years played out to the sounds of BBC Radio 1 FM it made absolute sense to do a puzzle in this way, but it was my personal reminder of advancing years to find that some of my friends differed on the matter. Sure, they thought it was a great idea, but they gently reminded me that the kids don’t listen to any sort of conventional broadcast radio these days, instead they stream their music, so very few of them would have the means for listening to my numbers stations. Even for me it’s something I only use for BBC Radio 4 in the car, and to traverse the remainder of the FM dial is to hear a selection of easy listening, oldies, and classical music. It’s becoming an older person’s medium, and it’s inevitable that like AM before it, it will eventually wane.

There are two angles to this that might detain the casual hacker; first what it will mean from a broadcasting and radio spectrum perspective, and then how it is already influencing some of our projects.

Shifting To Digital For A Disappearing Audience

LP centre from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper.
If you grew up listening to this, do you listen to FM? KarleHorn, CC BY 3.0

In July we marked the passing of the last few analog NTSC television stations on the North American continent. These holdouts were the so-called “FrankenFM” stations whose sound subcarrier lay just below the FM broadcast band and could thus be picked up with a receiver at the very bottom of the FM dial serving niche audiences. Oddly if you live close to one you’ll notice that it hasn’t gone away, because despite the cessation of analog TV, the FM carriers remain due to a special quirk in the ATSC 3.0 digital broadcasting standard that allows a broadcaster on that channel to emit a narrower digital multiplex alongside the analog audio. But given the demographic shift away from FM among younger listeners mentioned in the last paragraph, have they won the right to remain in a broadcast band whose days are just as numbered as the NTSC TV channels that have just been shuttered?

In the USA there has been a small move towards HD Radio as an eventual digital replacement for FM either as simulcast with analog stations or as digital-only, while in Europe and elsewhere the DAB standard has had mixed impact. The Republic of Ireland has abandoned DAB entirely, and Norway has completely dropped FM for the new system, while in the UK the Government’s ambitious plans for a switchover have met with indifference from the public mostly because as the first adopter of DAB the country is largely stuck with its inferior first version. So with younger listeners growing into adulthood not using their radios and with many governments around the world still pressing for a move to digital, the sense of FM’s days being numbered can only deepen.

The Last Analogue First Project

So if FM is slowly shuffling off this mortal coil, what does it mean for our community? Do many of us listen to FM radio? Perhaps one or two of us do, but the impact I’m thinking of isn’t with the older hackers. Analogue radio has a useful property of being accessible with simple and easy to understand components, so it remains one of those gateway drugs that introduces a youngster to electronics.

In days gone by a starter project might have been a crystal radio, and while that might have gone by the wayside as AM radio has declined and point-contact diodes become a rarity it’s still common to make an FM transmitter from a transistor or two or even a Raspberry Pi’s clock generator. It’s true that today’s kid with a Pi could probably whip up a media server for the radio experience via a streaming app, but it’s the method rather than the end result that matters here. The spark that ignites a lifetime of interest will be different for everyone, and it’s difficult not to feel that one of those sparks is growing dim. Perhaps in the comments you’ll have your own ideas as to what could catch the interest of a kid predisposed to a bit of analogue electronics.

Header: Joe Haupt from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0.

116 thoughts on “FM Radio, The Choice Of An Old Generation

  1. Until recently I didn’t think FM crystal radios were a thing but apparently they are. I would recommend checking out Billy Cheung’s Youtube channel. He has videos where he makes a bunch of them in various levels of complexity as well as the more traditional AM & Shortwave versions plus various non-radio projects. I don’t know what specific FM crystal radio video to link so here’s the channel. https://www.youtube.com/c/cheungbx/playlists

    That might not interest the kids much once FM goes the way of the rest and all that’s left is rightwing talkshows and bigfoot hunters but at least for now while the music is still playing a crystal FM radio might be a good project to do with a kid. And with Mr. Cheung’s designs you even get to include the 3d printer!

    Obviously there’s amateur radio too but with the licensing barrier I think that comes after initially catching the kid’s interest, not first. Besides, all the hams’ talk of their terrible politics, religion and failing organs will probably put the kids off anyway.

    I don’t know about in the UK but here in the states we do have the Lowfer (160-190kHz), Medfer (510-1705 kHz shared with AM broadcast) and Hifer (13.410-13.553) bands where one can experiment w/o a license. The power limits are pretty low but one might get some distance using QRSS, WSPR or something like that. I think I remember there being some really slow FSK that was being broadcast with milliwats where people would draw little pictures on the waterfall. I remember some ham was sending a drawing of a bike that way.

    Anyway, it would be cool if people started building Lowfer stations in hackerspaces then let visitors swap messages with other spaces (and individuals) that way. It could be exciting to see the skip start coming in and suddenly there’s the logo of the Chaos Computer Club showing up on a waterfall displayed in North America or the NYC Resistor showing up somewhere in Europe.

    1. I’ve built a couple of crystal radios that were supposed to be AM, but which started picking up a local FM station if I attached any kind of audio amplifier to the output. Once could be a fluke, but twice implies there’s something deeper going on; I haven’t had the time/energy to investigate more deeply.

  2. Without a doubt, the disappearance of analog transmission technologies generates nostagia. Like all pioneering technologies, they are easier to understand and that is what makes them interesting to start in the world of electronics.
    Surely digital transmissions have very interesting characteristics and for a majority audience, but what they do not have is the taste of analog, background noise and interference.
    Something youngsters won’t be able to enjoy is building a regenerative receiver with little more than a 50-year-old copper coil, condenser, and vacuum valve.

    1. The other thing about digital media, is they are an all-or-nothing proposition. Mistreat a vinyl record, and it still plays with a click and a pop. Mistreat a CD, and it’s game over.

      Similarly with television…I live in a valley shadowed by mountains. I used to be able to pick up lots of analog channels, though some were weak enough to be snowy. I didn’t care, because I have no need for TV programming with resolution so high that it reveals the pores on a newscaster’s nose.

      Now with digital tv, I actually get fewer channels, because the weak ones wont decode at all.

      1. That’s partially true.

        Where analog degrades gradually as the signal weakens digital just keeps going full quality until it reaches a certain point then it just stops working. It may be that you would have chosen to watch that very fuzzy analog signal given the choice.

