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KEXP morning DJ John Richards. (KEXP Photo / Greg Stonebraker)

If a tech-friendly streaming station goes off the radio airwaves, does anyone in a tech-centric city notice?

Seattle nonprofit indie and alternative rock station KEXP suddenly went fuzzy and silent from its broadcast tower during the morning commute on Tuesday. The station quickly tweeted the analog woe as its signal on 90.3 FM disappeared around 8:40 a.m. PT.

Immediately, Twitter reacted. Team GeekWire did, too, even though the newsroom realized it had no easy way to determine if KEXP was still off the air — or, specifically, airwaves — since the stream continued on KEXP’s website and through digital distribution services such as TuneIn, which feed smartphones, Amazon Echo devices and Sonos speakers worldwide. (We had to run to a car parked outside.)

Meanwhile, some went to the KEXP source: Its transmitter located on Capitol Hill in Seattle.

An hour into the outage, morning host John Richards concluded — on the stream, but not on the airwaves — “Technology is great. Until it rises up and kills us all.”

KEXP, with the support of donors and a $15 million fund-raising campaign, built new studios and moved its operations to Seattle Center in late 2015, opening the 28,000 square-foot space to the public in 2016. The station was pushed across the fundraising finish line with a $500,000 donation by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, a long-time station supporter and fan.

We’ll update this story when, and if, KEXP finds the cause of its radio silence and beams audio anew. At 10 a.m., when Richards’s morning drive shift ended, the station was still static.

UPDATE: KEXP returned to the terrestrial broadcast airwaves at 10:10 a.m. and discovered the culprit — a failed memory card that contained the transmitter operating system. Read the full story here.

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