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The Tragic Birth of FM Radio

Article #209 • Written by Greg Bjerg

▼ Scroll to Continue ▼

In 1934, much of the world was in the grip of the Great Depression. Unemployment was an epidemic, and many businesses struggled desperately to survive. One notable exception to these economic troubles, however, was the radio industry. Broadcasters in the US were making upwards of two billion dollars a year, and they owed much of their success to the innovations of a brilliant man named Edwin Armstrong. Twenty years earlier he had significantly improved the sensitivity and quality of radio receivers with his invention of the regenerative circuit in his junior year of college, and he went on to further improve them with his Super Regenerative circuit and Super Heterodyne receiver. These laid the foundation for the success of radio broadcasting-- in fact, almost any radio you buy today will still incorporate these innovations. But in 1933, Armstrong brought about an even more revolutionary change in the broadcasting business: FM radio.

In spite of these brilliant technical achievements, Armstrong saw little financial benefit from his inventions. Many of his ideas were plundered by unscrupulous people, a trend which ultimately led to Armstrong's tragic and premature death.

The first of Armstrong's technology troubles began in 1922 when he lost a patent lawsuit for the rights to the regenerative circuit. A man named Lee De Forest had patented the same invention in 1916-- two years after Armstrong's patent was granted-- and sold the rights to AT&T. A long and bitter legal dispute followed, which progressed all the way to the US Supreme Court. Utterly failing to grasp the technical facts in question, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of De Forest, and stripped Armstrong of his patent. Despite the scientific community's certainty that Armstrong was the inventor of the regenerative circuit, Armstrong lost the patent battle which spanned twenty-one years, thirteen court rulings, and thirty judges.

Armstrong before Radio Club of America
Armstrong before Radio Club of America

In the meantime, between court appearances and legal meetings, Armstrong continued to innovate. He started to work on the "static problem" which plagued early radios, despite some colleague's assertion that static could never be eliminated. At the time, radio was transmitted via Amplitude Modulation (AM), which varied the amplitude of the radio waves. This gave the signal a much wider reach, but resulted in poor-quality sound. Armstrong sought to improve the signal quality by instead varying the radio waves' frequency, creating Frequency Modulation radio (FM). He won a patent for FM radio in 1933, and the following year he did his first field test when he broadcast an organ recital in AM and FM signals from the top of the Empire State Building. The AM broadcast was static-filled and the FM broadcast was clean and rich. Listeners were shocked by the difference. Later, in experiment after experiment he proved the on-air differences and improvements in sound.

Just before World War 2, Armstrong successfully lobbied the FCC to create an FM broadcast spectrum between 42 and 50 MHz. He built an experimental station and 410-foot tower at a cost of $300,000 in Alpine, New Jersey. He started a small network of high-powered FM stations in New England called the Yankee Network, and began manufacturing receivers to pick up the broadcasts. To all who heard the fledgling network, its quality was astounding. The broadcasts could deliver the entire range of human hearing between 50 and 15,000 cycles while AM delivered only 5,000 cycles. A club for FM radio enthusiasts started in pre-war New York, and launched its own magazine called FM. Armstrong was trying as hard as he could to prove the superiority of FM broadcasts... all people had to do was listen.

Armstrong FM tower in New Jersey
Armstrong FM tower in New Jersey

Armstrong went on to prove that FM was capable of dual-channel transmissions, allowing for stereo sound. This capability of FM could also be used to send two separate non-stereo programs, or a facsimile and telegraph message simultaneously in a process called multiplexing. He even successfully bounced a FM signal off the moon, something not possible with AM signals.

Of course AM radio was big business in the pre-television days, and there were powerful people who wanted things to stay as they were. Innovation only meant smaller profits for them. At that time there was no more influential man in radio media than the founder of RCA, David Sarnoff. Known as "The General," Sarnoff controlled all the technical aspects of radio; he also created the NBC and ABC television networks. He was also an important early supporter of television and developed the current NTSC standard for TV that we have used for over 60 years.

Seeking to kill FM radio before it could threaten his profits, Sarnoff's company successfully lobbied the FCC to have the FM spectrum moved from Armstrong’s frequencies to the ones we use today: 88 to 108 MHz. That move, which occurred on 27 June 1945, immediately rendered Armstrong’s Yankee Network obsolete, along with all of the FM radio sets which had been produced. The cost to re-equip the stations for the new frequencies would be enormous. The FCC ruling said that the 40 MHz band was to be used for the new television broadcasts, in which RCA had a heavy stake. RCA also had an ally in AT&T, which actively supported the frequency move because the loss of FM relaying stations forced the Yankee Network stations to buy wired links from AT&T. The deck was stacked against the future of FM broadcasting.