        What nobody seems to be taking into consideration when comparing tv reception before and after the switchover is power levels. When the FCC licensed existing analog stations to do digital they did so at a greatly reduced power level.

        The only reason OTA tv still works at all is that those digital signals, being much lower bandwidth actually require less power to reach you. But the degree to which they lowered the power was too much.

        Had the tv stations continued to use the same high power levels they did when they were broadcasting analog those fuzzy stations you used to enjoy would probably still be watching them now only with the crystal clear perfect picture of digital. It was a conscious decision made by someone that after the transition only the most local of stations would still be available OTA.

        Consumers think they control the markets with their choices. And many consumers would chose cable. But when I think we are being lead to take it farther and fully abandon free OTA broadcasting through quiet, behind the scenes moves like this that nobody pays attention to.

    2. Digital is just more complicated and energy hungry. Outdoors I want the simplest way to do the job! I often enough am in places where I get no phone/internet and even some places with mountains blocking FM. I need my good old AM! But soon I can pull an Elon-Dish behind me on every longer walk! And 15kg of batteries?     :-Þ

      ..and Kessler-Syndrome, here we come! But that’s a different achievement of mankind! “Unlock the stay at home feature!” aka “Elon saves Mars from the humans”!

        1. Not better in EVERY way. Unless you regularly load new music into your MP3 player it will never deliver any musical surprises; you’ll just keep hearing the same old same old. Maybe you don’t like most new music, but a good DJ can choose music that is new (or likely to be new to you) that will fit the tastes of the intended audience and lead you toward increasing your repertoire.

          1. And there are so many songs you don’t know from whatever genre or time period you like, because they rarely get played at all. You think an 80s station would play every 80s song there is? Definitely not. But every now and then a listener would phone in and make a wish for a song no one has heard in ages. And sometimes, a new DJ would dig up an unknown song or two.

            Also MP3 players… I had one with 128MB (yes M, not G not T). Holds about as much music as a C90 cassette. Only I was sitting 15-20 minutes in front of the computer each day to determine what to put on there. After taking a few months to notice this strange new routine, I went back to cassettes. Take at most a minute to pick one, solved.
            And I still listen to the radio and if a song plays that I like and don’t know, I press record.

  3. I’m old. This year I scored a Panasonic RX-5050 boombox on ebay. The exact model I had as a teenager. Yeah, it has line input and output on RCA jacks, a nice “soft touch” cassette deck, and two way speaker system. But in my shop I have it tuned to WFMU (free-form radio, NJ/NY) and all I touch are the power and volume controls. If I like what is playing it is On, if not, it is down or Off. *For me* it beats the heck out of deciding what to stream and relying on algorithms.

    I would have really loved to see your number stations idea come to fruition!

    1. I recently picked up a Panasonic RX-GS780, put new belts on the tape player, and have been enjoying it like crazy. I didn’t have one as a kid, but it’s THE stereo I’d have been pining over at K-Mart at the time. Nostalgia is a funny feeling isn’t it lol.

  4. AS one of a certain age, I was surprised a few years ago when I replaced my vehicle with my first ever new, not used, one. of the several `infotainment’ options, only one included traditional radio. All had bluetooth, USB, cellular direct connection (4G at the time), GPS, could act as a hotspot and connect via cell or a public or private network with seamless switching. But AM/FM was extra. As this is a metro area, I think every vehicle on the lot HAD the AM/FM, but as time goes on, I expect it to become less common.

    And to think: I only ever had one vehicle with a CD player, and only one prior to that with factory cassette, though I upgraded a few earlier ones with aftermarket when I moved beyond 8-tracks.

    Until a couple years ago, I had one of several FM stations playing nearly all of the time. Now, I am down to one in hte region I can stand, as al of the others have the sameness in programming and sound that comes when all of the commercial stations are owned by the same two conglomerates (I will refer to them as the `broadcast booth is in a public restroom’ corp, and the `autotune everything’ syndicate. I would imagine that most people in the US know these well), with little music, talk formats being cheaper to run and more profitable, and even the college stations are trying to fit into those molds.

    I understand well why younger people are pretty much ignoring traditional broadcast.

    1. Yet another fringe benefit of living in WNY – All the old vehicles one could ever wish for, and Canadian radio stations come through loud and clear. I like my buttons, knobs, switches, and things I don’t have to look at to operate – How an “infotainment center” is supposed to make one a safer driver is a concept that eludes me in its entirety.

      Though I’d never really thought of the slow demise of FM radio – The march towards “sameness,” sure, but I never really thought of it like that until reading this and realizing that yet one more thing is going to be pushed towards the existential state of a fond, perhaps intangible, memory while instant gratification and the need to replace that which is not yet broken drive us all forward for reasons nobody cares to explain.

      1. The worst part, from the daily point of view, is the constant distractions with the newer systems. Alerts and warnings that must be acknowledged on a touchscreen. If I don’t, I can’t change he climate settings, including turning on the defog, as the warning “WARNING: Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents”, or whatever it says, must be ack’d before the controls are active. It also doesn’t help that the presets move around- they get shifted as other crap shows up on the display- so learning them by feel is impossible.

  5. Some time ago I built a regenerative FM receiver out of a 6U8 and it worked pretty good.

    We just bought a newfangled vehicle with an HD receiver, but it tends to cut out a lot in fringe areas. Unlike FM which might get a little noisy, but doesn’t break lock. TV has the same problem; in fringe areas it frequently decomposes into unwatchable color blocks instead of just getting a little snowy like olde-fashioned NTSC.

    I pay for cell data by the bit so don’t like to stream away from wifi. So if there’s no decent FM station around I listen to the 32 GB of tunes on my flash drive. I hate subscribing to anything, music or software.

    1. “TV has the same problem; in fringe areas it frequently decomposes into unwatchable color blocks instead of just getting a little snowy like olde-fashioned NTSC.”

      In fact, the error correction associated with digital TV (but not analog) is so good that by the time that digital image “decomposes into unwatchable color blocks” the analog signal wouldn’t be “a little snowy”; it would be so far down in the noise it probably couldn’t hold sync and you wouldn’t be interested in watching it anyway.

      1. Not true in the US. The problem we have is that television can be unwatchable despite having plenty of signal strength. The problem is that the 8VSB modulation used by ATSC 1.0 behaves very badly in the face of multipath, so reception is very unreliable if you have signals coming from more than one place (as you typically do in an urban environment where the signals bounce off buildings, or if you have a hill between you and the transmitter so you have no direct line of sight and only receive reflected signals).

