Before Facebook, before the internet, before cellphones and TV and even FM radio, there was AM radio. Entire families would gather around elaborate refrigerator-sized receivers and bask in the warm glow of vacuum tubes as news, music, and entertainment poured from the only source of broadcast content in existence — NBC, ABC, and CBS were all on AM before they were on TV. Amplitude modulation operated at the very core of American culture.

But in America we have a bad habit of eviscerating the past. Radio broadcasters, once a vital part of American culture, have been shedding listeners for decades — the mass transition to digital media has been particularly brutal for the AM band, where listenership against FM audiences is at a record low of 15 percent. Predictably, there are only a few people that care about this impending extinction — but one of them just happens to head the Federal Communications Commission.