Matters became worse when Armstrong became entangled in a new patent suit with RCA and NBC, who were using FM technology without paying royalties. The cost of the new legal battle compounded the financial burden that the problems with the Yankee Network had caused. His health and temperament deteriorated as the FM lawsuit dominated his life. His wife of thirty-one years, unable to cope with his worsening personality and financial strain, left him in November of 1953. RCA's greater financial resources crushed Armstrong's legal defences, and he was left penniless, alone, and distraught.

Edwin Armstrong (1890-1954)
Edwin Armstrong (1890-1954)

On February 1, 1954, Armstrong's body was discovered on the roof of a three-story wing of his apartment building. In despair, he had thrown himself out the window of his thirteenth-floor New York City apartment sometime during the night. He died believing he was a failure, and that FM radio would never become accepted. Through the years Armstrong’s widow would bring twenty-one patent infringement suits against many companies, including RCA. She eventually won a little over $10 million in damages. But it would take further decades for FM radio to reach its potential.

Following Armstrong’s death, television’s emerging popularity ended radio’s golden years. Slowly, listeners learned that FM radio was clearly better for musical high fidelity than AM broadcasts. Radios started to have an FM band included with the AM band in the late 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s, FM audience size surpassed that of AM, and the gap has been growing ever since. Today over 2,000 FM stations broadcast in the United States, and FM signals are commonly used for microwave relay links and space communications. Edwin Armstrong's innovations clearly changed the world; had he not taken his own life, it is likely he would have lived long enough to watch his dream come to fruition.

Article written by Greg Bjerg, published on 10 August 2006. Greg was born and raised in Iowa and graduated with a degree in Journalism from Drake University. Sadly, he passed away on 20 March 2011.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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47 Comments
hammydude
Posted 10 August 2006 at 08:53 pm

first

Anybody know when widespread am broadcasting started? Also, anybody know the cost?

AM-Good for distance
FM- Good for clearity


Phill
Posted 10 August 2006 at 09:55 pm

Those Thieving Bastards.


Robert Waugh
Posted 10 August 2006 at 10:15 pm

And this is how Damn Interesting differs from mainstream news. You totally failed to mention how computerized Internet "home pages" like MySpace.com are now drawing away radio and television listeners from all bands of the airwaves. Or something like that. You need to make those lame connections to this year's hot topics!


Puppeto
Posted 10 August 2006 at 10:49 pm

I disagree with the internet radio comment. I see more and more people moving toward satellite radio. XM and Sirius combined have about 10 to 12 million subscribers wrapped up. The evolution continues and the quality of sat rad is much better than fm. The problem with internet radio is that you can't go anywhere and get reception. Wifi isn't very widespread and the signals don't go far enough to give quality reception of internet radio.

You'll be seeing the fully connected car/person before you'll be seeing wifi internet radio in any car. With offerings of much more than just radio sat rad is the future. Here's to weather radio, traffic directions, and 200+ channels of crystal clear audio in your car or on your person by 2010.

Mark my words fm is dead.


Misfit7707
Posted 10 August 2006 at 11:55 pm

If AM is good for distance, why was it that FM was the only one that could bounce off the moon and back? I understand that AM is good for distance because it's constant frequency makes it's signal stronger, and vice versa with FM.

Also, I would totally like to join that FM radio enthusiasts club, given that it still exists, just so I could boast about it. Impress all my friends with an FM enthusiast club inititation card or spiffy badge or something.

There are no shortage of people who died before their creations became famous, F. Scott Fitzgerald never saw his The Great Gatsby book become the absolute CLASSIC american novel it is today, forinstance... There are so many examples out there that I won't trouble anyone with any more, but would like to:

A) give kudos to Sir Greg Bjerg, fascinating article, and

B) say that it truly is unfortunate that so many people never live to see their ideas become recognized.


