January 21, 2002
AP U.S. History
The radio has evolved over time. The radio we listen to today has a different format, purpose, viewer reach, and clarity than it did before the 1950s. The radio has survived the threat of the television industry by changing with the times. It has been dealt with in the law through acts and the creation of the government regulating agency (FCC). Today the radio is the cheapest and most affective way to communicate with everyone around the world. It began with the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Morse in 1844 and developed as the knowledgeable minds of inventors and engineers worked from the late 1800s to the present to create the powerful communications medium we know today as the radio.
The radio was developed through the collaboration of many inventions and ideas from the minds of experts in the scientific fields. As early as 1844 messages were being transmitted from person to person by telegraph, which was invented by Samuel Morse (Vivian 252). By 1861 the messages could be sent from coast to coast and only five years later wires beneath the ocean floor allowed trans Atlantic communications. This development was still only point to point voiceless communication but placed the framework for future thinkers to expand on it (Campbell 113). In the 1860's James Clerk Maxwell theorized the existence of electromagnetic waves. His theories were proven by Heinrich Hertz in 1887. Hertz name became adapted to the measure of radio frequencies (Keith 2). All of these men's inventions and theories led to the wireless technology of radio.
Up until 1901 the ability communicate was only possible from land to land through wires. It was necessary to create a method for ships to communicate with each other and land for their own security. It was an Italian engineer Guglielmo Marconi who made it possible to communicate through space, bringing Hertz's discoveries to life (Ditingo 15). Wireless communication, or radio, was a big step, but still there was a desire for one to many communication.
The next step in radio development was allowing many listeners from one sender (voice and music) over the radio waves. Lee De Forest became interested in the advancements of his predecessors. He patented over 300 inventions, one of the most important being the vacuum tube. It both detected and amplified radio signals. His work was "essential to the development of voice transmission, long-distance radio, and eventually television" ( Campbell 116). In 1906 the first voice and music broadcast was transmitted from Brant Rock, Massachusetts to ships in the Atlantic Ocean by Reginald Fessenden (Ditingo 16). These men and many more inventors and innovators played crucial roles in early radio expansion. One of the biggest names in radio is David Sarnoff. He envisioned radio as a product that could be used in the everyday household for music, news, and information.
As this technology developed so did the businesses that would profit from it. In 1919 radio set or "radio music box's" proposed by Sarnoff were sold to the public as a result of his persistence (Keith 2). In the same year the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was established to market wireless radio receivers manufactured by Westinghouse and General Electric (Ditingo 16). A Westinghouse engineer, Frank Conrad, had run an unofficial radio station with music and new to a few of his friends. Noticing the rise in sales after his broadcasts Westinghouse formed the first professional station in Pittsburgh in 1920. KDKA became the first U.S. station to offer regularly scheduled broadcasting (Smulyan 14).
In the 1920's radio as a mass medium grew in popularity. During these early broadcasts one would hear a variety of music, talks, poetry, plays, sports, and news in one broadcast (Smulyan 94). In 1922 commercials became a way to pay for radio. In 1923 stations WEAF New York and WNAC Boston were...
Cited: Campbell, Richard. Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's, 2002.
Ditingo, Vincent M. The Remaking of Radio. Boston, Focal Press, 1995.
Keith, Michael C., and Joseph M. Krause. The Radio Station. Boston, Focal Press, 1986.
Smulyan, Susan. Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American Broadcasting 1920-1934. London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994.
Solely, Lawrence. Free Radio. Boulder Colorado: Westview Press, 1999.
Vivian, John. The Media of Mass Communications. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.
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