Veronica With Four Eyes

How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Listen To History

I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to use my Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Alexa with low vision, and one of my friends who is a huge history buff was telling me how they had been listening to old time radio shows with a grandparent using their Echo device. Since the device didn’t have a screen, my friend and their grandparent were able to access the device using only their voice, and appreciated not having to scroll through large amounts of text to be able to find something to listen to. They inspired me to start curating a list of audio-based history resources, and today I’m sharing my findings on how Amazon Alexa can help you listen to history.

Alexa, play old time radio shows

Old time radio shows from the golden age of radio are fun to listen to, and there are a few different options for listening to them on smart speakers like the Amazon Echo.

Show-specific skills

One option for listening to old time radio on Amazon Alexa is to enable a skill for a specific show. Alexa Skill Developer has several different skills for popular old time radio shows, including Gunsmoke, The Abott and Costello Show, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, and more,

Old time radio on Amazon Music

Several old time radio shows are available as audio tracks on Amazon Music’s streaming service, and can be played just like other songs on the device. A different friend used Amazon Music’s streaming service to listen to episodes of X Minus One, which I added to the “Related Links” section. For users that don’t have Amazon Music or Prime Music, many old time radio tracks and albums can be purchased and played on the Amazon Echo device.

Listening to NPR’s Tuned Into Yesterday podcast

Are you a fan of NPR’s Tuned Into Yesterday podcast that focuses on old time radio shows? Users can set up the NPR skill on Amazon Alexa and tell Alexa “Alexa, ask NPR to play Tuned Into Yesterday podcast” to listen to the latest episode. Other NPR podcasts are also available on the NPR skill and users can ask for the podcast of their choice by name.

Internet Archive’s Old Time Radio website

This isn’t an Amazon Alexa skill, but it can be played from another device when using the Amazon Echo as a Bluetooth speaker. The Internet Archive hosts a virtual Old Time Radio station that plays different shows 24/7, with options to filter shows by genre, show name, and options to create custom stations.

Related links

Playing history podcasts with Alexa

Users can connect third-party music streaming and podcast platforms like TuneIn Radio and Spotify in the Alexa app to listen to podcasts and other streaming content hosted on these platforms. I still have Amazon Music as my default streaming application, so if I want to listen to a playlist or other content on Spotify, I have to say “Alexa, play (content) on Spotify” for it to play the content I want. Some podcasts also have their own dedicated Alexa skills available for listeners that play the latest episode.

Related links

Accessing MOOC content with Amazon Echo

Open Culture maintains an extensive list of free Massive Open Online Courses that are offered by educational institutions from all around the world. Some courses are audio based, while others are hosted on YouTube or on other platforms, though users have the option to listen to content and control playback by playing the content on an external device and using the Amazon Echo as a wireless speaker.

To listen to content, users will need to connect an external device like a computer, tablet, or smartphone to Amazon Alexa via Bluetooth. This can be done by completing the following steps:

  1. Put your Bluetooth device in pairing mode
  2. Open the Alexa app and select Devices
  3. Select Echo & Alexa
  4. Select your device
  5. Select Bluetooth Devices, and then Pair A New Device to connect your device

Alternatively, users can also connect to their Amazon Echo with a wired connection using a 3.5 mm audio jack cable.

Related links

Listening to curated playlists and ad-free music

Spotify and Amazon Music offer several curated playlists and music stations for listening to music from a given time period, musician, genre, year, or era of music. If I find a Spotify playlist on Pinterest or another website that I might want to listen to later, I like/heart the playlist and ask Alexa for it by name when I want to listen to it.

Outside of streaming services, there are a few Amazon Alexa skills for ad-free music, such as skills for physical radio stations and online radio. My most used ad-free music skill is The Jazz Groove, which plays relaxing jazz music that works great for writing. I also enjoy the Public Domain Jazz Music skill.

Another ad-free option for listening to ambient noise and music is Tabletop Audio, which offer looping audio tracks for 1920s speakeasy, 1940s office, 1940s boardwalk, 60s computer lab, and many more.

Related links

Adding history-related content to flash briefings

Amazon Alexa has a built-in feature called Flash Briefing, which users can customize to read out an overview of news, weather, trivia, and similar information. This is a great option for getting news content without looking at a screen. There are a few history-related Alexa skills that can be added to the Flash Briefing as well, including This Day in History from The History Channel, which I’ve linked more information on below.

Related links

Reading books with Amazon Echo

There are a few different options for reading books and other content with Amazon Echo, including reading books from the Kindle library, accessing content from Audible, and reading books from the Bookshare accessible library for people with print disabilities. I’ve linked a more in-depth post for how Amazon Alexa can help you read below.

Related links

More ways Amazon Alexa can help you listen to history

  • Users can plug in headphones or external speakers to their Amazon Echo device using the 3.5mm audio jack or connect additional devices via Bluetooth
  • Vintage City Sounds is another ambient audio skill that plays sounds from city streets in the 1950s. Users can choose to listen to sounds from Paris, Tokyo, and Mexico City
  • Unfortunately, users cannot upload personal MP3 files to Amazon Music for playback on Alexa devices, however they can access music they purchased from Amazon on the device
  • Need to study for a history exam? Consider creating flashcards with Alexa Skill Blueprints- I share more on how to do this in this post Creating Custom Flashcards With Amazon Alexa

How Amazon Alexa can help you listen to history. Free Amazon Echo and Amazon Alexa skills for listening to historical audio content and history education with nonvisual access, including old time radio, playlists, and more