17 June 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project

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Only Following Orders

I had an entirely different blog planned for today.  It was to have prominently mentioned "evil airline scum" and practiced conservation of text.  But I was directed along a different path by my editor.

Q:  You have an editor?
A:  I don't have an editor for this blog.  (Obviously.)  But I do have a sometime editor, in the person of Paul J. McLane, the editor of Radio World magazine.  I wrote an article on the PriUPS for RW last year.  So even though I have nothing pending publication at the moment, I felt compelled to follow a ukase he issued in an editorial in this week's issue, whose subject was "HD Radio."  The theme was that it isn't being promoted well and it will fail if the industry doesn't support it.  Although I am not a broadcast radio station and can't follow most of his instructions, I do have a blog and Paul said we blogging types should write on the subject.

One Blog on HD Radio Coming Up

I love radio.  The company at which I strive makes technical radio products, including one for HD radio.  I have been reading about HD radio for years.  I have been listening to ads on a local station for their HD channels for a year.  I have even checked out HD radio signals on a number of my beautiful spectrum analyzers.  And yet:  I have never, not even for an instant, ever heard an HD radio channel!  As scandalous as this may seem, there's a perfectly good reason for it.  I don't have an HD radio receiver.  Energized by Paul's editorial, enriched by payment for the article, I decided to purchase an HD radio so I could fulfill his commandment.

Q:  Purchase and HD radio?  You mean "<gasp>shop</gasp>"?
A:  Yes!  Am I dedicated or what?

Shopping for an HD Radio

With only slight inconvenience I have the option of taking a very commercial route home.  This route winds its way past any number of large shopping venues, including a Barnes and Noble, a recently-defunct CompUSA, and my destination for this adventure, an enormous Circuit City.  Just guessing, but I would say that this establishment has perhaps 30,000 square feet of merchandise, tastefully arrayed in islands and alcoves, on walls, and even on the ceiling, where an especially large fixture was suspended with a 360 degree array of CRT monitors exhorting me to buy some sort of game-console gadgetry.  I was surprised to see this because it looked like it weighed (literally) a ton, and if there were ever a candidate for flat screen displays this was it.  Within the compass of this vast retail enterprise was a substantial section for LCD and plasma teevee sets, and even a large section devoted to music served on plastic.  Thousands of CDs of every persuasion except, of course, for anything I would ever listen to.  Heart, if you're reading this, isn't it time for a follow-up to Jupiter's Darling? 

Circuit City, Totowa New Jersey

Panoramic photo of Circuit City, Totowa NJ, cellphone camera composition.

I arrived at this emporium about an hour before closing time.  An ideal time, really, because it's too early for the salestrons to be solely focused on going home, but too late for a press of customers to throng every available red-shirted customer consultant (or whatever they style them).

Mission oriented dude that I was, I almost immediately looked for the "radio" section.  (Almost because I can't pass up checking the weekly depredations the LCD teevee manufacturers are committing on each other.)  Of course there was no "radio" section.  Radios are no longer something, although they're often in something.  As I wandered the aisles, a gentlemen asked me if he could be of assistance.

"Hi!  I would like to buy an HD radio."
"I'm sorry, I can't help you, I don't work in that department.  You could try one of them."  He pointed to the section I had just left with the LCD teevees.  (All quotes are approximate, of course.)

Since I just came from there and had seen no sign of HD radios, I decided to continue wandering.  Moments later I found myself in the auto-entertainment alcove, filled with Sirius and XM gadgets.  The Sirius radio on demo was playing Jerry Garcia's "The Wheel," so I waited 'til it was finished and asked the sales guy, unaccountably wearing a black shirt, if they had HD radios.  At least they have their story straight; he pointed me to the teevee area and agreed with his predecessor that only a red shirt would do.  I gave up and returned to the teevee area.  Almost needless to say, the salestron there immediately told me to go see the guy in auto entertainment.  "You mean the guy in the black shirt?"  So it seems.

You see where this is going.  Without attempting to recreate further quotations, I can report that:

  • Of all the people I asked, only one actually seemed willing to admit that he had never even heard of HD Radio. 

  • He was by far the most useful.  He took me to the "boom box" area where they had one that looked like it was ready to attack the next passer-by.  It was called an "xplod."  Did it have HD radio?  He shrugged.

  • Actually there was another useful one.  He's the one who said "Have you tried Radio Shack?"

My mission was a failure, at least for the moment.  Apparently you cannot get an HD radio at one of the largest consumer electronic dealers in the United States of America.  What does this say about the future of HD radio?  I don't knowthat's why they call it the "future."  But I don't think my editor will be too pleased about the results of today's research effort.

The Laws of New Jersey

As I was leaving Circuit City, I stopped to take a series of photographs that I later composed into the panorama you see above.  It required four photos to capture most of the floor area, and I was standing by the exit as I snapped them.  The security guy, the one who makes sure you've paid for the stuff you take out, walked up to me.  He was a big, friendly-seeming guy, who advised me:

"You know it's illegal to take pictures in a store!"

I'm a big, friendly-seeming guy, too, and I was unintimidated by his bulk but curious as to the provenance of this surprising legal factoid.  I'm a New Jersey resident and while I certainly don't know all the laws, I think I would have heard of this one.  We chatted as I continued to snap pictures, and answered his inquiry about my intended use that I planned to put the pix on my blog.  Perhaps he was less sure of his legal grounds than he seemed, as he permitted me to leave the establishment without confiscating my camera or my person.  Or perhaps it was nearing closing time and he simply didn't want to appear at the arraignment:  "Your Honor:  The alleged perpetrator was taking PHOTOGRAPHS.  In a STORE!

I also stopped at BJs on the way home to pick up some water and some chocolate.  Although I reflexively looked at the LCD teevee prices, I didn't even make an HD Radio attempt.  I know when I'm licked.

Follow-Up 14 Sept. 2007


Same commercial route, same Circuit City, different security guy.  I walked in, deliberately looking bewildered.  (This requires no acting talent on my part.)  A guy in the Verizon booth piped up "Do you need help?"  I've never quite figured out how to answer that, but I asked if he knew where the HD Radios are.  He told me to check in the Auto Section.  Miracle!  The sales guy not only had heard of HD radio, he pointed to one that they had on demo.  It was a very nice looking JVC car radio for $199.99.  (When I got home and checked the web site, it had been reduced to $159.99.  Not bad for a few mile drive.)

I asked him if they simply had an HD radio I could buy to listen to at home.  He said that there were none in stock.  Were they expecting any?  Without flatly saying "No," he pretty much indicated that I shouldn't skip any desserts while waiting. 

NP:  "Mr. Spaceman" - The Byrds

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