Radio has long been our friend.
One of the most immediate forms of mass communication, the radio has been a staple in American society for almost a century. We use it to listen to sporting events, to listen to music, to listen to talk shows and it helps to get us through our daily endeavors and commutes.
The communicational medium was the product of a series of breakthroughs. James Clerk Maxwell of Scotland and Heinrich Hertz of Germany discovered electromagnetic waves, which was the first of several steps that made the ideas behind radio possible. So the next time you are listening to a Washington Redskins game on 92.7 FM, thank Maxwell and Hertz.
Another paramount step in the development of the radio was the innovation of methods for freighting those waves with coded messages, which is known as “wireless telegraphy.” An Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi is credited with this discovery. A recipient of the 1909 Nobel Prize for his work in physics, Marconi is still viewed as one of the father’s of radio. Awards given to today’s top on-air programs and personalities are still known as “Marocni Awards.”
The inaugural commercial radio station — KDKA in Pittsburgh — launched on Nov. 2, 1920. The company that launched the station, Westinghouse, was led by an executive (Harry P. Davis), who had seen the power that radio could have in communicating to the masses. He had been fiddling around with different radio advances in his garage and had received a flooded response, so he decided to focus his idea into a commercial radio station.
Initially, Westinghouse sold each individual radio that people would be listening to. By the end of 1922, 576 radio stations were in operation in the United States. That year, 100,000 more radios were purchased.
Radio had been born.
KDKA’s first broadcast. They covered the returns of the 1920 Harding-Cox presidential election.
The beauty of the radio is that it is immediate.
When news is breaking on Television, crews have to be on hand and cameras must be sent to the scene. Newspapers covering an event can only get the news out to their readers after a paper is printed, which usually occurs on a 24-hour cycle. But radio is immediate. All you need today is a cell phone, and you can be on the air, live from the scene of breaking news.