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Thousands of Mazdas in the Seattle area are stuck on a single FM radio station (kuow.org)
404 points by walrus01 10 hours ago | hide | past | favorite | 245 comments

From a press release geekwire got:

    “Between 1/24-1/31, a radio station in the Seattle area sent image files with no extension, which caused an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older software,” the Mazda statement said. “Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) has distributed service alerts advising dealers of the issue.”

    The statement goes on to say that “dealers are currently experiencing parts delays due to shipping constraints” and that MNAO plans to “support impacted customers with replacement parts. These customers should contact their local Mazda dealer who can submit a goodwill request to the Mazda Warranty department on their behalf, order the parts, and schedule a free repair when the parts arrive.”

    The Mazda representative did not reply to GeekWire’s follow-up questions about what actually malfunctioned in these vehicles and what parts would need to be replaced.

I have a 2016 CX-9. It’s been years since I looked into this, but the Mazda infotainment system is running Linux. You used to be able to login to it over the USB port, but they locked that down at some point with a firmware upgrade so that you could only get to it over a serial connection that you could get to if you were comfortable removing the console.

The UI is developed by a U.S. company and I think is JavaScript based.

Ah, here you go:


(I retrofitted CarPlay support to mine via an upgrade Mazda offered a couple years after I got the car and I think that closed off access to tweaking, but I forget. I’m generally happy with the UI but I wish it booted faster. It’s a good 1-2 minutes after starting the car before it’s responsive.)

The UI is developed by a U.S. company and I think is JavaScript based

The IVI from that era is an iMX6 hardware platform developed by Johnson Controls and was written in JavaScript running on the Opera browser.

JCI sold that business to Visteon in 2014.

If you have a navigation SD card inserted (that you likely don’t use due to the CarPlay), try removing it. It sped up my boot times significantly. I also have a usb full of music that I plug in sometimes, and I notice it is slower to boot with that inserted as well.

I did the same. Wouldn't want to miss it on my 2018 model.

Edit: By the way. Thanks for reminding me. I looked at the site and they now have support for wireless Android Auto. So I might just be able to ditch the somewhat unreliable connection with the cable.

99% Invisible found out that Mazda has a bug in their radio that cannot parse special characters. See their article here: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-roman-mars-mazda-...

Mazda’s response at the time was pretty disheartening too. Pay us for a firmware update and it’ll probably fix it. The owner said ‘no thanks’ because it was too expensive (and honestly ridiculous in principle in my opinion). Now Roman Mars, the owner of 99% Invisible, releases a separate version of every episode with “Mazda safe titles”

Seems like he should do the opposite, Only release versions with Mazda unsafe titles with a note "Doesn't work on Mazda. Contact their customer support here to complain"

It was the % in the show title that fouled up the Mazdas, so they were already doing that before the fix.

Even then it was a nearly invisible problem for the podcast itself, not something that would have been significant enough to investigate and correct for if that wasn't also content for the show.

The % sign broke mazda's infotainment system? That's really bad, I mean the % is even in the basic ascii character set. Unless they try to interpret titles as JS or HTML or something. That too would be bad.

% is used in C style format strings, which are famously a source of footguns.

That sounds like you would be able to exploit the bug... does it happen to use a libc that implements %n?

If so, just include a payload in the title that fixes the bug by patching the code :)


HackRF + open source DAB modulation stack + <carefully chosen combination of ASCII characters> = OTA... DoS? Jailbreak? Other miscellaneous interestingness?

In an age where everything's a computer, FM radio is just just another source of unsanitised input.

The % bug is a separate bug to do with a Podcasts's title, I suspect you just need a phone and an MP3 file with a suitably prepared title tag.

The original articles issue is a HD Radio (not DAB) issue to do with images, although it might still be a string parse issue of some kind as it apparently involves "image files with no extension", so presumably filenames? So the RF side can indeed be fun on consumer electronics with modern digital standards. Another example is this claimed RCE over DVB-T: https://twitter.com/David3141593/status/1481963959532011520

> a nearly invisible problem

99% invisible

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

That’s right. When a podcaster forces their stuff to not work on my car, I spend my time contacting the car company to get collective action through for change. I don’t hit the next button and listen to something else. This is how I and most other humans function.

He wasn't forcing it. He was just accurately using the title of his damn podcast. The suggestion is that he stop issuing a special Mazda-safe version.

I agree, this is a problem for the makers of the broken radio. But Roman Mars is just a nice guy.


I started to unsubscribe every podcast with annoying ads or hosted at megaphone.fm, but I'm in minority.

I have a Mazda, and it also parses ogg metadata strangely; if you have multiple fields starting with "ARTIST" then it will fill the artist field with all of them, but without erasing the buffer first.

When I first loaded my music collection, it stuck in a reboot loop, so I have a script that sanitizes the metadata for exporting to my car

My Citroen does that. If you connect to it with BT and play anything with Cyrillic characters in the title from Apple Music it trashes the display trying to render it.

My Toyota - a Japanese car - cannot display song titles in Japanese. I kind of assume this is a localisation issue rather than something that would happen in Japan though, although the car entertainment is terrible in many other ways too so who knows.

Most likely because the embedded system does not use UTF-8, just like the phones before iPhone, a Nokia phone sold in US sometimes cannot even be flashed to display CJK characters due to CJK support require more ROM space.

Wow. Not many automakers can claim to have an infotainment system notorious enough to get coverage on local public radio and a design-oriented podcast.

Weird intersection.

Maddeningly, that episode never arrives at the actual bug. Via a thread the Mazda owner posted on Reddit, I found this great writeup: https://github.com/Hamled/mazda-format-string-bug#readme

TLDR: The problem is the `% In`, and specifically the `%n` - when printf sees that, it tries to store data in memory. Failing to do so, it crashes.

Oh god. Format string bugs in infotainment systems that can be triggered by careless radio stations. What could possibly go wrong.

This is so weird.

I read [1] which someone linked to, and it all seems to make sense. But it doeesn't!

I tried compiling this with gcc 11.2.0:

    #include <stdio.h>

    int main(void)
      printf("%99 Invisible", NULL);
      return 0;
And it won't compile. I get:

    test.c: In function ‘main’:
    test.c:5:14: warning: unknown conversion type character ‘ ’ in format [- 
        5 |   printf("%99 Invisible", NULL);
          |              ^
    test.c:5:10: warning: too many arguments for format [-Wformat-extra-args]
        5 |   printf("%99 Invisible", NULL);
          |          ^~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
which I would expect; you can't have a field width (the "99") and then the space-padding flag; flags go first. Also I can't find any coverage of %I (capital 'I', as in "Invisible") in the manual page for printf(3) on that system but that might just be an old manual page, GCC does seem to recognize it.

Removing the cruft and trying plain %In gives a warning, but I guess whoever built the car's radio UI ignores warnings.

