The early history of radio is the history of technology that produced radio instruments that use radio waves. Within the timeline of radio, many people contributed theory and inventions in what became radio. Radio development began as "wireless telegraphy". Later radio history increasingly involves matters of programming and content.
James Clerk Maxwell showed mathematically that electromagnetic waves could propagate through free space. Heinrich Rudolf Hertz and many others demonstrated, on a laboratory scale, radio wave propagation.
Transmission and radiation of radio frequency energy was a feature exhibited in the experiments by Nikola Tesla which he proposed might be used for the telecommunication of information. The Tesla method was described in New York in 1897. In 1897, Tesla applied for two key United States radio patents, US 645576, first radio system patent, and US 649621. Tesla also used sensitive electromagnetic receivers, that were unlike the less responsive coherers later used by Marconi and other early experimenters. Shortly thereafter, he began to develop wireless remote control devices.
Early radio telegraphy and telephony
The term wireless telegraphy is a historical term used today to apply to early radio telegraph communications techniques and practices, particularly those used during the first three decades of radio (1887 to 1920) before the term radio came into use. Guglielmo Marconidemonstrated application of radio in commercial, military and marine communications and started a company for the development and propagation of radio communication services and equipment. The field of radio development attracted many researchers, and bitter arguments[who?] over the true "inventor of radio" persist to this day.
Turn of the century
Around the turn of the century, the Slaby-Arco wireless system was developed by Adolf Slaby and Georg von Arco. In 1900, Reginald Fessenden made a weak transmission of voice over the airwaves. In 1901, Marconi conducted the first successful transatlantic experimental radio communications. In 1904, The U.S. Patent Office reversed its decision, awarding Marconi a patent for the invention of radio, possibly influenced by Marconi's financial backers in the States, who included Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie. This also allowed the U.S. government (among others) to avoid having to pay the royalties that were being claimed by Tesla for use of his patents. For more information see Marconi's radio work. In 1907, Marconi established the first commercial transatlantic radio communications service, between Clifden, Ireland and Glace Bay, Newfoundland.
Julio Cervera Baviera
Julio Cervera Baviera developed radio in Spain around 1902. Cervera Baviera obtained patents in England, Germany, Belgium, and Spain. In May–June 1899, Cervera had, with the blessing of theSpanish Army, visited Marconi's radiotelegraphic installations on the English Channel, and worked to develop his own system. He began collaborating with Marconi on resolving the problem of a wireless communication system, obtaining some patents by the end of 1899. Cervera, who had worked with Marconi and his assistant George Kemp in 1899, resolved the difficulties of wireless telegraph and obtained his first patents prior to the end of that year. On March 22, 1902, Cervera founded the Spanish Wireless Telegraph and Telephone Corporation and brought to his corporation the patents he had obtained in Spain, Belgium, Germany and England. He established the second and third regular radiotelegraph service in the history of the world in 1901 and 1902 by maintaining regular transmissions between Tarifa and Ceuta for three consecutive months, and between Javea (Cabo de la Nao) and Ibiza (Cabo Pelado). This is after Marconi established the radiotelegraphic service between the Isle of Wight and Bournemouth in 1898. In 1906, Domenico Mazzotto wrote: "In Spain the Minister of War has applied the system perfected by the commander of military engineering, Julio Cervera Baviera (English patent No. 20084 (1899))." Cervera thus achieved some success in this field, but his radiotelegraphic activities ceased suddenly, the reasons for which are unclear to this day.
Using various patents, the company called British Marconi was established in 1897 and began communication between coast radio stationsand ships at sea. This company along with its subsidiary American Marconi, had a stranglehold on ship to shore communication. It operated much the way American Telephone and Telegraph operated until 1983, owning all of its equipment and refusing to communicate with non-Marconi equipped ships. Many inventions improved the quality of radio, and amateurs experimented with uses of radio, thus the first seeds of broadcasting were planted.
