The Best Computer Radio Show
in the World
by Sylvia Thodhiss
The five listener-supported Pacifica radio stations (in
Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, and New York) are hotbeds of amateur
production values, internecine staff wars, unreliable signals, untrained hosts... and more truth than you'll get from all
the other stations on your radio dial put together.
Production quality and politics aside, the Houston station,
KPFT, has one of the most carefully guarded
cyber-secrets around: the best weekly computer show in the world. It's called "Technology Bytes," and it's on from 8 to 10
p.m. (Central time) every Wednesday. (Don't stop reading! Below, you'll find out how you
can hear it streamed on the Internet.)
Hosts Jay Lee and Peter Hughes devote the first 20 to 30
minutes of the show to computer news, then they open the phone lines and become the best
pair of Mr. Fixit's you can imagine.
Calls pour in for the next hour and a half from listeners
whose levels of expertise ranges from zero ("I just got a computer. How do I turn it
on?") to mega-geek ("I'm having a little trouble tweaking my wireless
Superstring XZK05 home network card and my 14 home computers since I installed a T-1
What redeems the show-- more than redeems it, what makes
the show worth listening to every week, in addition to the often useful information you
pick up, is the personalities and interplay of the hosts. Have you ever heard "Car
Talk" on NPR? Imagine Tom and Ray Magliozzi without their Boston accents but with a
laid-back Texas attitude, endless, good-natured patience with callers, a great sense of
humor, and you've got Jay Lee and Peter Hughes.
Wait. I forgot to mention their continuous, subtle (and
sometimes not so subtle) self-deprecation. At the same time that these guys take EVERY
caller seriously, they never take themselves totally seriously, no matter how dumb or
fractious the question.
Add in the fact that they are on a Pacifica station
(listener- supported, no sponsors), and that means Jay and Peter also take delight in NOT
taking seriously the endless stream of hype that flows in and out of the computer
industry. Sacred cyber-cows are one of their favorite targets.
Unlike certain other computer shows on radio and TV,
Technology Bytes tells you if the $300 video card you're about to buy (or just bought) is
a piece of crap. But they'll also then spend thirty minutes of air-time trying to help you
figure out how to make it work. These guys could teach lower-level Zen Buddhists a thing
or two about patience.
The capper is this: More often than not, they know what
they're talking about. On those rare occasions when they don't, they're the first to admit
it, and then appeal to listeners who may know something to call in and help.
Now for the really good part: You don't have to be in
Houston to hear the show. You don't even have to listen on Wednesday's.
If you want to listen on Wednesday, it's streamed live to
the Internet through www.texan.net.
If you don't want to listen on Wednesday, the show is
archived at www.technologybytes.com. In
either case, you'll need the Windows media player to listen.
Informative AND entertaining AND funny: What more could you
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