I guess it's possible that the system doesn't use a standard-compliant enough C library, so it's printf() implementation does something ... creative with this string.

Anyway, classic case of the lovely foot-gunnery that is %n in the wild! Sorry for all the car owners, of course. :/

EDIT: A commenter pointed out that the above are "just warnings", oops. :) More oops on me for not spelling the freaking title correctly, of course it's "99%" and not "%99" .. .need more coffee, clearly. Sorry.

For people less used to C, the error here more or less seems to boil down to passing an untrusted string as the special "format string" for the printf() function. That function will interpret the contents of the string, and the percent symbol is how its special formatting directives start. Characters following a percent symbol will cause it to do stuff. The proper fix is usally to change


    printf("%s", string);
or use some other I/O function altogether. The above simply says "here's a string", by using the programmer-selected string "%s" as the format, instead of the untrusted string coming from the outside.

[1] https://github.com/Hamled/mazda-format-string-bug#readme

The name of the podcast is "99% Invisible", not "%99 Invisible".

"99% Invisible" produces the expected result: https://godbolt.org/z/Mc9zPKWdq

You should also keep in mind that the string is essentially user input at runtime for the radio, so the compiler can't throw warnings or errors for it even if it wanted to.

> And it won't compile.

Just are just warnings, it builds fine despite them.

> “Between 1/24-1/31, a radio station in the Seattle area sent image files with no extension, which caused an issue on some 2014-2017 Mazda vehicles with older software,” the Mazda statement said.

"sent image files" is an HD Radio function, and HD Radio is also known as NRSC-5, the standards document that describes it.

There's an NRSC-5 encoder floating around on Github, if you want to try your hand at it. Notably, it was implemented by an infosec firm, presumably because more garbage code like this is lurking everywhere, and it never gets proper testing because HD Radio is proprietary and its creators never intended an open-source encoder to exist. (To the point of hiding all sorts of details about the codec, but some educated guesses and comparison to similar codecs seem to have paid off.)

So, in this case it just crashes the radios so they boot-loop, but how long until someone figures out a payload that can do more damage?

At some point, I think we have to start asking if the addition of non-critical features like having a favicon for each radio station is worth the increased attack surface.

Mixing the car radio and actual critical systems (backup camera) doesn't seem like a great idea. Especially when the car manufacturer doesn't control the entire system. I know nothing about the supply chain for car radios, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was all made by some secondary supplier, so Mazda doesn't even necessarily have the code to the section they need to patch.

But, I'm honestly more surprised that it's a Mazda specific issue. I would have expected for the same bug to hit multiple infotainment systems.

At least in my car (2013 Chevy Volt), the backup camera is on an internal KVM-type switch.

The moment I switch into reverse the camera forcibly takes over the infotainment screen. You can occasionally see the signal flicker when the switch happens.

But also… a backup camera is hardly critical equipment. It’s there for situational awareness (and a good idea), but doesn’t replace the mirror. And since nobody drives in reverse at high speed, stopping is always an option if it malfunctions.

And since nobody drives in reverse at high speed

That's my cue ;)

The Netherlands used to have national championships reverse driving for many years on the official race track at Zandvoort (part of the Formula 1 circuit).


On many newer cars, the backup camera is approaching critical equipment. With the rising safety standards, the visibility in cars, especially out the back, has gone down significantly. Incidentally, this is very apparent on the Mazdas that I've owned. My old old Protege had good visibility out the back, an early 10's 3 had passable visibility out the back, and the now handful-of-years-old 6 has atrocious visibility out the back, to the point where more than half the field of view is obscured.

That’s still not critical. The backup camera is not used as a rear view mirror replacement and the ability to back up, let lone back up safely, is not required for safe operation of the vehicle.

Brakes are critical, steering is critical. Reverse and everything that entails is not.

Federal law in the US considers backup cameras critical enough to mandate them in all new vehicles since 2018, with penalty for non-compliance.

I think that take precedence over your idiosyncratic definition of what is critical.

Federal law also requires manufacturers to use too little water in all your home appliances. That’s clearly not “critical.”

Edit: I really don’t understand why I’m getting downvotes on this. Is it because people are so glad the federal government is in their bathroom making these “critical” decisions for you?

My point is that the federal government makes all kinds of decisions that are obviously not “critical,” and that includes in the auto industry.

> Brakes are critical, steering is critical. Reverse and everything that entails is not.

The statistic is that every year, in the U.S. alone, over 2000 kids are run over by vehicles reversing. I had to read what you wrote a half-dozen times, but in hindsight the dissonance makes perfect sense.

Rear view mirrors aren't critical. Vans don't have them.

The backup camera isn't critical, but it's been required in the USA since 2018.


The geekwire article confirms it is disabling the backup camera and gps nav. You can only listen to npr while it boot-loops.

> I know nothing about the supply chain for car radios, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was all made by some secondary supplier, so Mazda doesn't even necessarily have the code to the section they need to patch.

You are correct that in general the automotive OEM's farm out the various components of the vehicle to suppliers. In that case, they probably also have some sort of support contract in place that ensures the supplier will address issues like this in a timely manner for the duration of the warranty period for the vehicles it is included in.

Yeahbut, they both need access to the same screen. And yes, it's all made by suppliers, and therein lies most of the trouble with cars today.

Electronic KVM switches are pretty ancient tech. So getting access to the screen/input between different hardware modules shouldn't be that complicated. They just don't want to pay for the parts and additional complexity.

This may be pedantic but I wouldn't call a backup camera critical, people need to learn how to drive and parallel park without those aides.

I sure would be pissed if I had a car with a backup camera and something like this bricked the big center screen in my car, however.

Backup cameras are going to become critical beyond "learn to drive properly" very soon. My college aged son has literally never driven a car without a backup camera. I taught him to use his mirrors after checking the camera for obstacles the mirrors can't see but I'm sure he's already developed the habit of simply relying on the camera. I'm pretty much there and have 30+ years of driving without them.

Where I live you could fail your driver's test if you look at the rearview camera while reversing. You can glance at it before you start the manoeuvre but if you take your eyes off the road while the vehicle is in motion, you get the silent note taking.

Some cars are designed around having that camera in exchange for rear visibility. Generally for better aerodynamics. It likely pays for itself in fuel pretty quickly.

A backup camera is required safety equipment (at time of sale) on new cars.

Great, another unneeded feature forced down our throats at additional cost to who? You guessed it, consumers!

Don't get me started on turn signals! Who's paying for these features? That's right, Joe Consumer. People just need to learn how to use hand signals.

Turn signals are not what makes a car expensive. Look at BMWs.

Great, another feature that will save dozens to hundreds of lives (disproportionately of young children) every year, while adding only a few bucks to the bill of materials for cars that already have a display screen.

