It's a wired, wired world. From Massachusetts to Australia and back again

I'm sitting here at home working on my next book, but I have to take a moment to share this remarkable radio experience . . . . I just did an interview with Deborah Cameron on ABC 702 in Sydney, Australia. A few years ago, most people elsewhere in the world would say, so what? Not anymore.

An hour before the interview, I updated my Facebook status to say I was on the radio in a little while. Then I put the news on Twitter. I put up another reminder half an hour out, this time with a link to the show’s live feed.

Here’s what I said on FB: John Elder Robison will be on Australian radio at 9:45 AM Tuesday, on ABC Radio 702 Sydney: Mornings with Deborah Cameron. Tune in if you're in that part of the world. Some of my ABC shows are available online, too. May is Autism Awareness month in Australia.

I’ve done lots of radio shows, but I never really announced them in that way, and certainly not with Twitter and Facebook chat to close the loop. I wondered what would happen.

This is what I said next: John Elder Robison My upcoming Australian radio show will be streamed live online in 14 minutes at That’s 7:45PM Eastern time Monday in the USA, 9:45 Tuesday morning Down Under
Right before I went on the show, the radio station’s link to my particular segment came up and I Tweeted and FB’ed the direct link and sat back to see what came of my efforts.

That’s when the phone rang. It was the show’s producer, calling me from tomorrow. It was 7:30 Monday night in my part of the world, but for her, it was already 9:30 on Tuesday morning. And that is a miracle in itself. If you go to Google Maps and punch up walking directions from Amherst, Massachusetts, USA to Sydney, Australia, you will see what I mean.

The walking path probably roughly approximates the path my voice took via a mix of satellite and land lines.

Amazingly, it was as clear as if we were talking in the studio. You’d never know 16,155 miles of space and wire and fiber optic lead separated us.

When the distance rises, Google is a little more careful with their disclaimers. Here’s what they say about this route: These directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, weather, or other events may cause conditions to differ from the map results, and you should plan your route accordingly. You must obey all signs or notices regarding your route.
Some of the steps seem deceptively simple, like this one:

Step 1552: Kayak across the Pacific Ocean
Enter Australia (Northern Territory)
Distance 3,358 mi

It’s lucky it was just my voice on the wires tonight, and not me paddling away.

As soon as I began talking, listeners began messaging me on FB and Tweeting their comments. Upwards of 25 comments came through in a 15 minute interview. I actually could not look at them till the end, so as not to get distracted. Who’d have ever thought technology would complete the circle in that fashion?

I sat in my home in Massachusetts, talking to a radio personality in Sydney whose show was streamed to a listener in western Canada, who in turn messaged me through Facebook. And it happened time and again.

Listeners actually commented on what I said in near-real-time, like this Darwinian who said: Right on! It's not that we don't feel love & can't empathize, we just don't express it the same way others do! Perfect!

Now the show is over, and the listeners (and my friends) talk about it online and even ask me questions, which I try to answer. It’s brought radio to live and spread it in a way I’ve never experienced before.

I’m gonna do this for every radio show, from now on!

Isn’t technology remarkable?



Sharen Ford said…
That is a thrilling story, John. I grew up in South Australia and became the country's first female TV journalist. The technological changes between then and now are mind-boggling.
Cheryl Kauffman said…
Will you be putting a link on your website so we can listen to your interview? I would love to hear it.
John Robison said…
Cheryl, the Australians did promise to mail me a CD, which I can upload. It will probably take a couple weeks, though.

It's kind of neat how it worked out.
Anonymous said…
wow! that IS the coolest!!!
cath c said…
a big woof, a kayaking across the pacific woof!
Aliki2006 said…
I just wanted to stop by to let you know how important your book was/is to me and my family. My son, who is 8, has Asperger's, and reading your amazing book helped us in so many ways. I hope that one day he'll sit down with it himself and perhaps find in you a kindred spirit.
Gavin Bollard said…
Hi John,
I missed your show (since I have to work) but my sister-in-law caught it and said that it was brilliant.

I'm anxiously awaiting the CD upload.
jess said…
i'm totally with you - but i'm still amazed by fax machines
YES. It's very cool. Woof!!

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