        The OFDM modulation used in DVB-T, DVB-T2, and ATSC 3.0 perform much better in that regard. Things will get better in the US (and also Canada and Mexico) if ATSC 3.0 is ever adopted widely. Adoption of ATSC 3.0 is already well underway in South Korea, the other notable place where ATSC is used.

        1. Terrain fade makes OTA digital TV largely unusable where I live. I’m not more than 8 miles from the tower, but I’m in a bit of a valley which seems to set up ideal conditions bounce from the ground to tangle with line-of-sight. The net result is all channels from the tower fluctuate between 100% and 0% signal quality over and over.
          FM was at its peak in the 1980s, when excellent tuners were available, Clear Channel hadn’t ruined everything, and the loudness war hadn’t ruined music. I’d tune in to WLIR and have my tape deck at the ready to record the latest “new wave” song.
          If you want to experience something similar to this era in terms of sound quality, see if you have a local “classical” station. They typically broadcast with nothing more than an overmodulation limiter, so you can really get a feel for the SNR, intermod, and separation capabilities of your tuner.

  6. FM broadcasting exists because of Howard Armstrong. He invested his own money in starting a.network shortly before WWII.

    And once you bring up Armstrong, you have to mention the regenerative receiver, the superheterodyne receiver and the superregenerative receiver. Four hits, an amazing
    foundation for what came later.

  7. The interface of FM radio is unparalleld. Spinning the dial and watching the signal strength meter were innate. Today you need a browser with bookmarks. Whole businesses have cropped up that do just this (Spotify, Amazon,etc) BUT YOU STILL HAVE TO USE A KEYBOARD. How about a box with a bunch of ‘genre’ buttons on the front and a dial to spin. Maybe an electroluminescent display to show what’s playing and the station (website)

    1. It’s easy to have a good interface when your choices are limited. But as soon as your possible choices expand beyond a few dozen, it becomes more difficult to easily pick what you want. You start to need “favorites” or “presets”, and then you have to have a way to set them. And how many of those should there be?

      With web radio, you have thousands of choices (I don’t actually know how many there might be). You need one mode where you pick among your favorites, but you also need a mode to help you explore what’s out there in some organized fashion. Or you can just let “the algorithm” pick stuff for you.

      1. “You need one mode where you pick among your favorites, but you also need a mode to help you explore what’s out there in some organized fashion.”

        Sounds like Spotify’s personalised daily mixes and their ‘discover’ section.

  8. When I get in my car and turn on the radio the FM dial is literally filled with stations, there are at least 20 or 30 of them, broadcasting everything from Portuguese Christian to speed metal and everything in-between and I live far from the big city. When I drive to the city literally every click on the dial has a station, must be about 100 of them. What is this “demise of FM radio”???

    1. Where I used to live, there were two FM stations (early 1990’s). I was less than 100Km from a 500K+ city, but geography and orology and plate tectonics and all.

      Today I am in a much more geographically favourable (flat) area-NY/Philly metro- and interference between stations is the big thing.

  9. I hope AM/FM doesn’t go away. Not everyone is ‘connected’ or wants to pay fees to stream music… In fact the guy in the ‘cube’ next to mine plays an FM station from a clock/radio while he works… After I retire, I hope to ditch the cell phone as much as possible too. All my vehicles have AM/FM. Perfect … when we listen to anything that is. Unfortunately our latest vehicle doesn’t even have a CD or cassette player (not an option)… had to buy an external usb CD player…. :( .

    1. In my neck of the wood with the average age of cars being 12+years old, and no digital transmissions, analogue FM is still going strong. Cant see it going anywhere in the next 12 years.

  10. Vinyl made a comeback, so you never know… By next year FM could be the newest fad.

    Every vehicle I have ever owned has had AM/FM/cassette. Most, including current, with crank windows. Insurance company put me in a 2021 Tacoma…. I was lost.

      1. In the U.S., analog AM uses 1.1 MHz and analog FM 20 MHz. Digital radio in the same bands uses more bandwidth per station. This is a pittance compared to the vast wasteland that is cellular service.

    1. The fact that a 1960’s radio can pick up FM signals from a station today is one of the best and strongest selling points of FM radio. Analog FM has followed the same compatible standard for nearly a century of widespread adoption. Yes, HD radio has a higher quality of sound, but I worry when I hear about the “inferior first version” of HD radio mentioned in the article. If there is a superior second version, will it be compatible? Will we need to buy a new radio for our cars every decade or so when the newer, better version comes out? It won’t matter if the better version is worth the upgrade cost, because the older version will likely no longer work at all.

      This is the world we live in already with almost every other method of distributing audio. Digital file formats change, internet streaming services change, physical media formats change, but FM has been a constant for so long that it would be foolish to throw it away now just because there is a newer version available.

        1. My understanding is in the States, By Law, ALL Cell Phones have FM Radios.. But there was no law that said it had to actually work. So, they are not able to actually produce sound

          1. Your understanding is wrong. Some have the fm part of the chip (actually built-in) disabled, but by far most cell phones I’ve seen in the US since 2010 can activate the fm chip with the right app and an aux cable (for antenna). In fact, this from 2017 (CNBC):

            “In the last two years, wireless operators and phone makers have warmed up to the idea of FM radio access. Public safety benefits and the fact that broadcast radio probably would have little impact on people’s use of data are likely the reasons. Major US carriers now allow FM chips to be turned on. Manufacturers like Samsung, LG, HTC and Motorola have activated FM radio on their phones. ”
            -and-
            “So far only Mexico has required that phone manufacturers activate built-in FM radios. US regulators support all manufacturers and carriers activating FM chips on phones, but it’s unlikely they’ll go so far as to pass regulations to make it happen.

            “I’ll keep speaking out about the benefits of activating FM chips,” FCC Chairman Pai said in a speech to the North American Broadcasters Association in February. “Having said that, as a believer in free markets and the rule of law … I believe it’s best to sort this issue out in the marketplace.” ” (CNBC, 2021, Ajit Pai, FCC chair under Trump 2017-2021, infamous for dismantling Obama-era net-neutrality rules put in place to protect the public).

