Despite the hundreds of radio stations on-line, you would be hard pressed to get a decent reception on any of them

I've just learned a new word: "spooging". It's when software engineers try to adapt a computer programme to do something for which it wasn't originally meant. Usually with results that aren't very effective. It was coined in Douglas Coupland's novel about the computer industry, Microserfs.

Spooging is, of course, the Internet's lifeblood. Long before the technology is capable of achieving something, every "visionary" is trying to make it work on the Net. The best example is Internet radio. It doesn't work properly, it doesn't even threaten to work properly. The medium simply isn't up to the job, and yet there are hundreds of radio stations going online, with more appearing every day.

I've never managed to listen to a so-called "Netcast" which doesn't break up to the extent that it's unbearable, even with a reasonably good modem. But radio stations are still piling online, mostly for the same reason that newspapers are dumping their contents onto web pages. They're frightened of being left behind in the rush towards the brave new world. And this is all aside from the fact that a computer is the most expensive radio ever invented. Upwards of pounds 1,000, plus telephone charges, to hear something that sounds like it was produced on 1940s equipment? That isn't to say I'm not looking forward to the day when Internet radio can actually deliver; imagine being able to wake up to Chris Evans even if you're in Antarctica. But then again...

Although much of the material out there consists of live shows being fed onto the Internet, there are some gems worth digging out. One site, Audio Archives, holds some classic historical recordings including Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and Neil Armstrong's "One small step". If you want a taste of the spectrum of stuff on offer, Live Radio is an index of broadcasters with online output. It includes British stations as well as some in Eastern Europe, which I guess may have some value if you're learning a language - do be sure to check out the site which includes tips for learning Japanese. Plus, an honourable mention has to go to The Sweeney's home page, which includes sound files for all our favourite moments, including "Guv'nor" and the classic "You're nicked!".

You may need to adapt your browser, incidentally, if you've never listened to sound files before. The most useful plug-in, RealAudio for Macs and PCs, can be downloaded from its home page and is pretty much the standard for sound files. And despite the fact that the Internet is supposed to be truly global, you'll find that stations in Britain work far better than anything abroad.

But are you really at a stage in your life when you just have to listen to Japanese radio?

RealAudio's home page.

Some classic speeches and soundbites.

www.frodo.u-net. com/radio.htm

An archive of Internet radio stations indexed by country.

The Sweeney's official home page.

SITE UNSEEN language.htm

Tips for learning Japanese, including RealAudio sound files for indispensable one-liners.