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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Internet Lets You Be Your Own DJ




There are two kinds of people: those who enjoy listening to music and those who enjoy spinning it. You'll most often see the first group weeping to the strains of a Chopin concerto at the Philharmonic or mindlessly slamdancing at their favorite club. No one knows exactly what the second group looks like. They can be found sitting at home with the music blaring and the windows wide open, or safely ensconced in a radio studio cooing non sequiturs into the mike between the latest Zemfira and Strelki hits. These people now have the chance to trade in old-fashioned AM and FM for T1 and ISDN - or, to put it more simply, to take their music into the crowded byways of cyberspace.


Of course, there's nothing new about using the Internet to transmit sound.


Hundreds of radio stations broadcast their programs on the Internet using technology developed by "streaming audio" pioneer RealNetworks. Radio Liberty (www.svoboda.org) uses the RealAudio format, and after the Serbian authorities clamped down on rebellious Belgrade Radio B-92, RealAudio files of some B-92 programs showed up at www.freeb92.net, an Amsterdam-based web site.


Unfortunately, broadcasting via the Internet is an expensive proposition - RealNetworks is a stingy outfit - and until quite recently, only companies with six-figure turnovers could even consider this option.


The world of Internet radio was revolutionized by the guys at Nullsoft, creators of the popular MPEG3-format music player, Winamp. In late 1998, they released Shoutcast, freeware that lets self-styled DJs whip up radio programs in the comfort of their own homes, even using the simplest of computers and a modem.


The name Shoutcast itself speaks volumes. When Nullsoft finally gets around to marketing their baby in Russia, their local agents might be tempted to translate Shoutcast as Matiugalnik, or megaphone, in the vernacular, which is derived from mat, or foul language. To raise such a ruckus that the whole Internet can hear you - isn't that the dream of enraptured hackers the world over? It's not for nothing that the Shoutcast logo depicts a middle-class American housewife screaming at the top of her lungs.


In tandem with a wide channel and good equipment - a full duplex soundcard, a fast processor and lots of memory - Shoutcast is the equal of ordinary radio stations. With the right resources, a DJ can encode the signal from a CD, mix it with live sounds and send it onto the airwaves in real time. Of course, Shoutcast uses the MPEG3 broadcast format, which even with a 28800-baud modem produces a sound close in quality to longwave radio.


Once you've installed Winamp (www.winamp.com) on your computer, you can tune in to more than 500 Shoutcast radio stations (you'll find a complete list at www.shoutcast.com). The formats range from R&B and classical to rap and metal.


There are talk stations manned by babbling DJs, and comedy stations that entertain the listening audience with recordings of prank telephone calls.


The sound quality is still a bit iffy, but it can only improve with time. Compared with the overall wretchedness of Moscow and St. Petersburg stations, Internet radio is a breath of fresh air, a window on the world. You look through this window and realize that real radio isn't dead. It's alive and kicking - and waiting for true listeners.


Thanks to the good old loud hailer.


Daniil Dougaev writes on computers for Kariera-Kapital, a Russian language newspaper published in St. Petersburg by Independent Media.