      1. The USA got stuck on that with analog television. We had NTSC and adopted it across this huge country with a lot of broadcast stations. It took a lot of years and a lot of development work on ATSC to not simply replace NTSC but to ensure that it had the capability to have much higher resolution and the flexibility for a broadcaster to choose whatever balance of quality vs number of subchannels and other technical aspects they wanted to use.

        But back to NTSC, the ‘second birds’ of PAL and SECAM got to make their systems better in some ways. PAL traded a slower frame rate for higher resolution and IIRC didn’t have to resort to the strange tricks for colour which NTSC had to do to shoehorn in color. Color just flat out wasn’t a thought in the minds of Philo Farnsworth or the people who developed the NTSC standard from his work.

        1. PAL used a method of encoding color that is similar to NTSC. Unlike NTSC, it didn’t need to slightly change the frame rate (NTSC changed from 60 fps to 59.94 fps) because the math wasn’t as awkward for its combination of line and frame rates. PAL made one key change; the phase of the color information is reversed for each line, allowing the system to provide colors that were not affected as much by interference with reception such as multipath. There is a cost to that; the vertical color resolution of PAL is lower than that of NTSC.

          SECAM is completely different. The blue and red color information (actually the DIFFERENCE information between those colors and the luminance value, for compatibility with black and white TVs) is carried in alternating frames, requiring the receiver to retain the color information for the other color for one frame. (In early receivers it was done with an analog delay line. Later receivers digitized the color information and stored it in RAM.) The green information is derived by using math based on the red and blue values. SECAM provides very accurate colors, but at the expense of effectively having the color data run at half the frame rate of the grayscale part of the image.

  11. Keep in mind that FM had to have ads to survive. There was an age I hit (about the time MP3’s started to come out) where I decided that I’d had enough ads shoved through my ears and I couldn’t take it anymore.

    I’ve never looked back. Good riddance.

      1. I don’t know about that. I’ve been listening to WQXR on the FM side since before moving to Queens, and the hosts there are amazing. They became a Public Radio station in 2009, and never looked back. In fact for a long while they did not have advertising whilst on their original frequency. Then the idiotic demands of the owners did do that. Then they moved. And never looked back. The music they play, which is Classical, is the music of a bygone age. Oh and one of the announcers has a collection of LPs and every Sunday at Noon is an analog moment. Of course they gave up the AM backup, but that’s not important.

    1. Yes but there were a few decades it survived with a whole lot less ads than most stations typically transmit today, proving such is possible. I don’t know where you are but here in the US a couple of corporations bought out pretty much all the radio stations after the Telecom act of 96 made it legal for them to do so. Ever since the ad to content ratio has been increasing like a boiling frog.

      1. Largely the fault of those same big companies. They bid up the prices of the stations in major cities to heights that require running lots of ads to pay off the debt of buying the station. A radio station doesn’t have to cost all that much to operate, especially if you use automation to cover the less busy parts of the schedule, but covering the debt from the $15 or $50 million you spent to buy the station is another matter entirely. (Small market radio stations never make much money, then or now, unless they dominate their market.)

        The need for all that advertising can also limit the kinds of formats that will work. For example, iHeartMedia tried an electronic dance music format on one of its newly acquired radio stations here in Boston for a year. (That was actually their second try, after a JACK FM-style variety format failed; that replaced an alternative station that had a 29 year history of being a huge cultural influence but not making money.) It was reasonably successful at attracting listeners, but since the format required long ad-free stretches of music to work they couldn’t figure out a way to make money on it; listening would plummet whenever they tried to introduce more advertising. After that they flipped it to country, which was more commercially successful for the company but a net loss to Boston listeners since the new format nearly duplicated another station that was already on the air.

  12. I played with FM “Bugs” in the very early 1980s. Often they were just 1 or 2 transistor designs.

    I would place my Timex mechanical watch next to the bugs microphone as a very distinctive audio source. Then I’d go walkabout with a portable FM receiver to see what range could be achieved. Often it was 1km or more depending on built up areas.

    In summer of 1984, I hooked a ZX81 “MIC” output up to the FM bug input and set the machine into a continuouse save loop. A second ZX81 was plugged into the earphone output of an FM receiver and set to “LOAD”. Program transfer between two ZX81s was possible over at least 100m.

  13. I used to listen to FM radio but its gotten to the point where I hop in my car and drive a half hour to or from work and not hear a single song… It’s all obnoxious ads for used cars, and vape shops

    Kind of like when mtv stopped playing videos or history channel only showed pawn stars

    1. A quick Google search will tell you that FM radio is still very popular with listeners of all ages, still much more popular than podcasts or internet radio. Even my brand new android phone has an old fashioned FM radio.

      I think FM radio does not need improved quality, between road noise and crummy car speakers, better radio will not sound any better.

        1. This analysis is not entirely accurate. It’s true that DAB saves power on the transmitter site. But the receiver side of the story is disingenuous. The DAB receivers use less power because they are newer designs built around highly efficient silicon, not because there is anything inherent to the format that makes them use less power. All else being equal, an receiver for analog FM will use less power than one for any digital format because receiving it is less electronically complex, or computationally if you use an SDR architecture.

    2. I listen to radio1, but im not young (nearly 40) but in my youth, and from what I gather current youth, its still the soundtrack to start your weekend. if your into dance (or as the majority of the readership here will know it as EDM). something quite nice about putting on the radio and letting someone else provide you with the latest and greatest, except these days for me I put it on to mark the drive home from work, cooking dinner and getting my wee one ready for bed etc

      I guess this may be more of a UK thing, I struggle to think of a time where pete tongs distinctive voice wasnt there, not to mention legends like john peel. and Now with anne mac hanging up her mic it an end to another great era.

      but yeah, even the (UK) youth are still very aware of radio1. I guess the lack of advertising is a big help but its surprising how relevant they have managed to stay.

      1. I’m older than you and don’t listen to radio anymore. Well, ok, rarely listen to radio.

        You have a unique situation in the UK. Or at least I think it’s unique. It’s certainly not like the US. Lack of advertising? That’s not a thing here. There is typically more advertising than music on most stations. Blah blah blah buy our crap blah blah blah makes for an awful start of the weekend soundtrack. And the music that does get played? It’s usually the same 4 or 5 fad songs for whatever genre that stations plays. Over and over again.

