When the digital audio age began in earnest I began to explore the boundaries of what was available. Many (including me) were furiously downloading MP3s from various peer to peer sharing services; I had a huge library of cassette tapes that had either been lost, stolen, eaten my a tape deck, or degraded into unlistenable hiss. Before the iTunes Music Store was an option there really weren’t many avenues to get single digital tracks, and the financial reality of working low-paying after school jobs prevented me from buying and ripping a CD for just a track or two. My Rio Karma devoured all of the tracks I could get my hands on (at the time its 20 gigabyte hard drive was huge in comparison to other players on the market), and it seemed a bit wasteful to leave so much storage capacity unused.
During a discussion with a high school friend about the means we were using to expand our collections he brought up some ripped recordings he had stumbled across on an obscure Usenet discussion board: 1940′s era radio theater. The old horror shows were even more fascinating than the ironic advertisements of doctors and athletes advocating Camel cigarettes. Part Twilight Zone, part Lovecraftian story craft; the recordings were a fascinating look into the pre-video age methods of mass media.
Thanks to the iTunes Store’s podcast section I’ve been able to relive my fascination with the radio theater format lately. Most of the podcasts I’ve subscribed to have been more information-focused (like the various tech podcasts I enjoy or NPR’s All Things Considered), but there’s so much more there to enjoy. Case in point- Welcome to Night Vale.
I’m a late comer to this amazing podcast. It’s been in production since June of 2012, but catching up has been as enthralling as binging on a good TV series via Netflix or Hulu. The series is at heart a modern take on old radio theater; the show is a public radio broadcast for the fictional desert town of Night Vale, where (according to the creator) all conspiracy theories are real.
The show is both unique and nostalgic; the quirky stories and content are strangely right at home in their very antiquated audio-only format. I’ve really enjoyed having another means of entertainment during road trips or commuting to work. Welcome to Night Vale isn’t for everyone, but I urge you to give it a try; you might be surprised at how much fun listening is.
- Apple TV 6.0 released with iTunes Radio, AirPlay from iCloud, iTunes Music Store, more (9to5mac.com)
- Welcome to Night Vale (alisonwritesthings.com)