"Back in the day, I recall listening to the radio knowing something unique was happening. The radio announcers had their own tastes in music, and they helped to create a following around their musical tastes. Sometimes there was dead air as the dj missed the cue for a variety of human reasons, some more innocent than others. This caused me to volunteer at and work at several radio stations in the 1980's and 1990's. I actually chose my university because I liked the on air feel of the campus radio station, which turned out to be a very influential organization for me. At the station, I did on-air work, production of public service announcements, newscasts, dj training, and eventually became Program Director. The audience's active listenership of the music and programming was exciting to be involved with.
Back then, radio was a public service to be provided to the community, not just a marketing opportunity. Almost radio programming was done with people at the microphones, nearly always they were playing actual records, tapes or cds. Even the commercials were created in-house, except those for national campaigns.
Do you miss real radio? There are a bunch of college radio stations around, and most of them depend on the student body and sometimes local community members to create their programming. With web streaming, it is possible to listen way beyond the broadcast range of your favorite station. WERS in Boston plays a good mix curated by communications students. KEXP in Seattle has a wonderful mix of live performances and genuine djs choosing the music they play..."
Yes! Real radio still exists on the left of the dial at college radio stations. While it sounds like a fun project to make one's own station (see the article for more details), I think it's still really important to support the struggling stations that are still out there. Turn on your terrestrial radio and explore, grab some program guides to find shows that pique your interest, and make some time to listen to curated sounds. The future of radio depends on it.