Information Station Specialists is the best known source of travelers information stations, highway advisory radio, advisory signs and services needed to reach motorists with public service information. Learn more about Information Station Specialists.
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America's Source for Information Radio Systems and Services. 
  Founding and Firsts  
Founder Bill Baker 

A Fresh Idea Notable Firsts

Travelers' Information Stations (TIS) began with various experimental stations and pilot projects conducted in the 1950s-1970s in national parks and at certain airports, highways and bridges. As a result, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a notice-of-inquiry; and a rulemaking process ensued that led to federal rules in 1977, which, with certain modifications, continue to govern today.

In 1980, armed with a BA in communications from Indiana University and three years’ experience at a small broadcast station in Moline, Illinois, Bill Baker (pictured left) decided that to serve certain needs, the radio service needed to get more focused. The idea came to him while camping on the shores of Lake Michigan. He knew there was potential in starting a tiny radio station to broadcast continuous messages specifically for campers. Since every vehicle had a radio receiver, it occurred to Baker that it would be "cool" if there were a little radio station in the park where he camped. "I decided to do something," he says. After returning home, he investigated, then pursued his idea. The technology already existed. "All we did was apply a little creativity to integrating, assembling and making it accessible," Baker recounts. "It was a great use of FCC-approved technology and spectrum."

Two years later he formed his own company, TouRadio, in Davenport, Iowa, to offer and install low-power AM radio stations that would allow park officials to communicate directly with visitors. In the summer of 1982, he convinced the manager at Mississippi Palisades State Park in Illinois to try his idea, offering to set up a station at a campground for free. It worked.

Humble Beginnings

In 1983, the fledgling company with a new name, Information Station Specialists, officially rolled out its first “Information Station,” a 10-watt, AM-band Travelers Information Station (TIS) with a 3-5-mile-radius range and a companion product with 1/10 watt of power for about ½-mile range. National parks and local visitor and convention bureaus became Information Station Specialists' first customers. In 1984 Baker met Megan McCombs, who became the company’s first accountant and his wife.

In 1986 Bill and Megan Baker moved their family’s company to the Lake Michigan area, where it remains today. They operated the company from their home for eight years. Bill did the marketing; Megan did the book work. In 1989 they hired their first employee. Information Station Specialists steadily grew. By 1994 it outgrew the family home, so the Bakers moved the entire operation to an office and production facility on 88th Avenue in Zeeland, Michigan.

They credit the company's success, particularly in the early days, to a no-nonsense approach with customers. “I recall that after our first installation, the buyer wrote me a letter and cited his satisfaction that we merely ‘did what we had proposed to do,’ It seemed like a low bar; and yet, the honoring of the sales contract was what had impressed the buyer.” Baker realized that an honest approach to business was something the market viewed as an important selling point, perhaps more critical than the product itself. “A customer knows that a product can always be repaired it if is defective, but that’s not true for the character of the company they are purchasing from.” Baker’s Christian faith informed the company’s focus on “truth in advertising,” and customers apparently appreciated it. Seemingly, the more Information Station Specialists presented products transparently, the more customers came through its doors.

In the 1990s, departments of transportation began installing information radio stations, dubbed Highway Advisory Radio, as part of “Intelligent Transportation Systems” (ITS) to benefit commuters. The radio stations were installed in conjunction with variable message signs and other emerging ITS technologies in major cities with the goal of making travel more efficient and to reduce air pollution.

After the September 11th tragedy, then a massive power outage in the eastern US and, finally, Hurricane Katrina, emergency managers began embracing information radio technology as a means of public communication during and following crises. The "ALERT AM Emergency Advisory Radio System" was born – the first such station designed specifically for emergency managers and public safety. ALERT AM expanded information radio technology to communities, industry and military bases and allowed for a wide range of options designed to protect the public.

In 2008, the company founded the first association of information station operators (
American Association of Information Radio Operators
), which successfully lobbied the FCC for rule changes needed so the technology could more effectively serve communities and agencies during times of crisis. At that time, the firm also introduced portable information stations that could be carried by hand and set up in minutes for public health (and other) emergencies. Major national events began to deploy the portable stations on a temporary basis for event information, further expanding the company’s reach and visibility.