The company Telefunken was founded on May 27, 1903 as "Telefunken society for wireless telefon" of Siemens & Halske (S & H) and theAllgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (General Electricity Company) as joint undertakings for radio engineering in Berlin. It continued as a joint venture of AEG and Siemens AG, until Siemens left in 1941. In 1911, Kaiser Wilhelm II sent Telefunken engineers to West Sayville, New York to erect three 600-foot (180-m) radio towers there. Nikola Tesla assisted in the construction. A similar station was erected in Nauen, creating the only wireless communication between North America and Europe.
The invention of amplitude-modulated (AM) radio, so that more than one station can send signals (as opposed to spark-gap radio, where one transmitter covers the entire bandwidth of the spectrum) is attributed to Reginald Fessenden and Lee de Forest. On Christmas Eve 1906,Reginald Fessenden used an Alexanderson alternator and rotary spark-gap transmitter to make the first radio audio broadcast, from Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Ships at sea heard a broadcast that included Fessenden playing O Holy Night on the violin and reading a passage from the Bible.
In 1909, Marconi and Karl Ferdinand Braun were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for "contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy".
Charles David Herrold
In April 1909 Charles David Herrold, an electronics instructor in San Jose, California constructed a broadcasting station. It used spark gaptechnology, but modulated the carrier frequency with the human voice, and later music. The station "San Jose Calling" (there were no call letters), continued to eventually become today's KCBS in San Francisco. Herrold, the son of a Santa Clara Valley farmer, coined the terms "narrowcasting" and "broadcasting", respectively to identify transmissions destined for a single receiver such as that on board a ship, and those transmissions destined for a general audience. (The term "broadcasting" had been used in farming to define the tossing of seed in all directions.) Charles Herrold did not claim to be the first to transmit the human voice, but he claimed to be the first to conduct "broadcasting". To help the radio signal to spread in all directions, he designed some omnidirectional antennas, which he mounted on the rooftops of various buildings in San Jose. Herrold also claims to be the first broadcaster to accept advertising (he exchanged publicity for a local record store for records to play on his station), though this dubious honour usually is foisted on WEAF (1922).
In 1912, the RMS Titanic sank in the northern Atlantic Ocean. After this, wireless telegraphy using spark-gap transmitters quickly became universal on large ships. In 1913, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was convened and produced a treaty requiring shipboard radio stations to be manned 24 hours a day. A typical high-power spark gap was a rotating commutator with six to twelve contacts per wheel, nine inches (229 mm) to a foot wide, driven by about 2000 volts DC. As the gaps made and broke contact, the radio wave was audible as a tone in a Magnetic detector at a remote location. The telegraph key often directly made and broke the 2000 volt supply. One side of the spark gap was directly connected to the antenna. Receivers withthermionic valves became commonplace before spark-gap transmitters were replaced by continuous wave transmitters.
Harold J. Power
On March 8, 1916, Harold Power with his radio company American Radio and Research Company (AMRAD), broadcast the first continuous broadcast in the world from Tufts University under the call sign 1XE (it lasted 3 hours). The company later became the first to broadcast on a daily schedule, and the first to broadcast radio dance programs, university professor lectures, the weather, and bedtime stories.
Inventor Edwin Howard Armstrong is credited with developing many of the features of radio as it is known today. Armstrong patented three important inventions that made today's radio possible. Regeneration, the superheterodyne circuit and wide-band frequency modulation or FM. Regeneration or the use of positive feedback greatly increased the amplitude of received radio signals to the point where they could be heard without headphones. The superhet simplified radio receivers by doing away with the need for several tuning controls. It made radios more sensitive and selective as well. FM gave listeners a static-free experience with better sound quality and fidelity than AM.
Audio broadcasting (1919 to 1950s)
The most common type of receiver before vacuum tubes was the crystal set, although some early radios used some type of amplification through electric current or battery. Inventions of the triode amplifier, motor-generator, and detector enabled audio radio. The use of amplitude modulation(AM), with which more than one station can simultaneously send signals (as opposed to spark-gap radio, where one transmitter covers the entire bandwidth of spectra) was pioneered by Fessenden and Lee de Forest.
