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FrequencyCast UK - Show #23

The show notes to go with Show 23 of our online technology radio shows.
In this show, our featured topic is "Classic Technology"

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This show's news section covered the following stories:

  • DVDHigh Definition DVD: At January's CES Consumer Electronic Show, Warner Brothers announced it's dropping HD-DVD, joining Disney, Fox and Sony in the Blu-Ray camp. That just leaves Paramount and Dreamworks. Could Blu-ray be the winner in the HD format wars?

  • Dixons end analogue: In January 2008, Dixons Group announced that they're plugging the plug on the sale of analogue TV sets now we're getting closer to the switchover. It'll take about six months to shift existing stock, then it's digital all the way for Dixons and Currys.

  • BT Vision on X-Box: BT Vision, the TV and movies on demand service is coming to Xbox 360. It was announced by Bill Gates in January that from the middle of 2008, new and existing Xbox 360 users will be able to watch TV on demand over BT Broadband. It's expected that BT will be selling the Xbox consoles pre-loaded with BT Vision. No pricing has been announced as yet.

  • ABC on BT Vision: Staying with BT Vision users will soon be finding more content coming soon as BT's signed a deal with Disney / ABC Television - we can expect episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives, Scrubs, and Ugly Betty.

  • Free Beeb on Demand: And also, if you didn't know, BT Vision boxes can now access a selection of recent BBC shows, on-demand for free. BT Vision set-top boxes are available free to BT Broadband customers

  • DAB Radio Departures: Digital speech-based radio station OneWord left the air on the 12th January 2008. Also departing in January, music station Core. Replacing them at the moment, pre-recorded birdsong and a trial relay of forces station BFBS. That leaves two national DAB radio slots up for grabs.

  • Top Up TV BoxTop Up News - There's a new Top Up TV Anytime box - 250Gig for £129. Holding 180 hours of Freeview plus a small selection of extra content downloaded overnight. The original 160Gig box is still available for £99.99. Top Up TV Explored

  • ITV4 goes 24: From the 6th February 2008, ITV4 will be going 24 hours according to online listings magazines. Freeview viewers note that a box rescan may be needed in Feb to keep getting ITV kids channel CITV.

  • Freeview in West Midlands: Live close to Birmingham? Some Freeview viewers with old ondigital/ITV Digital/Freeview boxes may find they lose service from March 2008, due to upgrades to the Sutton Coldfield transmitter. Affected boxes include Daewoo, Labgear and Bush. See our Blog entry and our Freeview Landfill page for more.

  • Apple iPhoneiPhone Updated: Users of the new Apple iPhone can get a free software update. Version 1.1.3 offers a customisable homescreen, "you are here" in Google Maps, plus the ability to send one text to multiple recipients... at last! More

  • And finally... TedFest: Clear your diaries. From 25th Feb 2008, the Irish Isle of Inis Mor becomes home to the second annual Ted Fest. A week of Father Ted celebrations including the World Biggest Cup of Tea, and the Craggy World Cup. Bad news though... Tickets sold out within half an hour. More

Focus: Classic Technology

The main focus of Show 23 is "Classic Technology" - don't complain... you voted for it!

We started with a flashback, Lost-style, to how FrequencyCast sounded in the 1980's. We then moved on see what the world of technology looked like back in 1988.

PCs in the 1980s

  • Back in 1988, MS DOS 3.3 was the standard operating system. The average PC had 640 kb RAM, a 5.25-inch floppy drive and a 20 MB hard drive. We were still a little way away from Windows 3.0. Windows v2.0 was around though - looking a little Etch-a-Sketch. See some early Windows screenshots.

  • In 1988, the 3.5" floppy overtook the 5.25" floppy disc and we'd just seen the introduction of the 1.44Meg floppy disk. 1 episode of our podcast would require 17 floppies to make it portable. Today, you'd be able to fit nearly 12,000 floppies onto a DVD


Mobile Phones in the 1980s

  • Cellnet and Vodafone started in the UK back in 1985. Shoulder phones or in-car phones were available, using the TACS system. The current standard, GSM, was still some way off...

  • Charges back then were £164 a quarter to rent the handset, £60 connection, with peak calls being 25p a minute. Just two network operators, and in 1988, GSM and SMS were still 5-6 years away


The Internet in the 1980s

  • Back in the late 1980's CompuServe and CIX were king, offering basic messaging and bulletin boards. There was also Prestel. AOL for DOS was still 3 years away.

  • CIX (Originally Compulink Information eXchange) was one of the earliest British Internet Service Providers. They offered thousands of discussion conference areas. In 1988 CiX provided the first commercial Internet email and Usenet access in the UK. According to Wikipedia, CIX climbed to 16,000 users in 1994.

  • The first web browser, Mosaic was still 5 years away


TV in the 1980s

  • We took a look at the TV shows we were watching in 1988 - Classics included Wogan, Allo Allo, Bananaman, Jackanory, Bullseye, Never The Twain and Fraggle Rock. Check out old TV listings at

  • Ceefax ScreenshotWhat of Teletext? It started in the 70's, as pages of onscreen info that could be controlled from your handset. The BBC brought us Ceefax (See Facts, geddit?). They also send over-air games to BBC Micro computers in the 80's. ITV had their own system - Oracle, and there was 4-Tel on Channel 4. Geek mode: Oracle stands for Optional Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics. Sadly, Teletext will vanish along with Analogue TV by the end of 2012. Teletext after the switchover.

  • In 1988, BSB won a licence to broadcast satellite TV - just 3 channels. Squarial. Sky pipped them to the post, launching in 1989. Sky had 4 channels -  Sky Channel, Eurosport, Sky Movies and Sky News. Now, we have nearly 500 English TV channels available on a Sky digibox, not counting foreign language services or the radio stations


Sat Nav 1980s

  • Nope. GPS didn't kick in until 1993...