I do wish parents would stop teaching kids to take the short route over the carpark on the way to school. They save a couple of meters but walk behind cars backing out of the car garages... The back camera is handy but you won't see them if they walk on your side of the lane, too close to the 90 degree edge of the car.

And to make it more fun, our car has an overlay on the left edge with a top down view of the sensors around the car. That one blocks the view completely in that edge. And has a black background window that slowly fades away.

I think parents who have lost their children to cars backing out of driveways while children are playing on the sidewalk would disagree with your description of 'unneeded'

It wouldn't be an issue if we went back to making cars small enough you could see out of them. Legally requiring a certain level of rear visibility would be a good thing (and, sure, in some cases a camera might be the best way to achieve that) - and throw in some pedestrian collision safety requirements while you're at it. Legally mandating the expensive gadget-based way of doing things seems horribly shortsighted.

Idk about this, I am tired of people trying to blame their negligence on other people. If kids are allowed to watch TV, use computers and have ipads and smart phones, they can be taught to look before crossing a driveway. Some people propose waiting to assign gender and names to kids, if we are going to offload those responsibilities, you can't make the claim that a backup camera is a necessary safety feature.

That's classical victim blaming. We are all humans and make mistakes.Some mistakes only result in some property damage or money lost and some, like running over a person (doesn't even have to be a child, don't forget that there are handicapped people who might not be able to react fast enough to get out of that situation), can't be corrected afterwards. Handwaving that away because some people like to save a few dollars is not a great idea.

By your logic we could also hand everybody heroin and an assault rifle and abolish most laws, people watch TV after all and therefore can be taught not to do bad things.

This is true. Any kid who is capable of naming themselves has also opted out of child safety. The two characteristics are irreversibly linked.

In addition, the existence of kids who are capable of naming themselves must mean that other kids should be bumper mush. This is the only way to preserve the American Way.

If anything, it's the drivers who are the real victims here.

Yeah, drives me nuts. Some cars have really great rear visibility and should be exempt from the requirement. I understand it on SUVs and stuff though.

Wouldn't the entire rear of the car and the rear seats have to be glass to exempt a car from having the camera?

A bigger rear window wouldn't have let me see the toddler who'd wandered a short distance off from his parents in a car park and was standing right behind my car.

Why? You have a screen, the cameras are so small as to be undetectable, they add safety and they provide much better coverage than mirrors do.

It also enables auto-parking and other enhancements while not inhibiting anyone that wants to perform those functions manually.

Do they still sell any cars with good rear visibility?

My hatchback has about the best you could get (and they don't sell it here anymore) and I still added a backup camera, it's very useful.

Well, you could also say the same about seat belts and ABS. I very much prefer cars with cameras at this point.

It’s not unneeded, it’s there to prevent you from killing someone, just like every other required safety system.

you're getting a ton of criticism, but I have two cars, and only one has a backup camera. I reverse more safely in the car with no backup camera.

I've caught myself just backing up without thinking about it in the car with the backup camera. never done that in the old-school mirrors car.

I don't know if there are any studies that back up backup cameras.

I've read that people ride more dangerously, and are tested by car drivers less carefully, when wearing a cycle helmet. Perhaps there's a similar effect here -- I think we do tend to rely on safety equipment and ignore due diligence.

I'm quite certain the dev teams here did ask themselves this.

And decided it was worth it. (If my experience told me anything: Probably under some pressure of marketing or C-level)

Car ownership has become pretty interesting in the last few years.

It’s going to require hardware replacement to fix the unsanitized input vulnerability failure. Very unfortunate, quite the bug.

Hopefully this is a car where a stereo can still be replaced... (even if you need an angle grinder/chainsaw).

Cars where it can't are inferior.

I think press releases say "replace hardware" when often they mean "you have to bring the car in and we're going to flash new firmware".

Sometimes though, firmware can't be flashed by dealers (due to not booting), and then they'll swap the unit, and the old unit will be flashed and given to someone else.

Might be worth hiding an airtag taped to the circuit board!

Asking every customer to come get a firmware upgrade is also called a "recall", which sounds like they have to stop selling the car and literally ask you to give it back. A lot of confused people were making fun of Tesla for that recently.

"radio station in the Seattle area sent image files"

If that's not a sign that people are making the simplest things Way More Complicated Than Necessary(tm) I don't know what is.

I mean, yes, but at the same time, album art is a pretty normal thing to have along with music. And actual cellular data is just radios, but on different wavelengths and whatnot. So it’s not really a stretch to imagine sending arbitrary data along with music over a radio wave. And some of that data is actually very useful, like the track name or artist name.

You are supposed to look at the road when driving, not a screen full of album arts.

My car has four seats. Sometimes there are people in the other ones.

My car not only has four seats like this commenters, it also allows you to be in it while stationary.

I don't know if that is true. Considering one of the issues with Mazda is text parsing. My ford doesn't transfer all the epg data from the radio module to the media unit and it requires a several hundred mb update when radio stations change their logo as people now expect radio station images since it is part of the dab standard.

I'll let the inventors of television know they were making a mistake.

And ID3.

Ironically.. HD-Radio PSD (Program Services Data) is just a set of ID3 tags injected into the stream.

Maybe a Russel Crowe gif saying "are you not infotained!?"

I'm thinking somebody forgot a "." in their station logo and this is the result.

>Station Logos use file-naming conventions with version numbers (this is accomplished in the image client). This is useful for storing and cataloging station logo images in the receiver.


Probably more related to this line:

> It is critical that the station call sign be transmitted correctly. Station Logos follow a file-naming convention that includes the station call sign. This way the receiver can quickly read the call sign and determine if the Station Logo is already archived for immediate display. The filename for a Station Logo includes the station call sign, the program number, and the version number.

Sounds like they didn't sanitize their inputs. This is going to be a huge hassle for everyone involved.

I hope for Mazda's sake there aren't any stations called bobby tables.

bobby tables; rm -rf / --no-preserve-root

Weird that other car models aren’t affected, though.

I think someone might have found a way to deliver malware over the air just like tv's can get updates over the air. Unless you have a SDR listening and logging you wont spot the hacks, but digital transmissions make it easier to deliver multiple signals so you can deliver fake radio stations, tv programmes all sorts.

Hacking digital equipment is a very creative job as many will know and the one's who have the most experience are the military, been doing to other country's before consumer electronics made it possible to hack their own population.

I cant even say follow the money because alot of countries can and do print what they like.

Seems like the receiver should use values it can trust to index the logos. Some kind of simple hash would be trivial to implement and likely as effective.

If this is what could happen when you omit a dot, good luck if there's a malicious payload. Infotainment systems generally won't get the safety critical audits/oversight that other car systems would get.

Well, maybe they can try to listen to the 99% Invisible podcast in the meantime. Oh wait, https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-roman-mars-mazda-....