To this day there is a small but avid base of fans of this technology who study and practice the art and science of designing and making crystal sets as a hobby; the Boy Scouts of America have often undertaken such craft projects to introduce boys to electronics and radio, and quite a number of them having grown up remain staunch fans of a radio that 'runs on nothing, forever'. As the only energy available is that gathered by the antenna system, there are inherent limitations on how much sound even an ideal set could produce, but with only moderately decent antenna systems remarkable performance is possible with a superior set.
The first vacuum tubes
During the mid 1920s, amplifying vacuum tubes (or thermionic valves in the UK) revolutionizedradio receivers and transmitters. John Ambrose Fleming developed an earlier tube known as an "oscillation valve" (it was a diode). Lee De Forest placed a screen, the "grid" electrode, between the filament and plate electrode, creating the triode. The Dutch engineer Hanso Schotanus à Steringa Idzerda made the first regular wireless broadcast for entertainment from his home in The Hague on 6 November 1919. He broadcast his popular program four nights per week until 1924 when he ran into financial troubles.
On 27 August 1920, regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment began in Argentina, pioneered by the group around Enrique Telémaco Susini, and spark gap telegraphy stopped. On 31 August 1920 the first known radio news program was broadcast by station 8MK, the unlicensed predecessor of WWJ (AM) in Detroit, Michigan. In 1922 regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment began in the UK from theMarconi Research Centre 2MT at Writtle near Chelmsford, England. Early radios ran the entire power of the transmitter through a carbon microphone. In the 1920s, the Westinghouse company bought Lee De Forest's and Edwin Armstrong's patent. During the mid 1920s, Amplifying vacuum tubes (US)/thermionic valves (UK) revolutionized radio receivers and transmitters. Westinghouse engineers developed a more modern vacuum tube.
Licensed commercial public radio stations
The question of the 'first' publicly-targeted licensed radio station in the U.S. has more than one answer and depends on semantics. Settlement of this 'first' question may hang largely upon what constitutes 'regular' programming.
- It is commonly attributed to KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which in October 1920 received its license and went on the air as the first US licensed commercial broadcasting station. (Their engineer Frank Conrad had been broadcasting from his own station since 1916.) Technically, KDKA was the first of several already-extant stations to receive a 'limited commercial' license.
- On February 17, 1919, station 9XM at the University of Wisconsin in Madison broadcast human speech to the public at large. 9XM was first experimentally licensed in 1914, began regular Morse code transmissions in 1916, and its first music broadcast in 1917. Regularly scheduled broadcasts of voice and music began in January 1921. That station is still on the air today as WHA.
- On August 20, 1920, at least two months before KDKA, E.W. Scripps's WBL (now WWJ) in Detroit started broadcasting. It has carried a regular schedule of programming to the present.
- There is the history noted above of Charles David Herrold's radio services (eventually KCBS) going back to 1909.
Broadcasting was not yet supported by advertising or listener sponsorship. The stations owned by manufacturers and department stores were established to sell radios and those owned by newspapers to sell newspapers and express the opinions of the owners. In the 1920s, radio was first used to transmit pictures visible as television. During the early 1930s, single sideband (SSB) and frequency modulation (FM) were invented by amateur radio operators. By 1940, they were established commercial modes.
Westinghouse was brought into the patent allies group, General Electric, American Telephone and Telegraph, and Radio Corporation of America, and became a part owner of RCA. All radios made by GE and Westinghouse were sold under the RCA label 60% GE and 40% Westinghouse. ATT's Western Electric would build radio transmitters. The patent allies attempted to set up a monopoly, but they failed due to successful competition. Much to the dismay of the patent allies, several of the contracts for inventor's patents held clauses protecting "amateurs" and allowing them to use the patents. Whether the competing manufacturers were really amateurs was ignored by these competitors.