Squirrels Brian The BrainOK - I guess this was our own stupid fault. For each show, we invite listeners to vote for the topic they'd most like us to cover in the next show... As this extract from the poll shows, Squirrels (added by the producer as a joke), got the second highest score. You asked - we delivered... with a little help from Brian The Brain...
Show voting extract

HD Overview

HD-ready tellyAlso high on the listener requests, was for an overview of the HDTV channels available in the UK.

You need an HD TV set, and an HD set-top box. There are the two main options, Sky via satellite, or Virgin via cable:


  • Sky Digital offers the following HD channels: BBC HD, Channel 4 HD, Sky One HD, Sky Arts HD, Luxe TV, Sky Movies HD 1 and 2, Sky Sports HD 1 and 2, Discovery HD, National Geographic, History HD, and two Sky Box Office HD channels

  • Virgin Media offers the BBC HD channel. For an additional subscription, fee, there's Sky Movies HD 1 and 2. There's also on demand HD content including Movies on Demand, TV choice, with full series such as Lost, and More On Demand


  • Virgin's V+ box is free (but there's a £150 installation fee). Virgin charge £15 a month (for less channels than Sky).
    Virgin V+ box
  • Sky's HD box is more pricey at £150 (but with a lower install). Sky's monthly HD fee is £10 a month.
    Sky HD box

Our verdict - clearly at the moment, Sky HD wins on content, hands down. There's more on our HD page.


Thanks to everyone who got in touch. In this show, we respond to the following mails and calls:

  • Sony DR-BT20 HeadphonesCycling Headphones: James McAlpin asks "I cycle a lot, but every time I fall off I snap the earphone cord to my mp3 player. Can you suggest a cheap but effective wireless system?" There are some over-ear headphones, but they tend to be HUGE. We quite like the look of the Sony DR-BT20NX in-ear headphones, priced just under £50. The Bluetooth receiver is on a neckstrap. If your MP3 player doesn't have Bluetooth, you'll need to plug in a Bluetooth adapter, which could add another £30. If you've got an iPod and can cope with over-ear headphones, there's an all-in-one wireless solution for £40 from Zoom (at Carphone Warehouse Online).

    One other though occurs - get a set of sunglasses with an MP3 player built in, such as Carl's favs, the Oakley Thump 2.

    Oakley Thump Shades

  • SkypePhone Call Costs: James Hart wanted to know whether calls on the Skypephone that we covered back in Show 21 are really free as Skype calls are being made over the 3G data network. Well, calls over Skype on this phone are not chargeable as data - they are free. Of course, nothing's completely free - if you go pay-as-you-go, you need to top up the phone with £10 of credit each month to keep Skype active. The top-up covers you for calls and texts (nothing to do with Skype calls), and is how 3 make their money for their "free Skype calls" service. More on the Skypephone.

  • Subscription-free Satellite: Alan Mole's looking for a subscription-free satellite TV option, as he doesn't have a decent Freeview signal. He wants to know what's best: Freesat, Sky's Pay Once Watch Forever or the new BBC/ITV service. We'd recommend holding off until the BBC/ITV Freesat service, due to launch in Spring 2008, especially if you want a hard-disk recorder..

  • Demodulating Co-ax: We had a call from Robin from Gillingham. Following the feature on TV accessories in the last show, he wants to know if there's a way of demodulating a co-ax signal to allow him to run a co-ax from his Sky box to a home cinema elsewhere in the house. We turned to the experts at Satcure ( for some advice, and their main man, Martin told us that he wasn't aware of a product that would demodulate as discussed, and even if one did exist - the solution would have a low picture quality, with the audio in mono. A better bet may be to consider CAT5 network cabling, then using a product like the Milestone* CAT5 distribution system: with would offer better quality, and stereo audio.

  • Podcasts on a phone: Mike Williams has been in touch - as a FrequencyCast listener, he's after a way of downloading podcasts automatically to his Windows Mobile Vario 2. Pete: We'd recommend an app called Egress. We've got a page on getting podcasts onto mobiles such as Symbian, Palm and Windows Mobile. See today's show notes for links and screenshot.
    Egress Podcatcher
    Podcatching with Egress

  • Lost Freeview channels: We had a call from Mr Frankis. He reported losing his Freeview channels after moving his telly. Our guess is that the TV's not getting enough signal. Check the aerial cabling and any adapters, then reset the telly to factory defaults and scan for channels again. Also, check the TV's on-screen signal guide to check what your telly's pulling in. More on our Freeview Advice page.

  • Going digital in 2008: Stuart Carrington mailed us about the digital switch - He has a friend in Whitehaven, the first part of the UK to go digital, and he wants to know which town is next on the list. It looks like towns serviced by the Selkirk transmitter in the borders region will be the next to go digital, in November 2008. That area includes Carlisle and Dumfries

  • Digital Switch Help: On the subject of the digital switch - we've been running a poll on our site asking "how ready are you"? Seems there's still a lot of people out there that aren't ready - just under 40% of those who responded aren't fully ready, with a staggering 9% ticking the "what's the Switchover" box. So, we've created a special Audio Guide to the Digital Switch - 20 minutes answering common questions - ideal to pass on to someone you know that's not made the switch. To get a copy, go to

Finally, some other hot FrequencyCast news - FrequencyCast will now be appearing on FM and DAB up in Ayrshire. You'll now be able to catch FrequencyCast on UCA Radio , on the first Thursday of each month, on 87.7 FM and DAB.


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