2016 was apparently a good year for Mazda infotainment systems.

For those curious, I skimmed the transcript and basically a "%" followed by a "I" in an audio file name cause a weird shutdown behavior on the infotainment system.

It’s just bad code and even worse error handling. The program runs a heartbeat that lets the rest of the car know all is well when things are running smoothly. When the program hangs, the heartbeat stops. When the heartbeat is interrupted for long enough, it’s programmed to reboot. With that in mind, when the owner queues up the podcast the system attempts to decode an unsanitized string (the podcast title) as if it were percent/URL encoded. When it encounters an error because “% I” is not a valid character reference, it hangs.

The worst part is that the car owner was told that a firmware update would “likely” fix it but they would have to pay for it.

This seems like grounds for a class action lawsuit. Owners have been harmed by loss of car function and they are reasonably numerous.

No, it's a format string vulnerability.

I have a different model car and I've been noticing a similar thing since getting a new phone, where sometimes it will just freeze and reboot when bluetooth is being used, and I can't quite figure out why. I thought it was random but am now wondering if there's a pattern I haven't noticed yet.

Now someone like Taylor Swift just needs to title a song with a whole bunch of known exploits to infotainment systems and we're all set.

Mazda’s entertainment system has had interesting bugs before. Like… it used to crash if your song title accidentally looks like a printf statement


Growing up in mid 90s Seattle the debate was always between KUBE 93.3 for hip-hop or 107.7 "The End" for alternative (KNDD). This debate destroyed friendships. Getting stuck on KUOW would be a kafka-esque purgatory.

I dunno. NPR has good variety and a little something for everybody.

Just make sure to adjust your schedule so you're on the road at the appropriate half hour time slots for your tastes and I'd say "bug closed"!

> NPR has good variety and a little something for everybody.

NPR listener demographics disagree. http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/wnmu/files/MasterMedi...

Can you explain your objection? It looks like a sample area that the population has very little diversity and the station has more diversity then the population.

I was bi. I listened to both. And KUOW

I was one of the weirdos that listened to 89.5, a station ran by a high school.

Run by Nathan Hale I remember it well. My buddies and I at Lakeside were inspired by this to try to get our school to run its own station, when that got denied we looked at options for building a pirate radio station but ultimately decided against it. We ended up building a recording studio at Lakeside instead.

Dude, C89.5 was the shit. No shame in that.

What a cool program if you think about it. I wish more highschool was tangible skills like that.

Remember the T-Man show in the morning on KUBE93?

Oh man of course I do!!

Mid 2000s here. It was a fight between The End and C89.5 for us.

Can't forget KCMU 90.3 (which latter became KEXP)

KEXP Kevin Suggs is a demi-god of sound engineering.

But us pop kids still stuck to 101.5, annoying everyone with our bad taste.

There is one amusing bug which might be related to this in Mazda 2018. If you add the same station twice to your favourites(easy to accidentally do) and then you click the station lower in the list the UI kicks you up and down in the list endlessly. This is because on each render it checks your station state and just pick the station with the same name randomly in the list.

The page reads "A few weeks ago cellphone companies — and KUOW — switched to a 5G signal." What's the link between 5G and an FM radio station, anyone has an idea?

None they are extremely different frequencies, plus FM radio is not even digital.

In this case it's an HD radio broadcast, which is digital.

It's digital, but still in the broadcasters FM allocation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HD_Radio

It has nothing to do with 5G, which is a cell technology. 5G has low (600-900MHz) medium (microwave) and high ("mm wave"), and is far away from broadcast FM frequencies (USA is 88-108MHz)



Not that big a deal, just need to find the UART port and get out your old reliable RS232 cable, reverse engineer the device, then you should be able to change the radio station.

You laugh but tapping into the UART on the Mazda CMU is totally a thing. https://mazdatweaks.com/serial/

I think people have even managed to side load electron apps on it.

Mazda’s CMU may be the closest thing to DD-WRT in a car that you can get, but confess I’m not too familiar with what else might compete for that title.

You can probably just use Forscan to program the change already.

Does it now support non ford based models as these are of Mazda's own design and at least the infotainment is not comparable to ford sync which runs qnx (or Windows CE embedded for older versions). The relationship ended in 2015 afaik.

My radio in my 2005 Chrysler Crossfire has a weird bug where if I set it to 92.5 KQRS it works fine for about a minute and then suddenly changes station to some country station ~105 that I don’t have as any sort of preset. It’s done this since I bought the car in 2010 and never had a similar behavior with any other stations. It’s really bizarre.

Sounds like an RDSB issue where the station is broadcasting an alternate frequency AF and the radio is switching to, because the field strength of that AF is stronger than the one you are coming from. There are three fixes:

* You enable "LOCAL" mode, this should ignore those AFs broadcasted by stations which would switch to another station broadcasting a different program (it's actually more complicated, for brevity simplified). Not all head units HU offer this setting.

* You disable the AF-feature of your HU.

* KQRS should stop broadcasting this AF

I have a Ford Ranger 2020 and I never listen to radio, always listen on Bluetooth. For some reason it switches to an AM station (that I never listen to) from my Bluetooth and shows a TA icon (even when TA is toggled off, and it's not even used in my country, and the AM station has nothing to do with TA).

After reading this I started to wonder if it might be something similar/related.

I even thought of removing the antenna as I never use radio anyway. Have you done anything about your issue that you can recommend?

I'm certain the TA toggle is broken in my 2019 Hyundai i30N. Disabled every radio-related setting, somehow an FM station managed to force the system to switch to it from Android Auto every 5 minutes. TA is also not used in my country. Infuriating.

> then suddenly changes station to some country station

My God, the horror.

Might be a bug involving the station's broadcast of and/or the stereo's support for https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_frequency

Interesting… I wonder if maybe they are wrongly broadcasting an alternate frequency. I wonder if there’s an easy way to inspect the radio stations “metadata”.

I have done some basic fiddling with SDR but am not at all competent.

> “Luckily I am an NPR listener so that’s fine,” Smith said.

Many Seattleites would also be happy if it were stuck on KEXP.

I love the Song of the Day podcast from them. Highlights so many good artists.

Growing up in the 90s you could tell when digitification came in - radios and tvs started to take forever to change stations. Radios used to be mechanical devices - punch a button and the new station would immediately start playing. Same for tvs.

I feel like the invisible degradation of responsiveness in TV and radio is an un-noticed contributor to their decline. Most of the time I don't bother even scannig the airwaves when I get to a new town cause it's too annoying.

More generally it seems like when industries are growing, there is competition in this kind of area, but later on this dies off. I wonder if there's a structural reason for this?

