Who knows what evil lurks on the Internet? The MP3 generation

Science & Technology

April 03, 2005|By HARTFORD COURANT

If you're old enough to remember the words: "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear," you may be surprised to learn that, thanks to new technology, the Lone Ranger and other stars of classic radio are riding once again.

But these days, programs from the golden age of radio are available for download from the Internet to CDs, MP3 players and cell phones.

"Research shows that the older generation is the fastest-growing group of Internet users," says Jeffery Dittus, CEO of Media Bay, a digital media and publishing company. "When they get online, not only are they rediscovering the shows of their childhood, they're introducing this programming to their grandkids."

The era spanned the years from 1935 to 1955. Programs such as The Jack Benny Show, Amos 'n' Andy, Fibber McGee & Molly, Major Bowes, Walter Winchell and other dramas and variety shows dominated the evening airwaves, while romantic serials - dubbed "soap operas" because of their laundry-products sponsors - entertained housewives during the day. After-school 15-minute serials geared toward kids included Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy and Captain Midnight.

Media Bay, which holds a library of more than 50,000 hours of old-time radio programming, has digitalized original tapes and improved their audio quality, and makes the old-fashioned content available to consumers in a number of new formats, such as on pre-recorded CDs and cassettes, through an on-line download subscription service (radioclassics.com) and on its 24-hour "Radio Classics" channels on Sirius and XM Satellite Radio.

The company recently signed an agreement with MSN Music (music.msn.com) to make 1,400 old-time radio shows available for download to MP3 players and other handheld audio devices. Most shows, including dramas, mysteries, Westerns and comedies, run 30 minutes and cost $1.69 to download.

The old episodes translate well to the new technology and are garnering an extensive fan base.

And if the cell phone next to you suddenly says "It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman!" instead of ringing, don't be surprised. Media Bay has begun to make notable snippets from its Classic Radio library available for ring-tone distribution.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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