        It’s not like I was never a fan of radio. I even used to work at a radio station. But today it just sucks here. A couple large corporations bought out all the good stations in my area back in the 1990s and have totally ruined it trying to suck out every possible penny of advertising dollar.

        I do totally get the draw of letting somebody else pick the music. I gave up collecting my own MP3s and making my own playlists about the same time most of my friends were recording their last cassette mix tapes.

        Personally I use Pandora for this. It’s on my phone and my car stereo has bluetooth so as soon as I turn the car on for my commute to or from work it syncs up and starts playing within seconds. I do pay a few bucks per month to eliminate the ads.

        I’ve found that the trick is to train several separate Pandora stations, each with different music that I like for different reasons. If I try to put it all in one station then it’s like it averages out all the different things that make different music good in different ways and the result is just bland and boring.

        Once the stations are trained well just set it to shuffle between them for variety. It doesn’t only play the songs I picked, it guesses based on that what I will like so I still get exposed to new music and I’m not constantly having to pick my own playlist. Actually, I’ve been exposed to a lot more music this way then I ever could listening to the local radio, I’ve learned a lot more about what I do and don’t like.

        Most younger people I know use other services that are newer. I’m not so old as to be against trying new stuff but I have my stations trained well for me so I really don’t want to start over elsewhere.

    3. Define contemporary hits. Oh and all of BBC Radio is on the air, I’ve listened to their classical music station a few times. Their announcers are good, but they do not measure up to the people behind WQXR which is what I listen to. It happens to be the oldest of the classical music stations in the US.

  14. The Emergency Alert system should be what keeps Analog FM alive. With the finicky issues using HD radio I would not rely on it in case of an emergency. Nothing beats a good old analog exciter and a amplifier for pushing out an easy to receive alert in your area.

  15. Digital Radio (HD being one example) is not so much about delivering a better user experience as it is future provision for broadcasters to charge the audience for content. Think Sirius XM, but with HD Radio. Eventually they will be able to charge subscriptions. It’s one small step from that.
    Does HD Really sound better than FM? Marginally at best, to these ears. And only with adequate signal strength. It doesn’t degrade nearly as gracefully as FM heading out of city coverage. Cliff Effect!

    1. HD should sound better than FM as long as the signal is strong enough that (after error correction) no bits are corrupted. However, HD radio does have a limited SNR set by the format used. At very high signal levels, FM can (in theory) have better SNR than HD. To the best of my knowledge, no FM receiver has ever been sold that is that good. Sigh.

  16. FM was clearer but AM usually had better music in my opinion. I also seem to remember picking up AM stations from different European countries, and trying to guess what language they were speaking.

  17. ” my friends … reminded me that the kids don’t listen to any sort of conventional broadcast radio … very few of them would have the means for listening to my numbers stations.”

    But most if not all of the kids would have smartphones, which I believe, have built in FM receivers. Set up a workshop to show them how to activate the receivers in their phones (if they’re not already) and let the games begin. Heck, it might even get some of the little toe rags into FM radio.

      1. Many smartphones sold outside the US have FM radio tuners. The capability is included as part of the phone’s SoC. Usually they depend on the headphone cable to act as the antenna, so the radio will only work well for headphone listening. New phones that lack a headphone jack don’t have tuners; it might still be in the SoC but it’s disabled for lack of antenna.

        Here in the US, carriers usually insist that the FM tuner capability be left out of the phone’s operating system. They want you to use their services to listen to music, not get it for free from radio broadcasts. The hardware is still there but you can’t use it. The antenna connection to the headphone cable is likely also omitted, so the tuner still won’t work if you install an alternative OS.

        1. I was under the impression that the absence of FM was just a software thing (carriers demanding it be left out) I don’t see why they would go to the trouble of removing the antenna connection from the phone when software alone will keep 99% of users radioless. I remember during a bad wild fire season in Canada some people were demanding that it be legally mandated that all smart phones have their FM radios activated, because during the fires the cell network of course failed and since people were leaving home they couldn’t get news, but FM radio worked perfectly, so why should someone have an FM radio in their pocket (the phone) but not be able to use it.

      2. Interesting! Every (slightly) smart phone I’ve owned since about 2003 here in South Africa has/had an FM radio, including my 2021 model. Must be a US things to exclude that. Fair enough that the US is certainly one of the world’s tech leaders, but since only 4.3% of people live there, I’m wondering what the norm is in the rest of the world?

        1. …especially in the Netherlands where @JennyList planned to hide a “set of those low-power FM transmitters as numbers stations”? I just imagined a working FM radio would be the norm in every smart phone in Europe

  18. Just yesterday at the stoplight instead of looking at my phone I did a little FM-DX’ing. Starting at 88.1 and checking every 200khz I could copy at least 30 stations by time I got to 108mHz, this is not counting the digital subcarriers. I am in the Washington/Baltimore area, but I think this is typical of any larger US metro area.

      1. I don’t think any serious attempt to transmit at 0.1 Hz has ever been proposed. But back in t968 there was Project Sanguine, a proposed system that could send a one way signal to deeply submerged submarines. The antenna grid would have covered (term used loosely because the antenna wires would be buried) two fifths of the state of Wisconsin. It was intended to operate at 7 Hz and transmit 800 megawatts of power. Opposition to its cost and environmental impact caused that proposal to be abandoned.

        A cut down version of the idea, Project ELF, did get built. It was first tested in 1982, and was in full operation from 1989 until 2004. It used two transmitter sites that were about 150 miles apart. The antennas were wires that were either 14 or 28 miles long; they were originally intended to be buried, but were instead put on telephone poles for cost reasons. The two transmitters were usually synchronized for more range but could be used separately. The total transmitted power was 2.8 megawatts. The operating frequency was usually 76 Hz, but it also supported an alternate frequency of 45 Hz.

        The data rate of Project ELF was very low. The Wikipedia article says that it took 15 minutes to send one 3 letter code group.

        (Why do kilohertz and other kilo-units use a small K anyway? It’s inconsistent with the usual convention of using small prefix letters for dividers (aka fractional multipliers) and capital prefix letters for most of the multipliers. It really should be a capital K.)

          1. It’s true that deca (da, which has to use two letters because the single letter d is used for the 1/10 multiplier deci) and hecto (h) are written with small letters. But they are almost never seen, unlike deci and centi, the corresponding fractional multipliers for 1/10 and 1/10. Among the ones in common use, kilo is the only one that does not use a capital letter.