These features arose:
- Commercial (United States) or governmental (Europe) station networks
- Federal Radio Commission
- Federal Communications Commission
- Birth of the soap opera
- Race towards shorter waves and FM
Dates of first radio stations
This is a listing of radio stations in broadcast networks. The earliest radio stations were simply radio telegraph systems which did not carry audio are not listed. The included first radio station encompass AM and FM stations; these include both commercial, public and nonprofit varieties found throughout the world.
- The first claimed audio transmission that could be termed to be from a broadcast station occurred on Christmas Eve in 1906, and was made by Reginald Fessenden.
Charles Herrold started broadcasting from a station in California in 1909 and was carrying audio by 1910.
- Some of the dates listed here may not be accurate. Feel free to make corrections to either of the lists.
US and Canadian territories
This list details the advent of radio in the United States and Canada.
This list includes all other countries except the United States and Canada.
^Note 1 : Date unconfirmed.
^Note 2 : Broadcasts had also been available from Louisiana and Alabama since 1922.
^Note 3 : Broadcasts were also available from North Carolina and Georgia.
^Note 4 : Broadcasts were also available from Colorado since 1921.
^Note 5 : Radio broadcasting in Java briefly ceased after a station was destroyed by lightning.
^Note 6 : Broadcasts from Argentina had also been available as is the case today.
^Note 7 : Radio broadcasting had also been received from Italy, since Vatican City lies within the vicinity of Rome as is the case today.
^Note 8 : Malta had also received radio broadcasts from Italy. The British adopted a radio service on the island to counter Fascist propaganda.
^Note 9 : Radio broadcasts did exist in the Bahamas prior to 1936. Before then, they were received from the United States.
^Note 10 : Also received radio broadcasts from nearby Yugoslavia.
^Note 11 : Broadcasting in Aden ceased in 1946-1947 and again from 1948-1955.
^Note 12 : Andorra also received radio broadcasts from Spain.
^Note 13 : Radio broadcasts from the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands had also been available.
^Note 14 : Broadcasts had also been received from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
^Note 15 : Broadcasts had previously been received from South Africa.
FM and television start
In 1933, FM radio was patented by inventor Edwin H. Armstrong. FM uses frequency modulation of the radio wave to minimize static andinterference from electrical equipment and the atmosphere, in the audio program. In 1937, W1XOJ, the first experimental FM radio station, was granted a construction permit by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the 1930s, standard analog televisiontransmissions started in Europe, and then in the 1940s in North America. Armstrong's FM system was designated by the FCC to transmit and receive television sound.
Marconi's priority dispute
In 1943, the United States Supreme Court ruled one Marconi patent invalid on the basis of prior art by John Stone Stone and Tesla. This decision was based on the fact that prior art existed before the establishment of Marconi's patent. Ignoring Tesla's prior art, the decision may have enabled the U.S. government to avoid having to pay damages that were being claimed by the Marconi Company for use of its patents during World War I (as, it is speculated, the government's initial reversal to grant Marconi the patent right in order to nullify any claims Tesla had for compensation).
FM in Europe
After World War II, the FM radio broadcast was introduced in Germany. In 1948, a new wavelength plan was set up for Europe at a meeting inCopenhagen. Because of the recent war, Germany (which did not exist as a state and so was not invited) was only given a small number ofmedium-wave frequencies, which are not very good for broadcasting. For this reason Germany began broadcasting on UKW ("Ultrakurzwelle", i.e. ultra short wave, nowadays called VHF) which was not covered by the Copenhagen plan. After some amplitude modulation experience with VHF, it was realized that FM radio was a much better alternative for VHF radio than AM. Because of this history FM Radio is still referred to as "UKW Radio" in Germany. Other European nations followed a bit later, when the superior sound quality of FM and the ability to run many more local stations because of the more limited range of VHF broadcasts were realized.
