That was then … this isn’t

Yesterday on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, there was an interview with someone in Syria “on the internet”. In other words on Skype (or similar). No big deal. Not really worth mentioning. But then I suddenly remembered …

In 1998 (less than 20 years ago) I was making a 15 minute documentary for BBC Radio 4; The Man with the Two-Stroke Engine. We needed an interview with someone in the US and I was determined to have studio quality sound. There were few options:

  • Phone call. No not good enough sound. This was to be an important contribution to a short programme. Phone was lazy or last resort.
  • Satellite. Great for sound, but the whole budget for the programme would have bought no more than a minute of satellite time (if you could buy a minute – time was sold in quarter hours).
  • ISDN line. Good. We were using ISDN for most local and national stuff. Expensive for a one off, but if we could find a radio station close to the interviewee with a permanent installation, then much less expensive.

We couldn’t use any of those options. In the end, the interviewee drove to a local radio station, sat in the studio while presenter Mike McKimm called on the phone. The local station recorded the interview on Digital Audio Tape (by that stage my best friend was SADiE) and they then FEDxed it to me.

Now all you need to ask is “Are you on Skype?” Fantastic.

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