            I will grant that the possible confusion with Kelvin may be an issue.

  19. I still think FM beats the alternatives hands-down, but the stations I like aren’t on FM. I live in Brisbane, so there’s a decent selection of stations on both MW AM, VHF FM and VHF DAB+.

    Nearly all of them are simulcasting on both DAB+ and either FM or AM.

    I would listen to FM if there were stations that catered for my music taste: I happen to think Bob Seger has a point when he says “new music ain’t got the same soul”.

    I’m mainly lurking on channel 9A on DAB+… there’s three stations I switch between. One also broadcasts at 693kHz AM and basically does music from 1960-2000. The other two are DAB+ only: one 80s station and one “classic rock” station.

    I find FM gives the best audio quality: it doesn’t suffer the stuttering or audio compression glitches that DAB+ suffers. (That said, DAB+ audio quality has improved over the last 18 months as stations have switched from 48kbps and 32kbps HE-AAC to 64kbps HE-AAC.) If a FM station is a bit weak, you get a slight hiss in the background, but the human brain is very adept at filtering that out.

    DAB+ is prone to drop-outs and glitches. Being a very “wide” signal, it suffers badly from reflections that would cause ghosting on analogue TV (and echo on AM radio). A problem I notice that gets worse when it’s windy. (Maybe Channel 9 Brisbane just sold their second-hand TV transmitter antenna to the DAB+ broadcasters with the crusty old coax as-is?)

    AM works, and is simple to implement, but I find it fatiguing to listen to.

    Internet streaming is a non-starter for me as I don’t see the point in wasting Internet bandwidth on something that is freely receivable with a suitable radio, and there are also times when I want to listen to music but don’t have an Internet connection.

    1. FM quality is the main issue in Aus – it is simply much better than DAB if you have good reception. The standard was just set too low for DAB, they wanted it to sound like crap so that you couldn’t use it to ‘copy’ songs (yep that is how long ago they were planning it).
      I agree that I have line of site to the transmitter, but my FM tuner on my main hifi system gives me much better quality music (when they aren’t incessantly talking) than DAB (and yes, I tried that too, then unplugged it). In fact, until the last year or so it was better than the majority of streamed music (quality) on the web..

      So I doubt it is going to die anytime soon, and if it does it isn’t going to be DAB that does it..

      1. The low bitrate of many Australian DAB+ stations is entirely down to the radio companies than own the multiplexes. SCA (for example) can put as few or as many stations in it’s bandwidth as it likes. It optimises for profit.

    2. Here in the US the situation is very different. Instead of having a big multiplex that carries a bunch of digital channels as is normally done with DAB and DAB+, we have something called HD Radio where an analog FM signal can also carry one to three digital subchannels plus the primary digital channel. The primary channel is a simulcast of the analog channel, and the receiver will seamlessly cut over to analog if the received signal gets too weak to receive the digital data; that requires carefully calibrated delays to get the timing right. The subchannels simply drop out if reception gets weak, just like satellite radio does.

      In nearly all cases, all the channels are owned and operated by the same company. The content of the subchannels may include stations that play different music formats or simulcasts of other radio stations. (The common case of that is simulcasting an AM station on an HD subchannel of an FM station.) There are occasional cross-company deals with public radio, and if there was a simulcast deal between two stations and one gets sold the deal may continue for a while. Here in Boston, one example of the use of subchannels is a station that plays an adult contemporary format (office-friendly pop and soft rock) most of the year but flips to holiday music in November and December; whichever format is not currently the main broadcast is available on an HD subchannel.

      The codec used by HD Radio on FM is HDC, a slightly modified version of HE-AACv1 that is changed just enough so the company that supplies the equipment can claim it as proprietary. Open source software to decode HD Radio, including patches to libfaad to decode the modified AAC codec, is available on Github, but using it in the US may violate software patents.

      Because there is a finite supply of bits, the subchannels usually have lower sound quality than the main broadcast, especially if the station carries more than one. There are four digital transmission modes, allowing the station to broadcast 100 to 150 kbps of digital audio data. (Lower data rates are more robust and therefore increase the station’s digital reception range.) Usually the primary channel uses 64 kbps, providing good sound quality, and the subchannels are left to carve up what remains. The all-digital mode allows data rates up to 300 kbps, which would allow higher sound quality and/or more subchannels.

      So far I’ve been talking about FM. HD Radio can also be used on AM, but because it makes the signal wider it often causes unacceptable interference to distant stations at night. Because of that, most of the stations that use HD Radio on AM are required to turn off the digital signal at sunset. Unlike FM stations, AM stations using HD Radio do not broadcast any additional subchannels. (One digital-only AM station did a trial of sending a subchannel; the real world results led to the FCC concluding that it is not technically feasible.) The digital data stream on AM can carry 40 to 60 kbps; most stations use the 40 kbps mode, leading to lower sound quality than FM has unless the station broadcasts in mono as talk formats are likely to do.

      There is a digital-only mode of HD Radio that is more similar to how DAB works, but it is currently in use only by a handful of AM stations. (No FM stations are currently digital-only.) An HD Radio multiplex is only slightly wider than a standard FM signal so it’s never going to carry as many channels as a 1.5 MHz wide DAB multiplex.

      To my ears, the quality of good FM reception and HD Radio at the higher bit rate normally used for the primary channel are about a wash. The subchannels usually sound noticeably worse. Satellite radio in the US uses two systems that are now both owned by the same company, Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Radio. Sirius uses a proprietary codec that sounds worse to my ears than HE-AAC. I haven’t personally had the opportunity to listen to an XM Radio receiver; those use HE-AAC for most channels (AMBE is used for some voice-only channels), though the bit rate used is not disclosed.

      1. Here in the US the situation is very different. Instead of having a big multiplex that carries a bunch of digital channels as is normally done with DAB and DAB+, we have something called HD Radio where an analog FM signal can also carry one to three digital subchannels plus the primary digital channel. The primary channel is a simulcast of the analog channel, and the receiver will seamlessly cut over to analog if the received signal gets too weak to receive the digital data; that requires carefully calibrated delays to get the timing right. The subchannels simply drop out if reception gets weak, just like satellite radio does.