Later 20th century developments
In 1954 Regency introduced a pocket transistor radio, the TR-1, powered by a "standard 22.5V Battery". In the early 1960s, VOR systems finally became widespread for aircraft navigation; before that, aircraft used commercial AM radio stations for navigation. (AM stations are still marked on U.S. aviation charts). In 1960 Sony introduced their first transistorized radio, small enough to fit in a vest pocket, and able to be powered by a small battery. It was durable, because there were no tubes to burn out. Over the next twenty years, transistors displaced tubes almost completely except for picture tubes and very high power or very high frequency uses.
Color television and digital
- 1963: Color television was commercially transmitted, and the first (radio) communication satellite, Telstar, was launched.
- Late 1960s: The USA long-distance telephone network began to convert to a digital network, employing digital radios for many of its links.
- 1970s: LORAN became the premier radio navigation system. Soon, the U.S. Navy experimented with satellite navigation.
- 1987: The GPS constellation of satellites was launched.
- Early 1990s: amateur radio experimenters began to use personal computers with audio cards to process radio signals.
- 1994: The U.S. Army and DARPA launched an aggressive successful project to construct a software radio that could become a different radio on the fly by changing software.
- Late 1990s: Digital transmissions began to be applied to broadcasting.
Telex on radio
Telegraphy did not go away on radio. Instead, the degree of automation increased. On land-lines in the 1930s, Teletypewriters automated encoding, and were adapted to pulse-code dialing to automate routing, a service called telex. For thirty years, telex was the absolute cheapest form of long-distance communication, because up to 25 telex channels could occupy the same bandwidth as one voice channel. For business and government, it was an advantage that telex directly produced written documents.
Telex systems were adapted to short-wave radio by sending tones over single sideband. CCITT R.44 (the most advanced pure-telex standard) incorporated character-level error detection and retransmission as well as automated encoding and routing. For many years, telex-on-radio (TOR) was the only reliable way to reach some third-world countries. TOR remains reliable, though less-expensive forms of e-mail are displacing it. Many national telecom companies historically ran nearly pure telex networks for their governments, and they ran many of these links over short wave radio.
Legal issues with radio
When radio was first introduced in the 1930s many predicted the end of records. Radio was a free medium for the public to hear music for which they would normally pay. While some companies saw radio as a new avenue for promotion, others feared it would cut into profits from record sales and live performances. Many companies had their major stars sign agreements that they would not appear on radio.
Indeed, the music recording industry had a severe drop in profits after the introduction of the radio. For a while, it appeared as though radio was a definite threat to the record industry. Radio ownership grew from 2 out of 5 homes in 1931 to 4 out of 5 homes in 1938. Meanwhile record sales fell from $75 million in 1929 to $26 million in 1938 (with a low point of $5 million in 1933), though the economics of the situation were also affected by the Great Depression.
The copyright owners of these songs were concerned that they would see no gain from the popularity of radio and the ‘free’ music it provided. Luckily, everything they needed to make this new medium work for them already existed in previous copyright law. The copyright holder for a song had control over all public performances ‘for profit.’ The problem now was proving that the radio industry, which was just figuring out for itself how to make money from advertising and currently offered free music to anyone with a receiver, was making a profit from the songs.
The test case was against Bamberger Department Store in Newark, New Jersey in 1922. The store was broadcasting music throughout its store on the radio station WOR. No advertisements were heard, except for at the beginning of the broadcast which announced "L. Bamberger and Co., One of America's Great Stores, Newark, New Jersey." It was determined through this and previous cases (such as the lawsuit against Shanley's Restaurant) that Bamberger was using the songs for commercial gain, thus making it a public performance for profit, which meant the copyright owners were due payment.