ichkenne
Posted 11 August 2006 at 12:47 am

The first commercial radio broadcasts began 1922. WOR in New York was one of the first, if not the first. WOR gave rise to 3 or 4 generations of radio hosts, the Gamblings, with a decades-long weekday morning time-slot called "Rambling With Gambling". Unlike the obfuscating propagandists of the American airwaves today, the stars of the early networks knew that they were invited into peoples homes as guests, and were careful to cultivate and maintain the trust placed in them by their at-home audiences.
It is perhaps hard for this generation to imagine, but before radio, EVERYTHING was different. Prior to radio, music in people's home was provided by upright pianos, reed-organs, etc. Everyone knew how to play something. It was the social thing to do: gather around the piano and sing. If you had a LOT of money (like the Ford's in Dearborn), and you didn't want to fuss around with having an orchestra, you bought an organ -- and we're not talking one of these casio jobs, either. Huge pipe organs, occupying several rooms in the 'house' (mansion), were built and installed up until The Depression, complete with their own staff concert organist.
Radio made such an impact in the 20's, that words were coined, like "radio-active", and the little red wagon, the "Radio Flyer", played off the public's fascination.
Another innovation of the 20's was sliced bread...


mensadave
Posted 11 August 2006 at 12:55 am

His story sounds very similar to how the major car companies conspired against Preston Tucker and his remarkably innovative automobile. I once came across a 1940s car magazine which had an article written by someone who had test-driven a Tucker, and he raved about it for page after page. Then there's the electric car, and possibly promising forms of alternative energy, which have also been suppressed by Big Business. I'm not a conspiracy nut, but . . .


ichkenne
Posted 11 August 2006 at 12:57 am

Oh, sorry. Talk about rambling...
Following WOR's (and others') leads, radio stations were operating soon across the country. Boys would make their own crystal sets for reception. RCA -- Radio Corporation of America -- sold radios by the freight-car load. They were a hot commodity, and everyone wanted to buy stock in RCA. Something like today's Microsoft.


Crispy
Posted 11 August 2006 at 01:15 am

hammydude said: "first"

You've just read about a guy committing suicide in tragic circumstances and the next thing you do is brag in a futile attempt to increase your social standing? Forgive me for flaming, but you suck.

I'm with you, mensadave - too many great inventions get crushed into obscurity by big business. So much for capitalism encouraging innovation...


ForestGrump
Posted 11 August 2006 at 01:26 am

Misfit7707,

My guess with Am radio not being able to moon b0unce is because whent the signal gets transmitted, it travels along the ionosphere (upper atmosphere) and travel away. It's this property of AM radio which allows it to be heard far far away. Such as a strong station in california could be heard in alaska (at night, there is too much noise from the sun during the day).

FM on the other hand, wouldn't bounce around the ionosphere and be able to moon bounce.

As for joining a radio entheuist club, I suggest you join the ranks of Amatuer radio. Check out arrl.org for more info.


PresMatt
Posted 11 August 2006 at 01:27 am

Puppeto said: "I disagree with the internet radio comment. I see more and more people moving toward satellite radio. XM and Sirius combined have about 10 to 12 million subscribers wrapped up. The evolution continues and the quality of sat rad is much better than fm. The problem with internet radio is that you can't go anywhere and get reception. Wifi isn't very widespread and the signals don't go far enough to give quality reception of internet radio.


You'll be seeing the fully connected car/person before you'll be seeing wifi internet radio in any car. With offerings of much more than just radio sat rad is the future. Here's to weather radio, traffic directions, and 200+ channels of crystal clear audio in your car or on your person by 2010.

Mark my words fm is dead."

I disagree... I work as a DJ for a radio station and I'm good friends with a lot of people both in FM radio and in Sat Radio. Both communities tend to agree that FM will remain popular for one simple reason... Sat radio just can't give you the local stuff. Sure it can give great quality music, an entire spectrum of NFL/NCAA games, basektball, soccer, you name it... but it can't give you your local news, it can't give you your local weather, it can't inform you on events taking place in your town, it can't have the same volume of contests as are normal in an average market due to cost issues, and good luck trying to request a song!... BECAUSE of it's enormous broadcast reach, it can't narrow itself down to Anywhere, USA. Comparing FM and Sat radio is like comparing apples and oranges where as comparing FM and AM is apples and apples. FM/AM was a signal clarity issue... FM/Sat radio is a content/programming issue... something much harder to overcome. Oh, and just because I have a feeling someone is going to say it... you couldn't relay the sat link to a terrestrial station and rebroadcast it with local content... It would run into the same problems as long distance FM (power issues, making the signal curve to compensate for the curve of the earth, not to mention FCC regulations which govern all terrestrial radio, etc...) and by nature it couldn't be called sat radio anymore if you're downlinking to a terrestrial station and rebroadcasting from there... it would have to either be bounced back up to the sat and rebroadcast which wouldn't be cost/bandwidth efficent or broadcast via antenna from a terrestrial station. If every FM station shut down and turned to sat radio and rebroadcast in this manner with local content there'd be over TWO THOUSAND different sat radio channels all with different variations of the same programming...

