From gathering around the family radio to listen to “The War of the Worlds” broadcast in 1938 to watching the local weather forecast on your 52-inch plasma TV, wireless transmission has been a primary source of information, communication, and entertainment for the past century. Today, thousands of radio and television stations are broadcasting around the world. Beyond your favorite songs, news broadcasts, and shows, how much do you know about the broadcast stations you listen to and watch? The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a large amount of information on the radio and television stations broadcasting in the U.S. as well as a number of stations in other countries in the Western Hemisphere, and recently this data was added to Wolfram|Alpha.
Try out the call sign for your favorite radio station. You might be interested to know who holds the license for that station or find out that it’s being broadcast from that antenna you drive by on your way to work. The local map not only shows you the location of the antenna, but is also zoomed in to show the approximate listening area. How tall is that antenna? Wolfram|Alpha has the answer, as well as a lot of other technical details about the station antenna.
On a road trip and stumble upon an interesting AM station broadcasting on 1010 kilohertz? You don’t need to know the call sign to get the information. Try “1010 am radio”, and Wolfram|Alpha will give you the information for the station broadcasting on that frequency closest to you. If it’s a long road trip, you might find a couple stations broadcasting on the same frequency along the way. All the stations broadcasting on 1010 kilohertz are shown, along with their locations and distances from you.
Or maybe you are staying at a hotel overnight and find out that the news you are watching on “channel 8” is being broadcast from an antenna you’ll see on the way out of town. Take a look as you drive by. It might be about the same height as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
These are just a few examples of how you can explore FCC data in Wolfram|Alpha. But don’t touch that dial, because there are more handy Wolfram|Alpha topic areas on the way.