With this ruling the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) began collecting licensing fees from radio stations in 1923. The beginning sum was $230 for all music protected under ASCAP, but for larger stations the price soon ballooned up to $5,000. Edward Samuel's reports in his book The Illustrated Story of Copyright that "radio and TV licensing represents the single greatest source of revenue for ASCAP and its composers […] and average member of ASCAP gets about $150–$200 per work per year, or about $5,000-$6,000 for all of a member's compositions. Not long after the Bamberger ruling, ASCAP had to once again defend their right to charge fees in 1924. The Dill Radio Bill would have allowed radio stations to play music without paying and licensing fees to ASCAP or any other music-licensing corporations. The bill did not pass.
- Meteor scatter
- Earth-Moon-Earth communication
Many contributed to wireless. Individuals that helped to further the science include, among others:
- Amateur radio history
- Birth of public radio broadcasting
- Digital audio broadcasting (DAB)
- Digital Radio Mondiale
- History of science and technology
- History of television
- Internet radio
- List of old-time radio people
- Personal area networks
- Radio Act of 1912
- Radio Act of 1927
- Sirius Satellite Radio
- Spark gap transmitter
- Timeline of radio
- Wireless LANs
- Wireless Ship Act of 1910
- XM Radio
- ^ a b The Invention of Radioinventors.about.com/od/rstartinventions/a/radio.htm
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- ^ "Experiments with Alternating Currents of High Potential and High Frequency". Delivered before the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London, February 1892.
- ^ The Electrical world, Volume 29
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- ^ The same concepts were patented by Tesla in U.S. Patent 462,418.
- ^ Those two patents were issued in early 1900.
- ^ These are known as electric circuit controllers.
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- ^ Corum, K. L., and J. F. Corum, "Tesla's Colorado Springs Receivers (A Short Introduction)".
- ^ Noticias, Últimas noticias, El español Julio Cervera Baviera, y no Marconi, fue quien inventó la radio, según el profesor Ángel Faus . Universidad de Navarra
- ^ Un estudio asegura que fue el español Cervera Baviera y no Marconi el inventor de la radio - comunicación - elmundo.es
- ^ News, Latest news, The Spaniard Julio Cervera Baviera, and not Marconi, was the inventor of the radio, according to professor Ángel Faus . University of Navarra
- ^ Domenico Mazzotto, Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony. Translated by Selimo Romeo Bottone (Whittaker & Co., 1906), 217.
- ^ "North Hall." Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History. Ed. Anne Sauer 
- ^ liebowitz.dvi
- ^ frontline: the way the music died: inside the music industry: chronology - technology and the music industry | PBS
- ^ Creativity Wants to be Paid
- ^ Chapter Two
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Media and documentaries
- Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio (1992) by Ken Burns, PBS documentary based on the 1991 book, Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio by Tom Lewis, 1st ed., New York : E. Burlingame Books, ISBN 0-06-018215-6
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Antique radios|
- "A Comparison of the Tesla and Marconi Low-Frequency Wireless Systems ". Twenty First Century Books, Breckenridge, Co.
- Marconi's Early Wireless Experiments, 1895 IEEE History Center
- Sparks Telegraph Key Review
- Early Radio History
- Radio waves, the Hertzian Radiation: what it is and how it happens.
- Information on the development of Radio at Camp Evans, New Jersey
- "The Invention of Radio". inventors.about.com.
- Zenonas Langaitis — Old radios from Lithuania * (Europa, Baltic States, past USSR
- "The Invention of the Radio". Through the wires, a century of communication, library.thinkquest.org.
- "Presentation of the Edison Medal to Nikola Tesla". Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Held at the Engineering Society Building, New York City, Friday evening, May 18, 1917.
- "Guglielmo Marconi and Early Systems of Wireless Communication". Marconi.com. (PDF file)
- Timeline of the First Thirty Years of Radio 1895 – 1925; An important chapter in the Death of Distance. Nova Scotia, Canada, March 14, 2006.
- Ontario Plaques - The Rogers Batteryless Radio
- Brazilian experimenter Roberto Landell de Moura
- Portuguese Radio History: Telefonia Sem Fios - História da Rádio em Portugal
- Cybertelecom :: Radio History (legal and regulatory)
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation archives