The market for FM radio may shrink, as did the AM market, which is still around, but it'll never go away. Sorry for rambling, it's what I get paid to do after all lol.

GREAT ARTICLE!


Stead311
Posted 11 August 2006 at 04:40 am

I wonder if anyone from RCA or AT&T would be big enough to apologize for what they did to that man. Obviously, people of these modern times didnt commit act against Armstrong but that didn't stop the church from apologizing to Galileo. It's the principal of the thing. This man is responsible for one of the most amazing inventions of the time. I would like to close with...

107.3 WAAF RULLLEESSSS!!!!!!


Stead311
Posted 11 August 2006 at 04:47 am

PresMatt says: The market for FM radio may shrink, as did the AM market, which is still around, but it'll never go away.

Also, I am in total agreement with you. FM won't die because of Sat radio. Sat radio still has a lot of bugs to work out. I had it and returned it. It just isnt as personable.


irea6242
Posted 11 August 2006 at 05:39 am

Stead311 said: "I wonder if anyone from RCA or AT&T would be big enough to apologize for what they did to that man. Obviously, people of these modern times didnt commit act against Armstrong but that didn't stop the church from apologizing to Galileo. [...]"

The difference is, the Church has to report to millions of people for good behavior, but corporations usually don't. :)


Brother Jebadiah
Posted 11 August 2006 at 06:28 am

Neither AM of FM radio will die as long as they remain free of charge.


Dave
Posted 11 August 2006 at 07:25 am

RCA wasn't always the largest radio maker. Look up Powell Crosley, Jr. for an interesting story:

http://local.aaca.org/junior/spotlight/crosley/crosley.htm

As for when AM broadcasting started, that's generally regarded as the 1920s for commercial purposes, but the actual first AM broadcast was in 1906 by Reginald Fessenden:

http://chem.ch.huji.ac.il/~eugeniik/history/fessenden.html

Dave


qhperson
Posted 11 August 2006 at 07:43 am

It's striking that Armstrong was first screwed by a science-ignorant, pro-business Supreme Court. Of course, that could never happen again, right?

Radio broadcasts have been used for propaganda for decades. Consider Father Coughlin and Adolph Hitler, both of whom employed radio for evil purposes.

Since this article is about Armstrong and the development of FM radio, anything about satellite radio or computers is off-topic and inappropriate.


PaperConfessional
Posted 11 August 2006 at 08:39 am

I thought the satellite radio comments were pretty on-topic, myself. I like when a topic expands in the comments; I think I learn more that way.

Also, the range of human hearing is 20Hz to 20kHz, not 50 to 15k. Not that most people care about it, but it's certainly an audible difference. That's why CD specs accommodate audible frequencies from 20Hz to 22.05kHz - and even then you're missing something. The things you don't hear always affect the things you do.

Actually, I'd put my money on good FM reception versus satellite in terms of sound quality. Satellite radio is compressed digital, which is always missing some audio information somewhere (and can also be fatiguing for the listener's ears). Plus, you have to cram 100+ channels into a small broadcast frequency range. Of course, I'd take satellite radio in pretty much any other category.


junebee
Posted 11 August 2006 at 08:57 am

Now if we can only find out who's responsible for radio mega-corporations like Clear Channel, which owns just about every station in my area. In the olden days, DJ's gave actual information about the songs and artists, such as what group the artist formerly played with, or why he wrote the song, or whatever. Now they barely mention the song title, and both the beginning and end of the song are cut off by chit-chat or commercials.

Radio sucks, and it lost me as a listener years ago. Plus I just have this thought that radio should be "free" (the broadcasts, not the actual radio itself). Therefore, I refuse to pay for Sirius or any other such thing.

Video didn't kill the radio star. Megacorps did.


ChickenHead
Posted 11 August 2006 at 09:55 am

Misfit7707, how can FM bounce off the moon when AM can not?
ForestGrump, pretty close.

AM frequencies *would* bounce off the moon just as FM frequencies do - if you could just get them to it.

