Technology marches on. I often recall the quote: "Technology is not technology if it was invented before you were born." Author Douglas Adams explained this concept in greater detail. “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”


I thought of this when I came across an old article from the Tacoma News Tribune dated April 11, 1953. The article was about a prediction by Mark R. Sullivan, then the president of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. He said: “Here is my prophecy. In its final development the telephone will be carried about by the individual, perhaps as we carry a watch today. It probably will require no dial or equivalent, and I think the users will be able to see each other, if they want, as they talk. Who knows but it may actually translate from one language to another.”


For 1953 that was an amazing look into the future, but Mr. Sullivan would still be surprised by all the things that have been replaced (totally or partly) by today's smartphones. Items include: the camera, portable music player, flashlight, walkie talkie, pocket watch, calendar, address book, business cards, calculator, wired internet connection, and radio. (


Still, with all this going on, there are instances when merging current technology with knowledge from the past produces interesting and beneficial results. For example, soundtracks for cars. 


It has come to the attention of car manufacturers that electric cars are too quiet for many consumers. “Your next car may come with its own soundtrack. Faced with the utter silence of electric cars, automakers are coming up with novel ways to give them their own distinctive cabin sounds.”  You know, when you spend big bucks for a Lamborghini you want to hear the “vroom-vroom” of a $200,000 sports car and not the “woosh-woosh” of a $99 Eureka vacuum cleaner. 



Ah, but what if you don't want any “vroom-vrooms” because you've had a tough day and just want a relaxing ride? Some manufacturers will be giving you  choices. “Forget roaring engines and squealing tires. Your next car could sound like a gentle rainfall, crackling fire, lively forest, open-air cafe,  calm sea waves and more.” My guess is “tropical island” will be very popular during Michigan winters. (


Without a doubt, my favorite use of present technology to access the past is using Internet radio to play old time radio shows. Before you scoff, let me tell you that you will be pleasantly surprised by how the storylines of the the classic radio shows still seem current. 


There are hundreds of Internet radio stations that run these shows 24/7/365 for free. There is every genre: comedy, westerns, crime, mystery, science fiction, historical, variety shows, you name it. Just Google “old time radio stations” to see a listing. My favorite stations/networks are: Audio Noir, Antioch, Conyers, ROK Radio, and OTRNow. The sound quality is generally very good because many of these were preserved for use by the U.S. military to broadcast to the troops. An oddity is that many of the OTR stations operate in England. 


There are three ways I personally listen (every day). One is by accessing these shows on a tablet or smartphone. Again, Google “old time radio” and hundreds of outlets will be available for streaming. 


I also can get OTR shows on our Amazon (Alexa) Echo. Just go into the Alexa app and search for “old time radio” in Alexa Skills. Here you'll find stations and individual shows. “Old time radio shows are fun to listen to and a great way to teach people about the golden age of radio. Then, just say “Alexa, play (or open)” followed by the show name. (


A third way is via my Grace Digital Internet Radio. This is a unit that looks and operates just like a traditional radio except it accesses the Internet. You can tune it for any of thousands of (free) stations or access paid services (like Sirius XM). 



Among the shows I like: Dragnet, the Cisco Kid, Superman, Tales of the Texas Rangers, Gunsmoke, Johnny Dollar Insurance Investigator, Boston Blackie, Sam Spade, Richard Diamond Private Detective, This Is Your FBI, The Saint, The Shadow, Calling All Cars and Gangbusters. My all-time favorite is “Challenge of the Yukon” featuring Sgt. Preston and his wonder dog Yukon King. It's interesting to note that “Yukon” was produced at WXYZ in Detroit. I like the Michigan connection. “Well, King, this case is closed.” 


Finally, if you want to combine some technology with holiday cheer, don't forget the Neff Zone Holidays page at We're getting close to Christmas, so keep an eye on the live cams – Santa Claus Live, the Reindeer Cam, and NORAD Tracks Santa.


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and