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* A single-source of broadcast history-covers past and present influences on broadcast communications, and showcases trends both old and emerging in the broadcast industry * Chronological approach, timelines, and contextualizing sidebars help orient readers and demonstrate key implications of broadcasting history and broadcasting of today * Updated to reflect new and emerging technologies of the past decade, including podcasts, web, blogging, and more * Companion website provides further contextualizing information regarding the cultural climate surround events in broadcast history, and points to extensive resources -Instructions on how to access the website may be found in the book. -Please visit booksite.focalpress.com/hilliard
Audience: Courses in broadcast history; broadcast professionals.
Genesis to 1920
In these early moments of the 21st century, we tend to be surprised from time to time when we read a current news story about a "broadcast pioneer" or hear a radio interview or see a television program with one of the men or women who were involved at the very beginning of broadcasting. For most people—that is, anyone under 75 years of age—radio seems to have been around forever. For people not yet 40, the same seems to be true for television. Many of us are sometimes startled to learn that the not-too-old-looking gray-headed person we have seen in a TV interview or met in person is a television pioneer.
But when we consider that the first radio station in the United States was licensed by the federal government in 1921 and full commercial television operation was authorized in 1941, we realize that broadcasting is, indeed, a 20th-century phenomenon.
Like all new inventions, however, neither radio nor television blossomed full grown out of the ether. As many inventors have said, they "stand on the shoulders" of those who preceded them. Each new discovery is based, either directly or indirectly, on previous work in a similar area of endeavor. Samuel F. B. Morse's wire telegraph in 1835 led to Alexander Graham Bell's wire telephone in 1875, which, in turn, set the stage for Guglielmo Marconi's wireless, or radio, telegraph in 1895. The next logical step was a wireless telephone.
No one knows for certain when the first human voice was communicated over the airwaves, but the predecessor of modern radio is frequently attributed to Reginald A. Fessenden's work in 1906, with an acknowledgment to Nathan B. Stubblefield's experimental transmissions as early as 1892. Finally, it took Lee de Forest's 1906 invention of the audion, a tube that could amplify the signal for distance broadcasting purposes, to make possible the development of radio as we know it today. De Forest is generally considered the "father" of American radio.
But even de Forest didn't do it alone. His successes were dependent on the earlier work of the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison and the English engineer Sir John A. Fleming, and on the efforts of dozens of other scientists—such as James Clerk Maxwell and Heinrich Hertz—before them. The groundwork for radio and television was laid in the 19th century.
The Ancients to the 21st Century
There has always been a need for mass communication. When the first caveman or cavewoman danced the first dance, it was for the purpose of conveying an event, an idea, or a warning to a group of cave dwellers. Cave drawings, many of which are considered artistic, did not have "art for art's sake" as a purpose; they were meant to tell something to others. Distance communication to a group of people has been sought throughout history: fire and smoke signals, drums, sunlight reflection, musical instruments, gunfire. War has always been a progenitor of inventions for distance communication. The Argonauts conveyed messages from their ships by using different sail colors. Julius Caesar constructed high towers at intervals so that sentinels could shout messages along a route; some historians estimate that a communication passed along by this means could progress 150 miles in only a few hours.
The ancient Greeks developed a system of using flags to signal between ships. In medieval times, when gunpowder became a key ingredient of warfare, the number and frequency of cannon fire were translated into signals. When a town came under attack, the populace was warned through the ringing of bells. Trumpets were used as signals into the 20th century. The heliograph was used extensively for centuries, reflecting sunlight off a mirrored surface as far as seven miles.
Native Americans used puffs of smoke during the day and torches and flaming arrows at night to send information. One of the most important preelectronic distance information systems was the semaphore, an ancient Roman device redeveloped by Claude Chappe in France in 1794; the French government erected towers five miles apart and placed huge cross arms at the top of each. The semaphore continued to be used even after the invention of the telegraph and telephone. In some parts of the world, carrier pigeons are still used as message carriers over long distances.
As early as 1267, the basic concept of using what we now know as electricity for conveying messages was suggested by the English philosopher Roger Bacon—who was promptly imprisoned for allegedly advocating "black magic." Three hundred years later, in Italy, Giovanni Battista della Porta was ridiculed after writing a book on "natural magic" in which he proposed that magnetism could be used to transmit information. It wasn't until the late 18th century that the notion of electricity as a useful tool was accepted, due to such inventions as the Leyden jar and to Benjamin Franklin's experiments with lightning. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw seminal discoveries in the nature of electricity by physicists all over the world, including Michael Faraday in England, André Ampère in France, George Ohm in Germany, and Count Alessandro Volta in Italy. The last three names are immortalized as standard terms for electrical functions today.
