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RDS celebrates 25th birthday
13 March 2009
It is now 25 years ago (March 1984) that the EBU published the original RDS (Radio Data System) specification, also known as 'EBU Tech 3244'. The development of the system was started in 1975 by the EBU Technical Committee. Since then RDS has become enormously succesful worldwide.
Credits for the basic concept behind RDS go to German organisations Bosch/Blaupunkt and the IRT. It is their analogue 'ARI' (Autofahrer Rundfunk Information) system that triggered the development of digital 'nephew' RDS, managed by Ernst Schwarz (Swiss PTT) and Dietmar Kopitz (EBU). After publication in 1984 of the RDS spec, in 1987 the first RDS car radio was marketed by Volvo. A year later regular RDS services started in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. For radio users RDS may be known most of all for the Programme Service name on their radios (RDS-PS) and Traffic Announcement (RDS-TA and RDS-TP) switching.
The production of hundreds of millions of RDS equipped car radios is a testimonial to its visionary development process. A small test at the International Motorshow that is currently being held in Geneva, revealed RDS is very well known in the industry and is still used as a selling argument in radio specifications. In recent years RDS technology has even found its way into mobile phones. Despite no expectation of such a requirement for the original developers this required no change to the specifications!
One element of RDS particularly interesting to modern navigational equipment is RDS-TMC, the traffic information system. Recommended by the European Commission in 1994 for the 'Trans-European Road Network', this system is used in many European countries. However, with the renewed interest in digital radio, RDS-TMC could become (gradually) replaced by its younger 'cousin', TPEG (Transport Protocol Experts Group). The new WorldDMB/EBU Digital Radio Profiles already mention both TMC and TPEG as technologies to be used with digital radio.
Whatever the future will bring exactly, one thing is for sure: thanks to the dedicated passion of many great engineers at EBU Members and equipment manufacturers, RDS became the success it still is. Congratulations!