I've got a brand new Kia. The FM radio comes on so fast, it's surprising. Every car I've ever had always has had some sort of warm up time or a splash screen on the infotainment system while it's booting up. This Kia has none of that. Audio is immediately present and tuning to other stations is immediate as well. It's almost a little unnerving how quickly audio comes out since we've always been used to slower FM radios, CD players, satellite radio, and music streaming apps that just take short moment to go to the next station or song.

Also, one thing to remember is that FM radios have been "digital" for quite some time. I'm not talking about HD radio or DAB receivers. FM demodulation chips have existed for a long time (TDA7000 came out in 1983). They handle tuning, demodulation, and amplification all-in-one. The only slow part would be whatever microcontroller has to manage the interface in the receiver. You can even get FM transceiver chips dirt cheap like the one that is in the infamous Baofeng ham radio. It's got one chip doing all of the radio work.

My Toyota does the worst of both worlds -- the audio portion comes up immediately, with whatever volume setting it had when it was shut off.

The volume knob doesn't respond until about 8 seconds later.

I'm sure you can imagine situations (like in a driveway such as mine, where the neighbor's bedroom window directly overlooks it) where what was appropriate at 3pm when I got home, is not appropriate at 3am next time I start the car...

Sounds like the same system as in my Subaru. I don't even know how you can design a system to emit audio and and not be volume controllable for like millions of CPU cycles. And you'd think with like about two dozen buttons on the steering wheel, one of them would allow you to mute control the phone mic when your are on a conference call.

It's amazing how designers of these vehicles can't think of these simple things.

Being able to lower the volume should be immediate, and it should be obvious in their testings...

If they ever tested infotainment systems of course.

A lot of this makes sense when you realize that modern cars are designed by engineers who take a bus to work.

That makes sense. Though wish it wasn't the case.

> I've got a brand new Kia. The FM radio comes on so fast, it's surprising. Every car I've ever had always has had some sort of warm up time or a splash screen on the infotainment system while it's booting up

They simply never power of the Head Units, even if they go dark. And I am not talking of the constant power feature head units head since forever but the CPU actually doing stuff. Most of the time the satellite data is held fresh to give you an immediate position fix if requested.

If you completely detach it from power you would notice that there is a startup time.

Doesn’t that run the battery down?

It does. I have a Subaru with a head unit that stays powered on, and it has ran itself down more frequently than any other car I've had. The explanation I got from the dealer was that the residual drain on the battery is much higher, so there's less capacity to start the car. I keep a lithium ion jump starter charged and in the car, and I've had to use it a few times. If you can keep each and every OTHER draw on the battery down, it's fine.

The biggest thing that helped was realizing that the battery dies when the key fob was hung up with our other keys. Coincidentally, this was exactly the right distance for the car to constantly wake and sleep itself as it thought the key fob was entering and leaving its vicinity. Between adequate key fob faraday cages, making sure the interior lights are in the automatic or off position, and making sure all the doors are closed we haven't had a dead battery in a while.

What a pain in the ass.

Manufacturers must be able to do this because of higher capacity glass-mat batteries and low power CPUs.

The Baofengs have two FM chips according to this teardown. [0]

AT1846S Single-Chip Transceiver

RDA 5802N Single-Chip Broadcast FM Radio Tuner


You’re totally correct. I just wanted to clarify the various ways that radio can decode FM digitally. Please correct me if I’m mistaken. I’m still real new to this world.

Does your by any chance have remote onlocking or nearby unlocking features (or are the radio modules installed by default)? Some cars start the boot sequence well before you enter the key/car for the infotainment systems.

Maybe you're thinking of a different chip for digital FM? The TDA7000 chip is completely analog, with R-C filters, oscillators, mixers, a variable capacitor and varactor diodes for tuning, and so forth.

> I feel like the invisible degradation of responsiveness in TV and radio is an un-noticed contributor to their decline. Most of the time I don't bother even scannig the airwaves when I get to a new town cause it's too annoying.

I don't think that's much of a contributor. It's just really easy now to bring your own music (or podcast, or audiobook, or...) to the car with you via your phone, and I suspect people generally prefer to listen to their own curated music (or music a streaming service has curated for them) rather than putting up with radio ads, songs they don't like, etc. Just about the only benefit to listening to the radio would be to stumble upon new music, but you can do that with streaming services too. I guess some people like to listen to talk radio (NPR and the like), but most of that stuff is also available online.

I still have a fairly old car with an analog radio, and I haven't used it in at least 5 (but probably closer to 10) years.

Ditto for TV: the on-demand experience via Netflix (etc.) is just so much better than watching regular network or cable TV. Why would I subject myself to having to be in front of the TV at a particular time on a particular day to watch what I want to watch? Honestly, it baffles me that the standard cable TV model still even exists. Obviously the Comcasts of the world still make enough money off of it to make it worthwhile to sell, but it just seems like an entirely poor experience no matter how you look at it.

I have to agree with epivosism about the TV experience. Waiting for the digital decoder to catch an I-frame slows down browsing immensely and it's just a lot less fun. Tivos are better, because they have multiple tuners and can scan the channels above/below the one you're on, which helps a lot. But it's still not as good as pushing the button on an analog tuner's remote and getting a new signal in < 1/15 of a second.

Maybe your comparison of live vs streaming TV is skewed because it takes so long to start a new stream that it's hard to imagine browsing content directly, instead of trying to imagine the content from movie posters.

Streaming video doesn't need to use I-frames for sync, there's a technique called intra refresh they can use to limit the error. That also helps with the nasty "pumping" artifacts you get on static images.

Some codecs do reorder frames for efficiency though (H.264 can be 10 frames out of order but realistically only goes up to 3), which means you have to decode a few before displaying the start frame.

> ... the only benefit to listening to the radio would be to stumble upon new music

This benefit has gone down a lot since the late 90s. There's a nice wikipedia article on it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_homogenization

That said, I recommend listening to college radio wherever you are. I truly love the station from my hometown, WHRW broadcasting from Binghamton University. What a strange and beautiful melange.

The mindless chatter of radio hosts is still enjoyable for me. After a long day of work, getting to listen to replays of which ever prank call they made in the morning while trying to merge through traffic is a nice way to unwind and begin the evening. Plus I appreciate their small attempts to get community together for events and do ridiculous giveaways.

Jeff Gilbert, of Brain Pain fame, is the only DJ I ever enjoyed listening to. He was always giving away tickets or albums via a contest. One of his contests was "what is your name?" The next week, he announced that was too easy, and he was going to amp it up with "spell your name". His fake commercials were great comedy.

I tracked him down one time, and asked if his shows were recorded. He said nope. I had made a few recordings of his shows, and sadly the rest is surely lost to history.

As a counter-point, I also have an older car with an analog radio and 100% prefer to listen to it while on the road than to listen "to my own music from the phone" (tangentially, I don't even have my own music on the phone, nor a Spotify-like subscription).

