Friday, 7 September 2012

Vive la France!

I was recently a little rude about the French habit of adding a new requirement for drivers every year. But I ought in all fairness say that practically every time I go to France I spot something and think 'That's brilliant! Why don't we do that?' And it almost always involves taking something simple and familiar and giving it a twist.

In the past it has been things like interspersing motorway service stations with cheap to build stopping places that just have loos and picnic facilities. Or making it possible to screw off crown corks on beer bottles - sheer genius.
Boring British RDS display

The latest was something simple but impressive. When we cross the channel we tend to press the button on the radio that finds a selection of stations, to get some authentic French sounds. And many of those French radio stations were doing something very clever.

With an RDS radio, as fitted in most cars, a typical British radio station will display something like BBC R4. To the point, useful... but not awe inspiringly informative. What the French stations were doing was changing the RDS tag with every track. So it would read something like:

RADIO X - Pink Floyd - Welcome to the Machine (1975)

Wonderful! Taking a very basic bit of technology and transforming it. Of course the RDS display can't show all this at once, but they are designed to scroll when the text is too long. My suspicion is the UK stations don't do this because it takes away one of the few advantages of DAB radio, which still has practically no penetration into the car market - rather worrying when they keep threatening to take the analogue signal away. But they should make more of RDS.

Nice one, France.

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