My new podcast: “Old Tech News”

Amazing: it wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted to do a weekly radio or TV show, you needed to convince somebody that it was a good idea. You also probably needed to go out and think about what you were going to do with your hair.

But today? So long as you have an hour a week to devote to the project and a blank C-90 audiocassette to record onto, nobody can stop you.

And so, I’m pleased to announce “Old Tech News,” which started on the 5by5 network this week. Why, yes…of course you can subscribe to it! Honestly, you don’t even need to ask my permission. Here’s the iTunes link.

The show isn’t much more complicated than “an audiobook edition of my Sun-Times column, with other writings from other sources thrown in for seasoning.”

I confess that describing the content as “old news” right at the top may have been a marketing error. Folks might take one look at the title in iTunes and conclude that a typical “Old Tech News” show rundown would go something like this:

  • Does the Motorola 68030 deliver true minicomputer performance, or is that just marketing hype?
  • Confirmed: BeOS to be acquired by Apple, become next-generation Mac operating system
  • Predictions for Gil Amelio’s next 10 years as CEO
  • Two Songs, On Your Desktop: Corvus brings Winchester drive technology to the Apple //e

No, no. I promise you that the show contains current, useful stuff (within a liberal range of definitions of the term “useful”).

I got the idea for the show a few months ago, when I added a new step to my usual writing workflow: I now read every column aloud before I file it. By the time I finish writing something, my “reading words on a screen” subprocessor is severely overloaded but my “hearing words spoken” system is still fresh, and operating at peak performance. Reading the manuscript aloud is a useful trick for catching any errors (or clumsy writage usements) that I missed during earlier editing steps.

After a couple of weeks, I got the idea that if I were to stick a microphone in front of me before this step in the editing process, I could get a useful podcast out of it for free.

I played back the first recording. That’s when I got an even better idea: if I were to do a special recording session after the column had been finished and filed, then the episodes wouldn’t contain spicy ad-libs such as “Oh, Jesus Dexter Christ, Ihnatko…don’t you think a higher lifeform than yourself wouldn’t have made a mistake as dumb as that one?” followed by a burst of furious typing.

It’s “old” tech news because I give the Sun-Times a certain window of exclusivity on my columns (generally a week or two). Also, I have a fairly extensive back-catalogue and I’ll dip into older pieces when it seems appropriate. A review of a new Android phone is a good excuse to record a piece from earlier in the summer that compared iOS versus Ice Cream Sandwich.

It’ll be fine. One of my major influences as a writer is Continental Baking, the fine makers of Twinkies Snack Cakes. I try to write shelf-stable columns that remain palatable long after they left the factory.

(Again, within a certain range of values for the word “palatable”.)

The first two shows are theme episodes. Show 0001 (available now) is a roundup of all of my recent Kindle reviews; Show 0002 (recorded, awaiting editing) contains all three parts of my 6000-word iPhone 5 review.

I’m having lots of fun with this. “Old Tech News” is a different kind of fun from MacBreak Weekly and Ihnatko Almanac and the rest of the podcasts I do. I’m not speaking off-the-cuff. I have a script in front of me and I feel like I’m telling a carefully worked-out story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

It’s also an opportunity to revisit a topic days or even months after I filed my column and stopped thinking about it. I often return to the subject with additional perspective, thought, and experience.

And that’s “Old Tech News.” Hopefully it’ll justify its existence in an iTunes category that’s already fairly well-populated.

And if it doesn’t? Well, maybe it’ll become a cause célèbre that inspires the beleaguered people of the world to finally rise up and demand that their government federalize the machinery of podcasting, thus putting an end to this whole “anybody can start a podcast” nonsense once and for all.