AM frequencies (300-3000 KHz) are low enough in energy that they are refracted and reflected by the Earth's Ionosphere. This allows their signals to be bounced and curved off the Ionosphere resulting in transmission receptions far (*FAR*) beyond the horizon. FM frequencies (30-300 MHz) are high enough in energy that they pass through the ionosphere. Thus FM frequencies typically only work for line of sight (or "nearly line of sight" when their signal refracts and scatters off of ground clutter). However, the moon is quite opaque (and somewhat reflective) to radio waves - thus allowing it to be used as a mirror for the FM signals that pass through the Ionosphere.

Brother Jebadiah said: "Neither AM of FM radio will die as long as they remain free of charge."

And so they will - live and be free - until "they" close the Analog Hole...

Brother Jebadiah said: "... Radio sucks, and it lost me as a listener years ago... Video didn't kill the radio star. Megacorps did."

I'll second that. Terrestrial radio may serve up local content, but the quality of that content has plummeted noticeably in the last decade for all the reasons you and others have suggested. And its life long view is a free fall from those effects.


Dave
Posted 11 August 2006 at 10:04 am

As for the range of human hearing, the upper end varies with age. I used to be able to hear 15,750 Hz quite easily (since I could hear the whine from the horizontal output transformer in television sets), but I just checked myself, and my upper limit now is about 14,300 Hz (Oh, I'm in my mid 40s.).

Dave


Chris
Posted 11 August 2006 at 10:15 am

This was another insightful article. In the early 60's, I recall listening to FM stations on my father's new Magnavox console stereo. The sound was amazingly clear. However, we could only receive maybe one or two stations, and for several years, the only music I ever heard on FM was purely classical! Not long afterwards, my father was playing his in-car, factory Chrysler Hiway Hi-Fi record player (16 2/3 rpm) and remarked how nice it would be to have an FM dial as part of the auto radio system. Eventually car FM radio became a reality. Unfortunately, my father was not part of the innovation!

Armstrong had a vision. Too bad he didn't get to enjoy the fruits of his labor.


scarr
Posted 11 August 2006 at 10:15 am

with the whole fm vs satellite issue....
depending on what i am doing is what i listen to.
I work in Mexico (the county) and fm radio down here is mostly spanish.
if I am at home (in the US) i listen to FM.
if Iam at work (or home) in Mexico it is sat straight up.
and during the 1800 mile drive between (which i do like 2 or 3 times a year, otherwise i fly the other, like 8 times) it is alos Sat.

i see Sat radio as the best addon to FM.

during long trips it is great (no looking for stations, or listening to the same CD's over and over again.)


Ezrie
Posted 11 August 2006 at 11:19 am

Did anyone notice the fact that his wife left him because she couldnt put up with the stress of the litigation, then after he died she took over and was awarded $10million in damages?????

What a B@#%H!


SparkyTWP
Posted 11 August 2006 at 11:34 am

To echo ChickenHead, the modulation technique does not affect whether the signal will be bounced off the moon or not, it's the frequency range that the signals are using. An AM signal will always have more noise though, so everything else being equal, FM should still have a longer range due to its resistance to noise.


just_dave
Posted 11 August 2006 at 01:22 pm

Through the years Armstrong’s widow would bring twenty-one patent infringement suits against many companies, including RCA. She eventually won a little over $10 million in damages.

She was "unable to cope with his worsening personality and financial strain", so dumped him like yesterday's trash, but jumped at the opportunity to cash in after the poor guy killed himself? Damn pathetic.

Following Armstrong’s death, television’s emerging popularity ended radio’s golden years.

Television's popularity soared, in part, riding on Armstrong's successes. From what I understand the audio channels on a television RF signal are FM. There's gratitude for you.


FMZ
Posted 11 August 2006 at 04:57 pm

Let's not jump to conclusions about his wife. This was obviously a VERY tough time in their lives, and with stress comes marital problems. Sometimes splitting up is better for both individuals. And after he died, she may have wanted to get revenge on the corporations that ultimately caused that divorce, and that brought Armstrong to the point that he felt there was nothing left to live for.

I'm not saying this is what happened, but it is a possibility. Without the relevant facts, do not presume to know what was going through her mind.


just_dave
Posted 11 August 2006 at 09:12 pm

FMZ said: "Without the relevant facts, do not presume to know what was going through her mind."

