Comforting ‘Steam Radio’
Recently I was reading a post entitled ‘In defence of radio‘ over at Dr Matthew Ashton’s Politics Blog, it got me to thinking… Why is Radio such a source of comfort and relaxation to so many, and me in particular?
I suppose any interest will be partly dependant upon the actual age of the individual, that along with their personal experiences and/or technical expectations.
To people older than fifty, radio at the time they first came to it, was still more or less at the cutting edge of innovative entertainment technology. Although I’m only just into that grouping, my family didn’t own a television set until 1965. Apparently my father, almost reluctantly, purchased it so family and friends could watch coverage of the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. However, if the word ‘geeks’ had been in common usage then, I’m sure many would have looked upon our family as such.
But why do many of my age or older, refer to the noisy plastic box on the window cill as ‘steam’ radio?
Michael Quinion a British etymologist and writer(worldwidewords.org) says: The pioneers of television considered radio, or sound broadcasting as it was called in the BBC at the time, was old-fashioned and out of step with the times. It was also a period in which steam locomotives were being phased out on British railways and in which steam power had gained the image of a technology that was moribund and characteristic of the previous century. The equation of steam with old-fashioned most probably occurred to several people around this time and we may never learn whose fertile mind came up with it first… (Read more)
Born in the late 1950’s I was around prior to the demise of steam trains (just). As a small child, I have some fond memories of visiting my Grandmother who lived near to a railway goods yard. I suppose this was my first recollection of radio broadcasting and ‘steam’ however, I was unaware of the above connection at the time. I can recal listening to the radio prior to bedtime and then once upstairs, drifting off to sleep to the sounds of steam trains and shunting in the goods yard.
Growing up, I spent large amounts of time reading a book whilst listening to music on the family radiogram or, the Bush TR82 portable transistor radio in the kitchen. The latter of which has become something of a 1960’s retro-style icon and is still replicated today. Although the airwaves around this time were predominantly filled with the BBC and the aftermath of the light programme, this was also the era of Pirate Radio. Commercial radio stations didn’t appear to challenge the BBC in the UK until the early 1970’s when legislation allowed the formulation of Independent Local Radio.
Once I had my very own pocket-sized portable radio, and approaching my teenage years, I spent hours listening to trendy stations such as Radio Caroline and later Radio Luxemburg, via the plug-in earphone. After all, I had to show my allegiance to the swinging and rebellious youth of the 1960’s. This was the era when I first gained many of my musical interests and likes, the era when I heard things like the announcement (on Radio Luxemburg) that Elvis Presley had died (1977).
I grew up actually listening to those who are now considered to be icons of radio broadcasting. From those days onwards, radio has always and will always be a large and important part of my life. For me radio will always be more relaxing (and informative) than TV.
- Pirate Radio Caroline – The Early Days (brighthub.com)
- BBC is ruining my image of The Archers, complains former radio boss Matthew Bannister (telegraph.co.uk)
- Radio review: Kenny Everett’s Christmas Selection Box (guardian.co.uk)