- "Radio is the theater of the mind; television is the theater of the mindless."
- –Steve Allen
- "A world without radio is a deaf world."
- –Ernest Yeboah
Historical Context Edit
The idea of “wireless” communication begins with experiments in wireless telegraphy – sending impulses through the ground, water and even steel railroad tracks – in the 1830s. In 1888 AD, Heinrich Hertz proved conclusively that electromagnetic waves could be transmitted through the air; his publications set off a mad scramble among inventors and crackpots to produce these Hertzian waves. Even the likes of Nikola Tesla, Amos Dolbear, and Sir Oliver Lodge got involved. But it took an obscure Italian inventor by the name of Guglielmo Marconi to build the first working, completely successful wireless telegraph … or radio, as some folks called it … in 1894. He patented it in 1896 in England. Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1909 for his work. He also eventually became wealthy, became a senator in the Italian parliament, and joined the Fascist Party in 1923, being made president of the Royal Academy by Mussolini – but that’s another tale.
Initially the radio was used to transmit messages in Morse Code, but in 1900 a Brazilian priest, Roberto de Moura, successfully transmitted the human voice by radio waves (he was granted a patent for his modulator equipment a year later). The next advance was the vacuum tube, invented by engineers working for Westinghouse. Then, using all these together, the first radio broadcast was made from Ocean Bluff-Brant Rock, Massachusetts, on Christmas Eve 1906, a broadcast that included holiday music and readings from the Bible; ships at sea reported picking up this first amplitude modulation (now just termed “AM”) transmission. Two years later, on his way to being a millionaire, Marconi opened civilization’s first radio factory in Chelmsford, England.
In short order there were commercial radio broadcast stations opening all over the place; entrepreneurs had finally figured out how to make money broadcasting commercials (first from station WEAF in New York) and Congress how to make money licensing stations. The first news program broadcast was in August 1920 by station 8MK in Detroit. The first college station began broadcasting in October 1920 at Union College. That same month the college station there aired what is thought to be the first entertainment program, a series of Thursday night concerts. In 1921 the first sports broadcast – a football game between West Virginia and Pittsburgh – was offered. Now the radio programmers really had people’s attention.