I found out that listening to the radio gets you lots of excellent unknown-unknowns when it comes to music, especially if you listen to public radio (which, in my country, has almost no ads). For example, during my last trip I remember that tuning in to the arts-oriented public radio station got me the chance of listening to some great tango classical music which I would have never thought of purposefully listen to.

I'm 100% with you when it comes to TV, the cable signal broke or something (some decoding stuff, can't tell) a couple of years ago and I didn't bother calling in the TV cable guys to look at it and fix it. It is quite excellent. We do have Netflix, which we spend some time on but not that much lately, plus I do have a TV-sports station subscription which I use for major events (like the Olympics right now). For sports I have to be careful though not to visit any sports website that day in order not to have the results revealed too early (I generally do not watch the events live).

I can't count the number of times I had to stop in the middle of an interesting NPR story because I'd arrived at my destination and didn't exactly have time to sit around in my car until it ended. I never looked back from podcasts once I got into them.

I have one very good use for analog radio, which is the 50kW AM radio station that does traffic notices in my city every ten minutes. It's often more accurate and better described than looking at red lines on Google maps for traffic jams, and provides other unique local knowledge of construction, temporary detours, etc.

Yeah, I'm not aware of any radio stations near me that feature J-pop and Metal. Before I had a phone playing Spotify, I was burning CDs.

A lot of people say this has nothing to do with it. But for me personally, even when I started watching TV on the computer - which was always a specific Show or Movie, I would still "channel surf" the regular TV as a way to kill time. But once the digital boxes came out in the late 90s/early 00s, it would take 1-2 seconds to switch stations. Longer than I would have been on that station at all while surfing. This completely ruined it for me and I never channel surfed again.

I stopped channel surfing the day we got a digital box. I used to be pretty fast on the remote with the keypad, and could cycle through a number of channels. I forgot how disappointing that digital box was.

I can't channel surf on YouTubeTV because of the UI.

And I could never have been a Dish/DirectTV subscriber because the lag to change channels absolutely kills me.

I channel surfed right up until getting my first TiVo box (probably around 2002?). That killed it dead for me, by completely changing how I consumed TV (for the better).

> Radios used to be mechanical devices - punch a button and the new station would immediately start playing. Same for tvs.

There's a UX lesson here somewhere.

Especially in cars I vastly prefer mechanical controls for things like the stereo.

When I first moved to Seattle 40 years ago, there was one company that advertised on the radio all the time, The Sxxxx Company (you Seattlites know who that is). Their ads all sounded exactly the same, and I grew to hate TSC. I switched to listening to KNHC which never ran ads because I hated TSC. I stopped listening to the radio entirely when I could play cassettes, and later USB sticks.

Fast forward to today, and I recently bought a streaming radio component for my stereo. I programmed in the local station URLs, turned one on, and was aghast - TSC was still running the same goddamned ads, again and again and again. For 40 years.

So much for streaming Seattle radio stations. Blech.

P.S. You people from California know what I mean. Remember Cal Worthington? He drove me away from watching late night TV. I moved to Seattle to get away from Cal Worthington. Then he opened up a dealership in Seattle. Oh, misery. The DVR kept me out of the insane asylum.

I couldn't stand the Cal Worthington commercials, but I'll remember them fondly because a sweet, elderly neighbor with dementia misunderstood the repeated phrase at the end of the song, and would loudly sing along with some rather improper words that were VERY funny to a kid.

In addition to our friends in the diamond business, we also had Jack Roberts Appliance who was less offensive than the others.

For some reason I never minded Jack Roberts. I can't explain it.

But I dearly loved the old Ivar's commercials. That man knew how to advertise. I'd always go out of my way to eat at Ivar's just because. He was always "fresh" :-)

Rainier Beer also knew how to do ads right. I always picked Rainier because of their amusing commercials.

> When I first moved to Seattle 40 years ago, there was one company that advertised on the radio all the time, The Sxxxx Company (you Seattlites know who that is).

That's the trick. Everyone in the country knows them, but thinks they're local because the ads are so boring. It's a chain!

Let's not forget Vern Fonk insurance.

"Now, you have a friend..."


If the KGB ever needed a false confession from me, they'd know just what to do. I'd fold like a cardboard box left in the rain.

>Their ads all sounded exactly the same

They aren't the same. Also some of the ads included his daughter too. He seems like a nice guy.

The main "friend" phrase sounds exactly the same as 40 years ago.

I know he sounds like a nice guy. He probably is. But overdoing anything becomes torture after a while. I'll never buy anything from his company, and I won't listen to any radio stations that incessantly run his ads.

The same thing happens when hit radio plays the same hit song 3 times an hour. It isn't long before one starts to hate the song. Decades later, I still hate those songs. I used to like the new "Rasputin" cover. Radio killed it dead for me.

Can you imagine being one of those aging rock bands on tour, and all your fans want to hear are the songs you played 50 years ago? I'd slit my throat.

> Radios used to be mechanical devices - punch a button and the new station would immediately start playing.

Frustratingly, my Toyota Corolla will start up the radio immediately, but the on/off/volume control doesn't work for several seconds. If someone in my family left the radio blasting, I'm left mashing the button repeatedly until it kicks in. Ugh.

That's a pain. My VW stereo is similar, but it has a "Maximum start-up volume" setting which gets around this.

I stopped listening to the radio when I realized I was spending half the time listening to commercials. (99% Commercials are complete mind rot or appeals to emotion btw; if any advertising moguls read this, no one wants to listen to bad jokes and jingles. Just tell me about the product and I might buy it)

The worst are the radio ad with car horns. I'd say they should be illegal but my local police dept is now running anti-DUI ads on the radio complete with 'police are pulling you over' siren blips. So that ship has sailed.

I absolutely hate when I get an ad with a siren or car honk, just makes my anxiety shoot way up. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve stopped listening to the radio from time to time. Even if I’m not driving… :/

I wonder how much of this is due to adverts being made for the Company Execs - not for you.

The Company Execs already know the product and don't need to be told about it. But a jingle and a joke might close the advert sale.

> More generally it seems like when industries are growing, there is competition in this kind of area, but later on this dies off. I wonder if there's a structural reason for this?

This is the natural end result of a totally free market.

Step 1: Competion, therefore consumers are looked after

Step 2: Some companies are "winning" the competition more than others, some of them buy the "losing" companies.

Repeat until there's just one big player and they can charge whatever they want for whatever they can be bothered making available to people.

You have to hope the FTC steps in and stops one company just buying all of its competition forever.

It blows my mind how annoying it is to watch TV nowadays

After the digital TV transition in the U.S. I didn't use my set for a few years since I didn't have a converter and didn't care enough to do anything about it.

One night we were hit with some severe storms and I decided it was worth it to have an antenna and converter for emergencies. Did some research, purchased a box from a friend and a decent antenna, hooked everything up, turned it on, and 5 minutes later tore it all down again.

