DAVID GREENE, HOST:
United Nations has declared today World Radio Day, a chance to celebrate radio's ability to bring people together. But we wondered, in this digital age, can you still buy a simple, cheap radio - a radio that's, well, just a radio? We sent MORNING EDITION producers Barry Gordemer and Jessica Pupovac off on a radio scavenger hunt.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO YOU REMEMBER ROCK AND ROLL RADIO?")
RAMONES: (Singing) Rockin' rock and roll radio, let's go.
JESSICA PUPOVAC, BYLINE: Here's our criteria. We want a radio that's inexpensive and portable, small enough to fit in your pocket.
BARRY GORDEMER, BYLINE: And you don't have to plug it into something or connect to anything, so no Internet, no Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth.
PUPOVAC: And finally, it's got to be radio only, no smartphones, no satellite radios, just standard AM/FM.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS IS RADIO CLASH")
THE CLASH: (Singing) This is radio clash from pirate satellite.
PUPOVAC: We started at a Target in Washington, D.C. Team leader Michael Yost took us to a lonely corner of the electronics department and showed us some boomboxes.
MICHAEL YOST: This is essentially the most basic, generic radio that you're going to get, pretty portable.
PUPOVAC: And cheap, about 20 bucks. But it had a CD player. Remember, we just wanted a radio.
YOST: So if you come right over here, for about $9, you get an alarm clock radio.
PUPOVAC: Can you put batteries in it?
YOST: No. You have to have them plugged into the wall, so you can't really take it on the go.
GORDEMER: Nope, sorry. Remember, our radio has to be portable. Now, here's what Michael Yost really wanted to show us.
YOST: This is a Bose SoundTouch.
(SOUNDBITE OF BOSE SOUNDTOUCH RADIO AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Bose SoundTouch.
YOST: It's $399.99, and it's almost like being front row at anything you would imagine, a concert.
GORDEMER: Wow, $400 for a radio that's not a radio? You know, we were looking for something a little more retro.
BRIAN BELANGER: This is a 1938 Zenith. It's called a shutter dial because as you flip the switch here, it switches from one shortwave band to the broadcast band.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GORDEMER: That Brian Belanger. He's curator of the National Capital Radio and Television Museum in Bowie, Maryland. The radio he showed us - gorgeous, yes - portable, no.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
PUPOVAC: Our search for a basic pocket radio took us next to Best Buy, where we met radio technician, Azikiwe Seace.
AZIKIWE SEACE: Everybody here calls me Queezy.
PUPOVAC: Queezy showed us some boomboxes the size of my old Lincoln Town Car.
SEACE: So when we get to our smaller radios, they kind of put them over here to the side. Let me see - huh, Georgie?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes.
SEACE: Where are, like, the smaller radios? They move those things around a lot. They might be over here as well. Oh, here we go, right here.
PUPOVAC: Queezy found some sporty little AM-FM radios meant for joggers, close to what we wanted, but there was no speaker. You had to plug in headphones.
GORDEMER: But we found exactly what we were looking for across the street at RadioShack, a $14 gray plastic transistor radio. It looks like it came right out of the disco era.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON THE RADIO")
DONNA SUMMER: (Singing) On the radio, whoa, oh, oh, on the radio.
PUPOVAC: Now, we were happy to find our radio, but just a little worried that it came from RadioShack, a company that just declared bankruptcy. But it's actually pretty easy to find pocket radios, just not in stores. They're all over the Internet, and people are buying them.
BRIAN MARKWALTER: In the U.S., we're spending about $200 million just on traditional radios. Many businesses would love to be turning that kind of revenue year over year very steadily.
PUPOVAC: That's Brian Markwalter of the Consumer Electronics Association. He says about 98 percent of U.S. households have a radio, and that's held steady since the '70s.
MARKWALTER: That means it's, from my perspective, nearly a permanent part of our lives.
GORDEMER: Which is very good news on this World Radio Day for our little plastic transistorized friend. I'm Barry Gordemer.
PUPOVAC: And I'm Jessica Pupovac, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RADIO CLASH")
THE CLASH: (Singing) This is radio clash on pirate satellite, orbiting your living room, cashing in the Bill of Rights.
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