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The “Digital” Divide

I have heard that some groups in the radio industry want to label our newest technology not “HD Radio,” but “Digital Radio.”

“Digital” is the term folks understand, the story goes.

But not so fast.

When it comes to “digital” and “radio” together, the average person imagines a radio with a digital face, not a digital sound – and certainly not a host of new digital frequencies. Remember, when radio moved from the dial tuner to the digital tuner the term “digital” became fairly fixed in terms of its meaning.

To the average person, “digital radio” means a digital tuner on a conventional radio. It does not mean a new kind of radio altogether. And to try to bring this meaning to it will only serve to confuse the audience (shades of “AM Stereo”).

Try this experiment for yourself: Search for “digital radio” on ebay. Very little of what you’ll find wil be a newfangled radio, but you’ll find plenty of oldfangled ones (for example, check out this “Vintage GE Digital Clock Radio” – anytime you have “digital” fitting in nicely with “vintage” you have a big problem).

What you call something has everything to do with its odds for success.

Make no mistake about it.

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