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A look at internet radio

Updated on January 10, 2016

The start of internet radio

In days gone by when people wanted to listen to the radio they were really only able to access the radio stations that were local to their area. Whilst this wasn’t a massive problem, a lot of people were missing out on a lot of high quality content that they could otherwise be listening to.

When the internet become more widespread, people were then able to perhaps listen to radio stations from different parts of the same country as them, but that’s pretty much as far as they could go. This was on the basis that some radio stations in the internets infancy i.e. the 28.8k and the 56k dial up area did try and post their shows on line. In a way, this was the humble beginnings of the podcast. However the issue that occurred with this is that it took long periods of time to stream a radio station. This was due two, interconnected issues. The first issue was that the actual download speeds for dial up was extremely poor meaning that streaming was a complete pain to go through. The second reason was that the quality of the audio from the radio station was of such a high standard that the pitiful downloads speeds struggled to keep up with the station.

There were two options for this. The first was to let a significant portion of the radio show buffer and then you could start listening to it. This was by the time you had finished what you had listened to, you were able to listen to the next part since this had also buffered by this point. The other option was something that very few stations actually did. They would record their show, and then downgrade the quality of it allowing it to be either downloaded or streamed much more easily (although with dial up it still took a considerable amount of time to listen to the full show). In essence, this really was the beginning of the podcast and listeners would literally download a show when they weren’t using their PC’s (sometimes overnight) and then listen to the show later on. It was also at this time that the iPod and mp3 players from Creative were becoming more popular and hitting the mainstream and this new form of radio show in your pocket was really becoming interesting.

Broadband takes over

However, it wasn’t until the advent of high speed internet (broadband) that internet radio really managed to take off. By this point, the quality of the download speeds meant that radio stations didn’t need to downgrade the audio quality of their shows for people to be able to listen to them.

Even better, since internet speeds kept getting faster and faster, it allowed more and more radio stations to broadcast online from all over the world. A big reason for this was the wide spread adoption of broadband internet.

Since more people were buying into this new technology, it quickly became so much cheaper than it initially cost subscribers each month. In fact, the success of streaming radio over the internet due to the progression and wide spread uptake of broadband led to the streaming of other different kinds of media, i.e. video. Of course the biggest example of how popular this could be was through YouTube, and then of course paid for streaming sites like Netflix.

Being able to listen to music from different cultures

One of the latest sites that I’ve came across that gives you access to a wide array of different radio stations if Radio African. As the name suggests, it hosts lots of radio stations from across various countries in the continent of Africa. However, Radio African also has several South African radio stations as well for your listening pleasure. I'm always on the search for music from different cultures, so this site was ideal for me to really get my teeth into.

The best part about listening to the stations through this portal is that you don’t need to be constantly searching for the stations on an internet enabled radio which can be laborious at best. Further, the site has been made in such a way that it actually uses little resources in terms of RAM and CPU utilisation. From previous experience with other radio sites, they are normally resource hogs that, if you’re using a lower powered device such as a tablet, means that you can’t really do much else apart from the listen to the radio on it.

Not only that but Radio African offers such a diverse list of stations that there is literally thousands of hours worth of different radio stations that you’re able to listen to and it’s actually pretty refreshing to hear a different style of music for a change rather than the generic rubbish that’s in the charts these days.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this hub about the progression of radio stations online and I would love to know if you use any radio websites currently, or have done in the past. Please feel free to discuss this issue in the comments section below.


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