An Expanding Future

The universal character of radio - and companion products such as special signage and streaming services - continue to place Information Station Specialists in demand in a world that since the 1980s has shifted its focus from tourism to terrorism. Consequently, despite the company's humble beginnings, Information Station Specialists has arrived as the USA's primary provider of these technologies.

Amid the seriousness of emergency-management use are other unique applications that Baker says are "just plain fun." Among them: A dog-mushing club in Maine that uses a radio station to inform participants when races are about to begin; And there’s the radio service at the windmill farm that changes messages, depending on how fast the wind blows. "Ours, is a product line with so many applications that it's enjoyable to go to work every day," Baker still affirms, after more than thirty years – and going on forty.

Our offering challenges conventional theories, as evidenced by these examples.
1983 First newsletter for information radio station operators (Limited Area Broadcasting Report).
1986 First portable information radio station (a truck-mounted Information Radio Station for Caltrans.
1989 First preassembled antenna groundplane/mat, PowerPlane, Patent 5,495.261.
1990 First digital message player for information radio station that allowed hundreds of messages to be assembled into playlists with inclusion of live sources (AP55).
1991 First information radio station on in-band AM frequencies – 690 kHz AM for Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.
1993 First universally portable information radio station.
1995 First GPS frequency-stabilized information radio station (3 stations for the City of Naperville, Illinois).
1996 New TravelTalk-style information radio station radio programming format.
1997 Computer control of a network of information radio station linked by telephone lines, including solar powered/wireless flashing advisory signs (ITS.6000 Highway Advisory Radio Station System). 24-hour hotline to serve customers via phone for the life of the product, 24/7.
1999 First full-service AM advisory radio systems website and newsletter ('s The Source). First information radio station transmitter with synthesized frequency operation (TR.6000 HQ 5.0). And, the first fixed information radio station specifically for use by Emergency Management, which included automatic warning siren interfacing, automation National Weather Service preemption on detection of NOAA SAME codes for a specific hazard and geographic area, large battery backup and multi-station GPS-based operation (ALERT AM).
2000 First trailer-mounted, portable information radio station specifically for use by Emergency Management, which included automatic warning siren interfacing, automatic National Weather Service preemption on detection of NOAA SAME codes for specific hazard and geographic area, large battery backup, wireless operation by solar power (RoadRunnR).
2002 First large real-time, multi-station grouping of GPS frequency-stabilized information radio station (for Dow Chemical of Freeport, Texas).
2003 First solar/wireless-controlled flashing beacon sign system for surface streets to alert motorists to information radio station signals in emergencies (Flashing ALERT Signs).

First information radio station antenna system that eliminated the need for groundplanes and ground rods for antenna grounding (VP.9000 Vertical Profile Antenna Support and Grounding System, Patent 7,027,008).
2004 First information radio station that uses MP3 files as a basis for audio programming (the Information Station MP3 Edition).
2006 First linking of audio to multiple information radio stations by wireless means (Wireless Audio System). 

First system that allowed IP-based control of a information radio station system on a network (SignalCAST IP).
2007 An exclusive radio station rental service for fairs, festivals, sporting events and conventions to broadcast parking, directions and event schedules (EventCAST ). Professional message recordings provided "already in the box" for information radio stations on start-up (Professional Recording Services). First digital message player for information radio stations that allowed 3 live sources, prioritized operation and 2-way radio redundant control in the event phone lines go down during emergencies (NX8R).
2008 First suitcase-style portable information radio station specifically for emergency use (RadioSTAT).). The first national association of information radio station operators (AAIRO).
2009 First information radio station on 1710 kHz AM (Hudson County, New Jersey).
2011 PowerSTAT portable clean energy source – a pure sine wave-AC inverter plus high capacity charger with a hefty battery pack, all packaged in a weather resistant portable case. Charges at any standard 120VAC power outlet. First proposed to the FCC (and now has pioneered) the licensing of information radio stations on the 1710 AM frequency for clients with special applications.
2012 StreamCASTs, the first simulcast streaming service to allow programming of Information Stations to be heard on computers and mobile devices as well as on the radio.
2013 First customized format (InfoRadio Format) to improve content and professional quality of broadcasts.
2014 ENcast Emergency Notification System to broadcast text-based alert messages automatically.
2016 Adds first 5000 Hz full-bandwidth AM transmitter as well as broadcast-quality audio processor and filter to line of options to increase stations' broadcast intelligibility and range.
2019 The first antenna specifically for TIS / HAR applications that is capable of up to 270 watts:  High Performance Antenna HPR.0990 and RadioSAFE Wide Area Emergency Radio Broadcast Systems introduction.
2020 Safety messages and streams accessible via smart speaker attendant Alexa.
2021 Introduction of Information Radio Stations with multiple access methodologies for flexibility and redundancy, including both network and USB, incorporating live mic and live feeds.

