I learn a lot from listening. There’s nothing profound in that short sentence – it’s a pretty obvious statement actually. Whether through real-life conversations, radio programmes or podcasts, I’ve always found audio to be a fantastic medium through which information can be absorbed. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a new student, a seasoned professional or somewhere in between – everyone can learn something new every day.
Staying on top of technology and computing news can be daunting. Things change constantly and new developments are always on the horizon. The life-cycle of new technologies can be incredibly short – sometimes things can go from being novel and exciting to discontinued incredibly quickly (here’s looking at you Quibi)
With that in mind, here are five recommendations of technology podcasts you can digest in your own time to help you navigate the technology currents and stay afloat. Hopefully you might enjoy these while out for a walk, cleaning up the kitchen, sitting on a bus or wherever you listen to audio. There’s no shortage of tech podcasts available, but these are one I regularly listen to, so can personally vouch for their high quality.
The flagship tech podcast from the Vox media group (their words!). Hosted by Nilay Patel and Dieter Bohn (with a revolving cast of side characters), this weekly podcast takes a wry and irreverent look at computing and gadget news. Episodes typically last 1hr 15mins in duration, though they often go past the 1hr 30 mark. It’s always divided up into chunks though, so if you just want to hear them review the latest phone or tech gadget, you can usually skip the first 30 minutes.
A beast in the world of technology podcasts. Produced by Gimlet Media, ReplyAll has been going since 2014. They mostly cover internet technologies, but always from a human angle. Hosts Alex Goldman and Emmanuel Dzotsi are total pros and are always easy to listen to. Since they have such a huge archive, the producers have created a handy “New Listeners” guide, highlighting some of the best jumping off points. Episode 79 (Boy in the Photo) is particularly good. There’s an element of mystery to that one, so I’ll say nothing and let you experience it spoiler-free.
OK, this is two podcasts rather than one, but they’re from the same gene pool, both produced by Relay FM. If you want to get a handle on the latest gadgets, apps and services, these are well worth a listen. Clockwise’s format is where the 4 person panel discuss 4 tech topics in 30 minutes. It definitely has a very American feel and they tend to focus on the Apple ecosystem a lot. If you’re busy, this is definitely the one to check out (I usually catch Clockwise each week).
Upgrade is a deeper dive covering similar topics and episodes can last up to 90 minutes. They’re both well produced and easy to listen to, whatever your own level of technical knowledge.
If I was to make a criticism, it’d be that there’s a lot of faffing about at the start of episodes – the radio producer part of my brain wants them to cut the waffle and get to the good stuff earlier. However, this seems to be a feature of many podcasts and Relay FM aren’t alone here.
The Digital Human
The Digital Human is a BBC Radio 4 production that discusses social aspects of techno-culture. Aleks Krotoski (PhD) and the production team usually take an abstract topic and explore how it is impacted by technology. For example, one memorable episode explored the concept of “getting lost” and how mapping technology has removed the random factors of wandering around a new city, trying to find a place of interest. If you’re following a line on a screen, you’re not looking around you and perhaps missing some unexpected gems. I absolutely ADORE this series as it prompts me to question technology from different perspectives.
One of my all time favourite episodes of The Digital Human was ‘Devotion’ about TempleOS which unexpectedly turned into a mini-thesis on operating systems, religion and the divine elegance of good design:
“When a homeless man was killed by a train on 11/08/18 in The Dalles, Oregon, no-one realised how many people it would effect. He was Terry Davis, and he was on a mission from God.”
The Digital Human is produced in series batches and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. However, most listeners outside the UK (such as me!) will enjoy it as a podcast on BBC Sounds or their preferred podcast app.
Naturally, when recommending tech podcasts, I’d include our own one, geared specifically towards computer science education! The Machine is produced internally in WIT, where a bunch of faculty members (hosted by yours truly) discuss topics related to computing and technology, such as programming, AI, Big Data, etc. The conversations are targeted at tech novices, so we don’t assume a huge amount of prior knowledge before listening. That said, we also seem to have a decent audience amongst technology professionals, so hopefully that means the conversations are both accessible and reasonably deep.
The Machine is a bit sporadic in its output as everyone contributes to this in their spare time. We aim to release six episodes per semester, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Last year, more episodes than expected were produced, whereas we’re behind this year. Can I still blame the global pandemic??? 😜
The Machine is available on pretty much every podcast platform. It probably the best tech podcast produced at 3rd Level in Ireland (I may be biased in my pronouncement)
Pop In Those Earbuds
All of these are pretty much general purpose computing podcasts. If you need something that’s a bit more focussed or specific to a technology, there’s probably a podcast for that too. For example, when I was first learning Kotlin a few years back, I found JetBrain’s Talking Kotlin podcast very useful, but you’re really getting into niche listening there.
Obviously, these podcasts are not meant as a substitute for real-life conversations, but we don’t always have fellow geeks around to talk tech in person. Next time you’re alone and seeking some brain food of the technology variety, pop in those earbuds and give one of these podcasts a whirl. If you find any of these worthwhile or have any recommendations yourself, I’d love to hear about it – drop me a line on Twitter @curlybert