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Wireless Networking Communications Hardware Science

Broadcast Radio Turns 100 109

GraWil writes "On Christmas eve 1906, a Canadian physicist named Reginald Fessenden presented the world's first wireless radio broadcast from his transmitter at Brant Rock, MA. The transmission included Christmas music and was heard by radio operators on board US Navy and United Fruit Company ships equipped with Fessenden's wireless receivers at various distances over the South and North Atlantic, and in the West Indies. Fessenden was a key rival of Marconi in the early 1900s who, using morse-code, succeeded in passing signals across the Atlantic in 1901. Fessenden's work was the first real departure from Marconi's damped-wave-coherer system for telegraphy and represent the first pioneering steps toward radio communications and radio broadcasting. He later became embroiled in a long-running legal dispute over the control of his radio-related patents, which were eventually acquired by RCA."
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Broadcast Radio Turns 100

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  • by slughead ( 592713 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @10:26AM (#17347866) Homepage Journal
    I don't know about anyone else, but with satellite radio becoming more and more popular, both of the radio stations that I can stand to listen to here in Phoenix (KDKB and KSLX) have changed formats.

    The competition from these sat companies has lead to fewer commercials, a FAR more extensive playlist on LOCAL stations. KDKB has "deep cuts" where they take songs off popular albums that they never play on the radio. On weekends, KSLX plays ENTIRE ALBUMS *gasp*!

    Now that sat radio has changed everything, I hope they don't run these locals out of town; they're just starting to get good!

    As a side note, does anyone else who's taken physics see the issue with calling it "Satellite Radio" being as how it uses microwaves and not 'radio' waves?
  • Re:Super heterodyne? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 23, 2006 @10:28AM (#17347874)
    KDKA started broadcasting on November 2, 1920 as the first commercial radio station in the United States. It also claims to be the first radio station broadcasting on a regular schedule. That claim is complicated by the fact that radio prior to 1920 was mostly experimental and good records are not kept for all "experimental" signals of contesting stations. Further, another radio station in North America, XWA-AM in Montréal, Québec, Canada (renamed CFCF-AM on November 4, 1920), began its commercial, regular broadcast programming schedule on May 20, 1920 -- nearly six months before KDKA aired its first regularly scheduled broadcast. []

    I remember listening to school closings and football/baseball games on there growing up. On a good night, 600 miles away, I can still listen to them.
  • Birth of FM radio (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @10:44AM (#17347910)
    The Birthplace of FM Broadcasting [], Alpine, N.J. []
  • Radio Music Box (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @10:58AM (#17347978)
    "Radio Music Box" Memo [], David Sarnoff, November, 1916/January, 1920(?):

    "I have in mind a plan of development which would make radio a 'household utility' in the same sense as the piano or phonograph. The idea is to bring music into the house by wireless.

    "While this has been tried in the past by wires, it has been a failure because wires do not lend themselves to this scheme. With radio, however, it would seem to be entirely feasible. For example--a radio telephone transmitter having a range of say 25 to 50 miles can be installed at a fixed point where instrumental or vocal music or both are produced. The problem of transmitting music has already been solved in principle and therefore all the receivers attuned to the transmitting wave length should be capable of receiving such music. The receiver can be designed in the form of a simple 'Radio Music Box' and arranged for several different wave lengths, which should be changeable with the throwing of a single switch or pressing of a single button.

    "The 'Radio Music Box' can be supplied with amplifying tubes and a loudspeaking telephone, all of which can be neatly mounted in one box. The box can be placed on a table in the parlor or living room, the switch set accordingly and the transmitted music received. There should be no difficulty in receiving music perfectly when transmitted within a radius of 25 to 50 miles. Within such a radius there reside hundreds of thousands of families; and as all can simultaneously receive from a single transmitter, there would be no question of obtaining sufficiently loud signals to make the performance enjoyable. The power of the transmitter can be made 5 k.w., if necessary, to cover even a short radius of 25 to 50 miles; thereby giving extra loud signals in the home if desired. The use of head telephones would be obviated by this method. The development of a small loop antenna to go with each 'Radio Music Box' would likewise solve the antennae problem.

    "The same principle can be extended to numerous other fields as, for example, receiving lectures at home which be made perfectly audible; also events of national importance can be simultaneously announced and received. Baseball scores can be transmitted in the air by the use of one set installed at the Polo Grounds. The same would be true of other cities. This proposition would be especially interesting to farmers and others living in outlying districts removed from cities. By the purchase of a 'Radio Music Box' they could enjoy concerts, lectures, music, recitals, etc., which may be going on in the nearest city within their radius. While I have indicated a few of the most probable fields of usefulness for such a device, yet there are numerous other fields to which the principle can be extended...

  • Re:Radio Music Box (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nate B. ( 2907 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @11:21AM (#17348058) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if the the radio pioneers (Marconi, Fessenden, Sarnoff, et. al.) would be impressed or disappointed by the progress we've made in communications technology over the past century. I'm sure we can point to areas where advances could/should have been made sooner. The upcoming digital TV cutover date in just over two years is a prime example. Its adoption is being hindered by the inertia of a huge installed base of working analog TV sets.

    Will the second century of broadcasting bring as much change as the first?
  • Re:The Wireless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C0vardeAn0nim0 ( 232451 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @12:02PM (#17348240) Journal
    the name "radio" comes from the same root as "radiation", i.e. something that propagates radialy from a common center. think on the radius of circle.
  • Ex-Motorolan (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dtmos ( 447842 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @04:42PM (#17349534)
    The story in Boca Raton, Florida, location of the original engineering design team, was that "XM" stood for "Ex-Motorolan," since a very large fraction of the engineers and engineering management came from a Motorola plant in nearby Boynton Beach that had just gone through several rounds of layoffs. (The Motorola plant has since been closed, sold and razed, replaced with condominiums.)

    I'm pretty sure the story is apocryphal, but it's too good not to repeat.
  • by drwho ( 4190 ) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @04:50PM (#17349574) Homepage Journal
    What is important is not that Fessenden broadcast a signal to ships at sea, but that he did it using an audio signal, i.e. music and speech. He invented radio telephony. Before Fessenden, radio was purely Marconi's radio telegraphy (morse code).

    Also, it is not entirely accurate calling Fessenden Canadian. He lived in the US at the time of this breakthrough, and would for some time, before moving to Bermuda. He can be said to be of 'Canadian origin'.

    I know much about Fessenden because of the house he had owned in Newton, Massachusetts during and after his Brant Rock experiments. After Fesseden's death, the house was sold to my mother's family, and she recalls that there was some strange laboratory equipment in the basement of that house, where she grew up. This house is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.