Pandemic Information Radio at drive-thru health clinics nationwide for distribution of vaccines.
Related Link
A History of Travelers' Information Station Technology
Contact Us All Products at a Glance FAQs All Services Site Index
Corporate Overview For Emergencies FCC-Permitted Broadcasts Customer Support Policy Site Map
Customer Support Policy For Health Applications Glossary of Radio Terms FCC Frequencies & Licenses
Founding & Firsts For Highways News from The Source Installation, Testing, Training
Privacy Policy For Visitor Information Operators' Zone Professional Recordings
  For Other Common Applications Our Stations across the USA Purchase Options  
For License-Free Stations Planning Guide Rentals
For AM Radio Broadcasters Why Customers Say They Buy Streaming
  For Amateur (HAM) Operators      

©  1983-2023  • Information Station Specialists, Inc. •  All Rights Reserved
PO Box 51, Zeeland, Michigan, USA, 49464-0051, Phone 616.772.2300, Email Form

TRADEMARKS:  2X Signal Booster, ALERT AM Emergency Advisory Radio System, AMReady Broadcast Components, ANXX AM Radio Antenna, AP.55 Digital Message Player, ENcast Emergency Notification Broadcast System, EventCAST Portable Information Radio Service, FAS.6000 Flashing Beacons & Controller, FASTrack Quick-Erect Sign, FlashCAST Internet Broadcast Service, Flashing ALERT Sign System, FlexPlane Preassembled Groundplane, Free-Radiate On-Premise Radio Broadcast System, HearMoreInfo Internet Broadcasts, HPR.0990 High Performance Antenna, i A.M. Radio Transmitter, Information Station Specialists, InfoRadio Format, Information Station Classic, Information Station IP, Information Station USB, InfOSpot AM Radio Transmitter Station, IP.8 Digital Message Player, IP.76 Digital Message Player, ITS.6000 Highway Advisory Radio Network, LIGHTNING LED Changeable Message Sign, Lowdown 630-Meter Band Amateur Radio Antenna, MGR.021 Digital Audio Management System, MXB.22 THEMATCHBOX Impedance Matching Transformer, NX8R Digital Message Player, PPFL PPFS PowerPlane Preassembled Groundplane, RadioSAFE Wide Area Emergency Broadcast System, RadioSTAT Portable Emergency Advisory Radio Station, RE 2.5 Range Extender Outdoor Antenna and Tuner, RESPONDER 1 Portable Highway Advisory Radio System, RoadRunnR Portable Highway Advisory Radio System, SSD.20 Severe Storm Detector, SMR Signal Measurement Radio Receiver, Stealth Sign, StreamCAST Internet Audio Delivery Service, SS.3000 Free-Standing AM Radio Antenna System with Tower, SX.200 Wattmeter, Talking House AM Radio Transmitter, TH.5 InfOspot Transmitter, TMS.020 Digital Audio Management System, TR.6000 Transmitter, TMS.020 Digital Audio Management System, TR.6000 Transmitter Model 15.73, VP.9000 Vertical Profile Antenna Support and Grounding System.

Information Radio Station is a generic term synonymous with Travelers Information Station (TIS), Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) / Highway Information Systems & Low Power Radio Stations (LPR). Operation of the stations is governed by FCC Part 90.242 Rules. A FCC license is required. Information Radio Stations may be fixed or portable. Subcomponents may include transmitter, antenna and ground system, digital voice player, wattmeter, cabinet with conventional or Corbin locks, lightning arrestors for RF, power and telephone lines, coaxial cable. Most stations employ black maximized antennas to discourage ice accumulation and security measures to prevent unauthorized program access. Options include synchronization, battery backup, solar power, remote programming by local, network or telco, multi-station audio distribution via RF or LAN / WAN or wireless network.