Samuel F. B. Morse's invention of the electromagnetic telegraph in 1835 opened the door to the distance communications of today. It took six years of struggle and rejection, however, before a grant from Congress in 1841 to run a telegraph line between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore established the acceptance of the telegraph. Its success in conveying the results of the Democratic National Convention in 1844 enabled Morse to raise enough private funds to extend the telegraph to Philadelphia and New York, and within a few years telegraph systems had been constructed in other parts of the country. In 1861 Western Union built the first transcontinental telegraph line. During this same period, in 1842, Morse proved that distant signals could be sent underwater as well, and in 1866, after a number of unsuccessful tries, Cyrus W. Field established a transatlantic underwater cable between Europe and the United States, linked in Newfoundland.
The importance of these new techniques for distance communication was reflected in the U.S. government's assumption of regulatory powers. The Post Roads Act of 1866 authorized the postmaster general to fix rates annually for telegrams sent by the government. In 1887 the government authorized the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to require telegraph companies to interconnect their lines for more extended public service.
The transmission of voice messages by wire—as differentiated from the "dit-dah" signals of the telegraph—did not come about until 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell was credited with the invention of the telephone when, on March 10, he uttered these famous words over a wire to an associate: "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you." The first regular telephone line was constructed in 1877, between Boston and Somerville, Massachusetts.
But even the great Bell stood on the shoulders of those who came before. Decades earlier, scientists such as G. G. Page, Charles Borseul, and Philip Reis were experimenting with the electromagnetic transmission of sound. In 1837, for example, Reis discovered that the magnetization and demagnetization of an iron bar could cause the emission of sounds. Some historians credit Reis with the initial development of the principle of the telephone. With the founding of the Bell Telephone Company in 1878 and the incorporation of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885, the growth of distance communication in the United States was assured.
Yet the telephone was not immediately praised or even accepted. Just as with later inventions, such as television, the telephone created nightmare visions of control of the masses and invasions of privacy. A cartoon in the New York Daily Graphic of March 15, 1877, for example, illustrated what the artist called the "terrors of the telephone" by showing a speaker at a telephone-like device mesmerizing masses of people listening simultaneously throughout the world. Of course, the opposite was also present: cartoons, articles, and even popular songs lauded the potential wonders of the telephone, including the distance dissemination to mass audiences of music, information, drama, and education, precisely what radio broadcasting was initially lauded for when it began. In fact, in 1881 a French engineer, Clément Ader, filed a patent for "Improvements of Telephone Equipment in Theaters" for the purpose of putting telephones on theater stages so that subscribers could hear the performances at home. Ader's Paris Opera Experiment was an example of wired broadcast transmission.
Even before wired voice transmission came into use, scientists were seeking means of wireless transmission. In 1864 a Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, predicted the existence of radio waves—that is, waves on which communication signals could be carried, similar to the signals that could be carried over telegraph wires.
This area of study became known as electromagnetic theory. As early as 1872, a patent for nonradiation wireless was obtained in the United States by Mahlon Loomis, and in that same decade William Cookes developed the first cathode ray tube. But actual distance transmission still hadn't been invented. In 1887 theory turned into reality when a German physicist, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, projected rapid variations of electric current into space in the form of radio waves, similar to those of light and heat. In 1892 he sent electric waves around an oscillating (regularly fluctuating) circuit. So important were Hertz's contributions that his name has been adopted as the measure of all radio frequencies.
Although aural transmission was still being perfected, even back in the 1880s scientists were experimenting with visual transmission potentials that 40 years later would turn into television. In 1880 a Frenchman, Maurice Lablance, developed the principle of scanning, in which an image is converted to electric signals by a line-by-line registration of its features. This principle would become the basis for video technology. A German scientist, Paul Nipkow, implemented this principle in 1884 by designing the first mechanical scanning disk. Before the end of the century, in 1897, the German physicist Karl Ferdinand Braun produced a cathode ray oscilloscope that could visually observe electric signals—but that would take a backseat to radio.
It is the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi who is credited with the first successful demonstration of the wireless, or radio, telegraph. In 1895 he sent and received a radio signal and in 1899 showed that it could be done at a distance, across the English Channel. Later that year Marconi came to the United States to report the America's Cup yacht race by wireless for the New York Herald; while in the States he formed the American Marconi Telegraph Company, which would later prove to be a key power in the establishment of radio stations. That same year, 1899, the U.S. Navy tried out wireless communication.