        That is actually a smart way to do it… but you’re right, getting that latency correct is the blocker. I’ve got a Raspberry Pi3 + RTL-SDR + qt-dab receiving a station right now, and a late 1960s model AM radio which is tuned to the same station but turned off. If I turn that AM radio on, I’ll hear something on it, then hear the same audio on DAB+ maybe 30 seconds later.

        DRM is another standard: used in MW and SW stations… I sort of wonder why that wasn’t adopted here in Australia… back in 1978 some brightspark in Canberra decided that 10kHz spacing was wasting precious spectrum and so got all the stations to shuffle up the band to a 9kHz spacing to make room for more stations. More stations that never happened because FM was just around the corner.

        The big multiplex of DAB+ is probably one of the biggest head-scratchers… talk about putting all your eggs in one basket! I don’t have any faith that DAB+ will keep working in a major storm, given the way it stutters when it’s a windy day.

        ABC Radio Brisbane 4QR transmits on both 612kHz (it’s the massive tower people may have seen at Bald Hills… actually it shares it with ABC Radio National 4QG at 792kHz), and on DAB+ channel 9C. It’s officially an “emergency broadcaster”, and puts out a nice strong signal on MW (actually, its third harmonic at 1836kHz is sometimes a problem for 160m ham-band operators), but I think DAB will be dead-and-buried when storm season comes.

    3. AM actually could sound pretty good in its heyday. True, it’s mono-only (except for the brief heyday of AM Stereo in the 90s, and it was never widely adopted) and the frequency response is somewhat more limited than FM, but a good station was still pleasant to listen to if you had a good radio. Alas, many stations did NOT broadcast a good signal, instead subjecting their sounds to excessive compression and other audio processing. AM stations were allowed an audio bandwidth of 15 kHz until 1989, which gave an upper frequency response limit identical to FM broadcasting, though most stations did not use the full bandwidth available and most receivers had narrower filters to lessen interference from other stations. The maximum audio bandwidth was reduced to 10.2 kHz in 1989 to reduce interference between stations. At night when distant signals are easily received, it is often necessary to reduce your receiver bandwidth to 5 kHz to keep out those distant stations as much as possible.

      But nowadays, the rise of electronic noise from all of our gadgets has made sound quality on AM much worse than it was in the olden daisies. The noise floor of the band is likely to be as much as 30dB higher than it was in 1960, and since it’s AM that degrades your reception by exactly that amount. Unless you are very close to a transmitter you probably don’t get a strong enough signal from any AM station to get really clean reception.

      Few modern radio receivers make high quality AM reception a priority. A typical radio that you can buy today sounds worse on AM than a vintage tube radio, and almost certainly has a less effective antenna. It’s even worse on cars, where they dropped the classic whip antenna in favor of something smaller and less obtrusive (and less effective), as well as adding lots of electronics that create noise that interferes with AM reception. There are exceptions such as the high quality shortwave receivers from companies like Tecsun and C.Crane, as well as communications receivers and SDRs that can receive the AM broadcast band.

      The situation at the stations themselves has gotten worse. The majority of stations no longer broadcast music, making sound quality a lower priority. Most are owned by a handful of large corporations that don’t care about quality. And they know that they really can’t deliver quality because of that noise floor so there is even less reason to care about it.

  20. In Switzerland they wanted to terminate FM radio by the end of this year. Now they have postponed it for two more years.
    We had DABfirst but after a couple of years they switched to incompatible DAB+ so the early adopters had to throw away their radios and buy new ones. When DAB++ comes eevrybody will buy new radios again. Get used to it,
    DAB is not the future. Mobile internet is. Instead of starting another broadcast format they should provide cheap mobile internet and base everything on that.
    They replaced analog TV with DVB-T but terminated that after a couple of years. No more broadcast TV here.
    They also scrapped the landline telephone network and replaced it with an emulation on the internet that fails often.
    I wish they would keep FM running, It is a cultural heritage.

  21. I’m a father of two young children and we’ve been listening to our local high school’s FM radio station for years. They helped us get through the worst of 2020 with cheerful programming spanning the latter half of the 20th century. The kids have also gotten to know cassette tapes (making a mix-tape using MP3s broadcast to a 1990s tape deck using AirPlay works surprisingly well) and CDs. They love popping their mix tapes into our Sanyo boombox and pushing the buttons themselves. No ads and no subscription fees.

    My partner and I hope to help them understand the history of media and the affordances and limitations of both the analog and digital realms.

    It’s not hard. Quite the opposite: it’s a lot of fun.

  22. Maybe personal “Part 15” stations can be the gateway drug…I’m currently enjoying my R&B Oldies format on 1650khz with a cheap ebay transmitter and a cast-off pc. It covers my house and those of my nextdoor neighbors. Tons of fun for this old guy.

  23. Bottom line, the driving factor is the transmitter. The power must be cheap for the distance served. If it costs a million bucks, has 5 Hz to 25 kHz bandpass, but only 10 miles range… bah. The digital mode must be long range, and the power amplifiers must be cheap. Otherwise, use the Internet.

    1. HD Radio uses a slightly modified version of HE-AACv1, changed just enough so they can claim it is proprietary. Audio compression hasn’t gotten a lot better since the introduction of that codec, so they’re not leaving all that much on the table.

        1. Yes and no. There are super low bit rate codes for content that is purely speech, like AMBE+2 and Codec 2, that achieve much lower bit rates than HE-AAC can. But they make voices sound unnatural so you’re not going to use them for talk shows that are meant as entertainment. They might be suitable for purely informational content, and the XM satellites of Sirius XM radio here in the US do use AMBE for some weather and traffic channels. (For historical reasons Sirius XM has two sets of technical standards; one for the satellites that originally belonged to Sirius and another for the satellites that belonged to XM. They need to keep both sets of satellites running to support the installed base of car receivers, which are the primary market for satellite radio. The company did sell home receivers at one time, but nowadays home customers who are interested in Sirius XM content usually stream it instead.)

          In places where al the channels get crammed onto one or two wideband multiplexes, there are good reasons to pack in as many channels as possible and minimize the bandwidth used for each one. That is indeed what they have done in the UK, and it sounds terrible, especially since they’re stuck with the old DAB standard rather than DAB+.

          But because HD Radio in the US is done on a station by station basis, there isn’t much reason to cram tons of low bandwidth talk channels onto a station. Any given market will only support so many talk radio stations, and the other major formats are likely already covered by another station. There are more reasons to add more music formats, but those won’t be using speech-specific codecs; HE-AAC is fine for those.