I'd gone too long without it and lost all tolerance for commercials.

The "free ad-supported television" offerings are actually pretty decent. It's a first-party software profit-center, so the teams making them have every incentive and capability to give them a halfway decent UX. Then on the flip side no-one actually advertises on them, so instead of ad breaks you get 2 minutes of relaxing music and nature montages every 15-ish minutes. Honestly preferable to Netflix's "go-go-go, don't-miss a beat, quick -- next episode is starting!" style.

(My experience is with Vizio's WatchFree+, but the shows are syndicated so I don't think there's much difference from one offering to the next)

When you got to a new town, I seem to recall pulling a booklet out of the glove compartment, finding the right page, finding the right frequency for the station you're after, and tuning manually to that frequency.

"Punch a button" was only an option once you'd already saved that preset - no difference to the later digital version.

Mid-late 90s radios could scan along the spectrum and stop when they found something.

Even some 70's era stereos had that capability -- my grandparents had a mid 1970's Cadillac with an analog tuner, but it also had a button you could press and you could watch the tuning needle scan until it found a a station.

I was looking for a link to one, and it turns out that even some 1950's radios had a "wonderbar" signal seeker:


This is how my 2007 Japanese car functions and it works just fine. No extra unnecessary features added.

Off by many years. Ford was shipping "electronic" and "premium" radio head units in the 1970s that had electronic tuners with scan and seek functions.

Growing up in the 90s my experience was that you turned a knob until you heard what you wanted to hear, and as you traveled you occasionally had to jiggle the knob as the signal shifted. I don't remember any time where a delay was introduced for terrestrial radio.

I feel like the invisible degradation of responsiveness in TV and radio is an un-noticed contributor to their decline. Most of the time I don't bother even scannig the airwaves when I get to a new town cause it's too annoying.

While I usually don't bother scanning for new stations when I go to a new town, that's because I'm listening to music (or podcasts) with my phone. I don't even listen to broadcast radio in my home town.

About the only time I listen to broadcast radio is in a rental car and that's only because I don't bother pairing my phone with the car unless I'm going to be in it for a few days (and I always unpair and/or reset the pairing settings when I return it).

The way you make money on the way down is different than the way up. Radio was a sleepy backwater medium that was mostly advertising for record companies. When deregulation happened, it became a hot, disruptive market where talk and new music genres grew and grew.

The train slowed down in the late 90s and consolidation of syndication and station ownership picked up. Now a few companies own everything and they’ll pump every dollar until the spectrum is turned over to cellular.

I remember those analog tuners and I hated them, you could never get the frequency exactly right and over time it would "wander" so you had to retune. I will take digital FM tuners over analog ones any day, perfect tuning, no wandering, easy channel changing and much better quality.

Also I own a 2012 BMW and its infotainment system works just fine. If the car is coming from deep sleep it takes like 5 seconds to start but it shows the BMW logo and it's a nice touch. With a warm start it's on immediately. Channel changing is also fast, not instant but with the benefit of not hearing any static in between.

Not to say all cars are perfect, I have seen cars with terrible infotainment systems which are slow and buggy, that's just a thing to keep on your list to inspect before buying a new car.

There was a great period in the mid-late ‘90s where TVs just worked when you connected to cable or antenna, no set top box, tuning was near instantaneous and there was enough enrichment that even station ID and program info could come in with the broadcast.

Pity it was a complicated modulation and waste of spectrum.

> I feel like the invisible degradation of responsiveness in TV and radio is an un-noticed contributor to their decline

In all fairness its partly because of the compression algorithms used like Forward Error Correction FEC and progressive frames vs. immediate frames which simply takes some time to construct an audible / visible representation of the digital data.

Did they do that in order to make room for the Internet? I assume the channels switched instantaneously because they were broadcasting every single one to your home simultaneously. But maybe they wanted more room on the existing wires to store Internet traffic? So they changed the channel change button to ping a server to ask for the other channel to be broadcast. Could anyone confirm if my understanding is accurate? Either way, it definitely ruined the TV viewing experience. But for the Internet, it was worth it.

Digital over-the-air TV works similarly to analog over-the-air, but it's slower to change channels because the TV has to wait for a frame that isn't a delta from a previous frame to display a coherent image. That's just sort of par for the course with modern digital compression, you could increase the number of such frames but then the compression gets less effective and you'd still have more of a delay than with analog.

Oh I didn't know that over the air TV broadcasts use MPEG. I'm surprised that digital over the air even decodes at all considering how poor I remember the quality being in my childhood. I was referring more to cable.

Digital over the air was better quality than cable in my area for quite a while. I don’t use either now but I think cable was 720 and OTA was 1080.

We're talking about over-the-air radio and tv. There are no wires. Or internet.

> punch a button and the new station would immediately start playing. Same for tvs.

I think you're missing the part where the day to day changing conditions mean you have to switch the station then either accept the static or fine tune the station every couple of days. The switching was instant, but I still had to spend time tweaking it and count that as latency-to-ready.

Especially in the cars, without the automatic fine tuning you needed to adjust the frequency depending on where you were at the time.

EVERYTHING has more latency these days. Phone calls. TVs. Radios. Computer keyboards. PROFESSIONAL WIRELESS MICROPHONE SYSTEMS. It blows!

For an old timer like me, cell phones are about as functional for voice communication as the toy walkie-talkie's were that I played with as a kid.

The sad thing is even a landline isn’t available anymore at my house. It’s a VOIP shitshow

It really is awful, and it seems like most people just don't care, or don't even know that they could care. Perceived latency was a bit motivation for me to ditch macOS last year and go back to Linux. I haven't got benchmarks to prove how it felt to me, but it felt like everything has become spongy and asynchronous. Even with a decked out iMac and fast SSD, it feel like applications don't launch immediately. There's enough lag time that I sit for a second thinking 'did I double click or not? Did it launch and then crash? Oh, here it comes'. Keyboard input feels laggy.

I hate that more and more things are becoming software controlled. "What Andy giveth, Bill taketh away" is not a law that I want to apply to machines that can and should continue to function instantaneously.

The degradation in responsiveness happened, but not for the reasons you state. In the 90s and 2000s, consolidation of media company hit a breaking point where one company owns the vast majority of stations in each metro area, they go on commercial at the same time, and you can't surf the way you used to.

It would be very cool to replace the stock radio with a software-defined radio receiver. I really doubt vehicle manufacturers would be interested in offering that, though.

SDR is not really the answer. To make a good radio requires high quality RF filtering, whether it be an SDR or a discrete design. The SDR part only replaces the IF stage and Detector.