During the same period, an immigrant to the United States from Serbia, Nikola Tesla, invented the system of alternating current and experimented with various forms of wireless transmission. One of the world's greatest inventors in the last of the 19th century and in the early 20th century, he has been largely neglected by historians. In fact, Marconi received the Nobel Prize for an invention that appeared to be adapted directly from a prior Tesla invention. Eventually, in 1943, Tesla was legally recognized as the inventor of radio transmission, his early patents given precedence over Marconi's.
Radio broadcasting, however, was still some years off. As noted earlier, some attribute the first wireless transmission of a human voice to the inventor Nathan B. Stubblefield, who in 1892 spoke the words "Hello, Rainey" to an assistant a distance away in an experiment near the town of Murray, Kentucky. Yet the basis for AM radio is the electron tube, and it is generally assumed that at the time of Stubblefield's experiments it had not yet been invented, and that Stubblefield used both induction and conduction at very low frequencies. Although in 1883 Thomas Alva Edison had observed the emission of electrons from a heated surface, such as a tube's cathode, the discovery of the electron is credited to the British researcher Sir J. J. Thomson for a series of experiments he conducted in the 1890s. Nevertheless, further steps, specifically an electron tube and amplification, were necessary before the electron could be used for broadcasting. Sir John A. Fleming and Lee de Forest took those steps some years later. De Forest, noted earlier as the father of American radio, presaged the future as the 19th century came to an end. In 1899, in his doctoral dissertation at Yale University, de Forest wrote on the spread of the radio waves discovered in the preceding decade by Heinrich Hertz. It took yet another decade to enter the Broadcast Century.
The First Decade, 1900–1909: The Wireless Arrives
The first decade of the 20th century saw a rapid advancement in the inventions, business organization, university experiments, and citizen interest required to make radio a reality. Several names—Fessenden, de Forest, Fleming, and Marconi—were principally responsible for the development of broadcast radio before the end of the decade.
At the same time that a Canadian, Reginald A. Fessenden—who was later to be credited with the first true radio broadcast—was working for the U.S. Weather Bureau to experiment with disseminating weather information by wireless, Marconi was setting up an experiment that would earn worldwide headlines and become a significant spur to further radio development. In 1901 Marconi and his assistant, George Kemp, listened to a telephone receiver on top of a hill in Saint John's, Newfoundland, and heard the Morse code signal of three dots, for the letter S, which was being transmitted from Cornwall, England, more than 2,000 miles away. That same year the U.S. Navy, influenced by Marconi's previous successes, replaced its visual signaling and homing pigeons with the wireless telegraph. Other U.S. government agencies, including the Army and the Department of Agriculture, conducted experimental operations with wireless.
Ships of various nations adopted the wireless, and its success at protecting life and property became so widespread throughout the world that in 1903 an international conference was held in Berlin to discuss common distress-call signs for ships and to promote wireless communication between ship and shore—which was not yet in practice—as well as between ships. A few years later the international distress signal, SOS, was adopted and remains in use today.
The next goal was to transmit the human voice comparable distances over the wireless. Both de Forest and Fessenden were confident that it was possible to do so. In 1902 each established a communications business: Fessenden's National Electric Signaling Company and de Forest's Wireless Telegraph Company. Fessenden believed it was necessary to go beyond Marconi's basic approach, and instead of a wave interrupted with intermittent impositions, he advocated a continuous wave on which modulations would be superimposed. He had demonstrated in 1901 that it could be done, and in 1902 he developed an electrolytic detector. Two years later, in England, the engineer Sir John A. Fleming developed the glass-bulb detector, which was a simple electron tube, a diode, that was necessary to receive voice signals. But the diode couldn't amplify the electronic signals.
Other experimenters were engaged by the wireless. A professor at the University of Graz in Austria, Otto Nussbaumer, was doing almost the same thing as Fessenden and Fleming. He invented a detector circuit that peeled off the sound at the receiving end, enabling him to send sounds rather than just dots and dashes. Using an experimental transmitter, he yodeled an Austrian folk song that was heard in the next room, ostensibly the first "music" ever transmitted by wireless. But he, too, lacked the means for amplification necessary for true broadcasting.
De Forest took the next step. He added a third element, or grid, to the Fleming vacuum tube and in 1906 filed a patent for his tube, calling it the audion. This "triode" tube enabled the signal to be amplified, making possible distant voice transmission over the wireless, and ushered in the age of radio. The following year, de Forest formed the de Forest Radio Telephone Company, which began broadcasting in New York. An entry in his diary that year stated: "My present task is to distribute sweet melody broadcast over the city and sea so that in time even the marine far out across the silent waves may hear the music of his homeland."
Excerpted from The Broadcast Century and Beyond by Robert L. Hilliard Michael C. Keith Copyright © 2010 by Elsevier, Inc. . Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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