  24. The business of broadcasting is moribund. Whether it is AM, FM, XM, HD, or whatever, people are getting tired of the homogenized, one-size-fits-all format consultants who tell DJs what to play and when. The whole music distribution business and the social models they use for advertising are shattering. The satellite business of Sirius/XM seemed to believe that if they couldn’t make money in the formats that exist now, that they could do so with even more tightly defined vertical formats. Only, it is so tightly defined, that most of their channels cannot hold my attention for more than half an hour.

    Broadcast radio isn’t dying The format continues on the Internet. There are many interesting programs. What is changing is how these programs are monetized, how the broadcast advertising is bought and sold, and how people react to what they hear. We are on the cusp of a revolution in the broadcasting business.

    That’s why I think we’ll continue to hear broadcasts on the RF spectrum. But it won’t sound anything like the 100 year old stuffy ideas that it started with.

  25. I think the bottom line is that traditional broadcast radio was based on hope: send out the broadcast on all directions for free, and hope listeners respond by purchasing from advertisers.

    Digital and online successors are based on pure revenue: charge a subscription fee, sell “premium” upgrades and features, and deliver it all over a private, pixelated, failure-prone data stream charged by the bit.

    The former felt like a competitive, optimistic pubic service; the latter feels like exploitation-optimized peak capitalism.

  26. As long as there is a need to communicate on the ground level there will always be AM and FM radio. It may ebb and wien a bit, but it will always be a part of life. People have predicted the death of radio for the past 25 years and all it has done is grown. I know plenty of young people who still know the best radio station in their local town. Amazon sells plenty of radios..and car dealers no better than to attempt to sell a car without an AM FM radio.

    It always seems to be the creators of Podcasts etc that predict the end of radio..but it’s usually the end of their content that is s nearby. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself..They all start out with hour shows once a week ala radio style.. and predictably they end up with little 15 minute podcasts once in the while..

    Radio..doesn’t need internet, or an expensive smart device that only lasts a year, no buffering, easiest to use, and it’s free..and it’s not 23,000 miles up in the air..it’s right in your own backyard..

    Radio is alive, well and survived the pandemic just fine. And it’s truly mass media, reaches more than TV, closed circuit cable, or dish.

    Radio audiences are stadium size..podcasts are nothing more than a floating bunch of digital bits laying in wait for someone to find. They have no standards and few ever rise to much excellence.

  27. I’m still a big fan of FM Radio for in the car. We’ve launched DAB in the UK, which despite the Digital Radio assoc’s claims of “Better Quality”, the quality is *unbearably* bad on some of the stations (broadcasting in 64kbps MP2), and drops off a cliff instead of gracefully falling back to Mono. Drop DAB and invest in better cell on motorways.

  28. I must admit, I’m a bit disappointed by both the article and the comments.

    Things I do miss in both of them:

    – doppler effect, which FM can handle quite well
    – FM demodulation via AM receivers
    – RDS, Radio Data System (on FM radio)
    – how the pilot tone makes Stereo FM possible
    – how/why FM radio stations compress audio/lower dynamic range
    – Digital Radio Mondialr (DRM), the alternative to DAB that works on SW too

  29. My problem with FM radio is just a couple companies own all the stations and play the same 10 songs over and over and over and over…..again.

    AM radio is either religious programs, people saying Hillary Clinton arranged for that seagull to poop on my car, people claiming they saw a skunk ape and ET or finally people giving the over and under odds on girls high school softball games since football season hasn’t started.

    The only time I really listen to radio is when a hurricane comes in to flatten everything and no power and the TV stations simulcast on AM and FM radio.

  30. I’m not only a big fan of FM Radio, I’m doing my best to chronicle many of the best examples of what FM is/was capable of. I created FM Radio Archive on archive.org in Jan. 2020 for that reason, and the collection of broadcast recordings is continuously growing: https://archive.org/details/fmradioarchive . From my perspective, FM Radio Archive is a recorded history of the times I grew up with, and it hasn’t died yet. Portland OR has a few innovative non-commercial stations like KMHD (jazz), KBOO (community radio with Grateful Dead & jazz shows), Portland Radio Project (eclectic) and Freeform Portland (eclectic). Google these and check them out when you have a chance.

    Since we have seen a wonderful increase in vinyl record sales, to the point that they outsold CDs for the first time last year, maybe we could tie a revival of FM Radio to vinyl. FM = Free Music, and the original freeform/underground stations only had vinyl and 8-track cartridges to play. As I say on FM Radio Archive, “Before the iPod, Sirius XM, Pandora & Spotify, we streamed audio on FM radio for our soundtrack.” I’m auditioning for a local DJ gig, I’ll do my part to help keep FM going.

      1. “Pepsi is the choice of a new generation”.

        It dates from about the time when FM radio was shifting from a wasteland (ie not profitable) of classical music, to “underground”, free form radio playing a wider selling ction including long songs.

        So FM became the choice of a new generation.

  31. Replying to Cliff Claven’s comment, “I understand well why younger people are pretty much ignoring traditional broadcast.” I agree with this comment, and others that note how the majority of commercial FM stations have cookie-cutter formats and play the same or similar music all the time. However, FM Radio is alive and well at the left end of the dial, among college and community stations. You may not like much or all of the music they play, but the freeform FM format lives on there. I live in Portland OR and I referenced 4 stations that meet this criteria: KMHD (jazz), KBOO (community oriented with some jazz, bluegrass, Grateful Dead and ethnic music), Portland Radio Project (eclectic) and Freeform Portland (eclectic). All of these are available on a FM radio if you live within broadcast range, or on TuneIn. KNKX from Seattle is another good example, with a mix of NPR, Jazz & Blues. KKJZ from CSULB-Long Beach, CA is another Jazz & Blues station. True, you will have a harder time finding non-commercial rock stations, but Radio Paradise on TuneIn or the web is my current reference standard. If you don’t like any new music, check out the 55 years of 500+ FM music broadcasts on FM Radio Archive on archive.org: https://archive.org/details/fmradioarchive?tab=collection. I continuously update the collection, with ~5-7 new broadcast recordings added most every week. Feedback and any good FM concerts or airchecks to share are appreciated.

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