If you say so. I'm having a lot of fun with a bottom-dollar setup. There is no perceptible tuning delay and there's a lot of functionality in such a small space. The parent comment was referring to the lack of responsiveness as a result of the digital age, and a lot of the real-time thinking behind SDRs can be applied to take back control and be able to read different competing radio formats and receive on various bands. The problems with the data parsing are sometimes baked in to ICs and software, but the whole idea behind SDRs is to separate the act of receiving radio and decoding it so that there is less friction to changing how it works.

It's also expensive. The infotainment is the gateway to whatever you'd likely want to do and with the emergence of CarPlay and Android Auto, your "radio" is updating constantly.

The actual circuit to make a radio work is also tiny. Some early smartphones included a radio tuner in the hardware.

The problem however is the RF interference generated by the central processor and the display. Adding an AM or FM radio is easy. The hard part is adding the necessary shielding.

Some still do. Recent model Motorolas still sport FM radio functionality

It can't be that expensive. The Pioneer Supertuner III came out in the 1980s and it is considered a state-of-the-art receiver even today. If they could put it in a < $500 head unit 35 years ago, it should cost a nickel today.

Love the self-deprecating humor:

"So who, or what, is responsible for trapping these Mazda owners in a public radio echo chamber they can’t escape, even by car?"

Wait, people are using the cell network for car radio now?

I see several comments expressing that they haven't used the radio in years. I still use mine every time I get into my mid-2000s Honda! I'd be cursing the tech gods if they locked me into a single station! I guess I'm not the only one or nobody would have noticed the bug.

My knowledge and following of music is spotty, so radio is key to my discovery of new songs. On long road trips I tend to find good new (to me) songs, as well as get amused by some weird ones. A few highlights from the odd but fun stuff:

- Driving through rural Ohio at midnight I randomly seeked to a station playing "Clean Up the Ghetto by the Philidelphia International All Stars. - On a Sunday morning in southern Mississippi I heard some happy old dance music accompanied by the jolly but incomprehensible New Orleans drawl of the DJ. - Driving through West Virginia I heard "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" 3 times on the same morning on different stations.

I don't road trip extremely often but surfing the radio is something I look forward to when I do! I usually get a taste of the local culture and a window outside of my urban tech bubble.

Interesting, see 3.4.2 Data Inputs.

NRSC-5 In-band/on-channel Digital Radio Broadcasting Standard:


We're already in the dystopian world of Brazil - modulo the 27B-6 and Harvey Tuttle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eosrujtjJHA

I have to ask, why do Americans always refer to radio stations with a 4-letter code? Most places are just the frequency and the station name (94.2 The Rock, 98.8 Radio Hauraki, etc) but I'm pretty sure every single time I have seen an American refer to a radio station they say something like "KUOW 94.9".

The FCC mandates that stations have either a 4 or 3 letter call sign. Ones on the west coast start with K, east of that is W. Since they all have to identify themselves to the FCC with these call signs, it's convenient to advertise the channel with that name as well. Not every station does this, some like to not talk about the call sign at all in their name, but most advertise with it for simplicity.

>Since they all have to identify themselves to the FCC with these call signs, it's convenient to advertise the channel with that name as well

Not just that, it's required by federal law to announce the callsign once an hour, in both radio and OTA television. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Station_identification#United_... (If you watch sports broadcasts on OTA TV you might notice a subtle overlay pop over the content at the top of the hour)

Made more sense in the analog era, when tuning was done by twiddling a potentiometer and you never quite knew exactly what frequency you were on.

Though the identification you hear may be that of the originating station in the case of a simulcast.

Many years back Clear Channel would simulcast hurricane coverage across most of their stations in Florida, resulting in them all identifying as "Newsradio 610 WIOD Maimi". (Though a YouTube search suggests iHeartMedia now pitch- and speed-bends to say all the legal identifiers very quickly.)

> east of that is W

Because of course it is. Facepalm moment right there.

The name standard is international, so we didn't get E.

Damn, that's sad :-(

I guess they could have just used them the other way around, to simplify things a bit (West Coast - W, East Coast - K).

The thing is, I realized now why people care about this stuff:


> Other stations downplay their call letters, in favor of an easily remembered slogan. This is also the standard practice in most other countries.

I have NO idea what the radio call letters are for any radio in Romania. Nobody I know does. We just know them as RockFM, MagicFM, EuropaFM, RadioZu, whatever.

It probably has to do with the US requirement to announce the call sign at least once an hour. Regular listeners will associate it with the station due to this.

Ok, but... why?

There's probably a good reason for it but I don't work for the FCC so I couldn't tell you. Iirc TV stations have to do the same thing every hour by showing the station name briefly.

In Europe I think they say their name, maybe hourly but the name doesn't have to be KȚȘĂ...

Not all American stations have names aside from their call sign. In the Seattle Area, KUOW is just KUOW. The dance station at 89.5 calls itself C89.5, and almost nobody uses their call sign of KNHC.

On the other hand, the dance station in the Miami area calls itself "Revolution 93.5". It really depends upon the station and the market.

In many places you can't even use the frequency as a reference because it changes depending on region. On my regular 100-km drive in Belgium Classic21 gets three different frequency. But it's just Classic21, it doesn't have a code name.

This is really needed for me who is a channel change maniac.


> “At this point I think it’s almost a safety issue. I don’t have my backup camera or my navigation system. It’s just weird.”

This seems like a pretty serious issue. Not just the radio.


Definitely a safety issue IMHO. It's common on the road to see signs that say "accident ahead, tune to XXX AM" or similar emergency warnings. If you can't tune in to be warned of danger ahead it's a bit of a problem.

These are conveniences. Yes, backup cameras have been mandated for ~7 years now in the US. One can surely still drive safely without looking at a screen.

A backup camera is more than a convenience. It gives you visibility that you simply cannot get without it. Unless the rear half of your car is transparent, every time you back up you do so with a blind spot directly where you're driving. There's a reason these cameras are mandatory on new builds.

Yes, but less safely. Hence the mandate.

Modern vehicles have very high belt lines for crash safety, but that also makes for even larger blind spots.

They can't XD. Someone in public radio zero dayed the Mazda infotainment by sending an image in the RDS feed.

I don't think RDS/RBDS can do images, can it? I'm pretty sure that's an HD Radio/NRSC-5 function.

It's not even that they sent an image, it's that they didn't put an extension on the filename of the image.

Source? That sounds like a really cool hack if it’s true

Funny you suggest that -- I ran into a similar frustration with a Ford running Microsoft SYNC (voice command system) in 2008. If you hit the phone button while a phone was not set up via bluetooth, that would disable the rest of the sound system (i.e. anything other than telling you it can't find a phone). No matter which button you pushed, it couldn't switch away from the phone.

Only by stopping and restarting the engine could you get out. [1]

But these Mazdas can't even get out that way!

[1] See item 8: http://blog.tyrannyofthemouse.com/2008/07/setting-sync-strai...

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