True; one shouldn't jump to conclusions. But what gets me is "the relevant fact" that she left Armstrong when things got tough; that certainly did nothing to improve his state of mind. I would argue that her absence was probably a contributing factor in his suicide. I've been in depression before, and know that had I been alone, I probably wouldn't have survived it.

What I read of Armstrong's bio had nothing to say about why his widow went after RCA et al, so it would be equally wrong to assume that she did it out of any noble intentions.


Misfit7707
Posted 11 August 2006 at 09:49 pm

First of all, thanks ForestGrump and ChickenHead for supplying me with, holy crap, more info than I ever expected in an answer. You guys truly know your stuff. Second of all, Crispy, I'd like to speak in defense of hammydude... Just because the article was sad means that it is simply immoral for him to find something as little as that to get excited about? Yeah... sure. Maybe we'll let it slide the next time he's first for an article about bunnies and rainbows... Give him a break. You made it sound like he was REALLY excited and shouting about how cool he should be now that he's first in line. He wrote one word.. and it didn't even sound all that excited. At least he posted something about the article.

As for what more I have to say about the article, I wonder how well the moon reflects the FM waves.. Would the reflected wave be very low quality because by the time it gets picked up, it had to travel to the moon and back? Also, I believe it when you say that FM waves have the higher energy, that would make sense as to how they can penetrate the ionosphere, but if they have the higher energy, why doesn't that allow them to travel further? Is it simply because that energy inhibits the "ionoshpere bouncing for further distance" characteristic? That may be what ForestGrump was getting at, but I'm still a little unclear. If bouncing helps, could FM take advantage of the "bouncing off the moon" thing, or does that take me back to the signal quality reduction after travelling that far?

To conclude:

I am the 29th person to post a comment! WOO!


hankhayes
Posted 11 August 2006 at 10:09 pm

Regarding Colonel Edwin Armstrong's wife, at his lowest point during the horrendous battle with RCA, during an argument where his wife pleaded with him to accept the settlement offer of one million dollars (which he correctly regarded as an insulting amount) he struck her.

With that, as much as she loved him and supported him through decades of hell, she had to leave.

He went on to commit suicide, and left a note to her in which he mentioned how sorry he was for doing that.

She didn't capitalize on his death, she took up his battle and wasn't about to let RCA and "General" David Sarnoff (a low-life) win by default.


Morgan
Posted 11 August 2006 at 10:12 pm

"I'm with you, mensadave - too many great inventions get crushed into obscurity by big business. So much for capitalism encouraging innovation…"

I completely disagree. As was plain in the article, Armstrong was free to compete until the government intervened and with the stroke of a pen rendered all of his work useless. A corporation doesn't have that kind of power itself.

It is the same with electric cars. Head over to commutercars.com, or any number of other companies held back by our government ssafety regulations. It's safe enough for the SCCA and NHRA, but not for the street? But at the same time, I can ride a motorcycle, on two wheels and an engine and no crash protection at all, and it's completely fine? Why aren't I free to purchase a car even if the government thinks it's not safe enough for me?

And Tucker's factory was clsed by the government on October 4, 1949 when they determined in court he never planned to produce the car. Again, not a corporation, but the government.

Corporations will always seek a competitive advantage, it is their nature. The problem is that government should not have the power to give or remove extra advantages to corporations on a whim. If a government official can keep your company alive by wiping out someone else's, the problem isn't that you want him to, it's that the official has that power in the first place.


tannman
Posted 12 August 2006 at 04:21 am

junebee said: "Now if we can only find out who's responsible for radio mega-corporations like Clear Channel, which owns just about every station in my area. In the olden days, DJ's gave actual information about the songs and artists, such as what group the artist formerly played with, or why he wrote the song, or whatever. Now they barely mention the song title, and both the beginning and end of the song are cut off by chit-chat or commercials.

Radio sucks, and it lost me as a listener years ago. Plus I just have this thought that radio should be "free" (the broadcasts, not the actual radio itself). Therefore, I refuse to pay for Sirius or any other such thing.

Video didn't kill the radio star. Megacorps did."

Agreed I left FM when we became nothing more then card turners that was handed a playlist. However in the Los Angeles market one vet jock has it in his contract that during his show he has full creative control, Jim Ladd at KLOS FM. I know do net radio...not as big or popular yet but a lot of fun.


menope
Posted 12 August 2006 at 04:46 am

FCC was, and still is, in the pocket of big business ( FCC = Friends of Clear Channel )

RCA is now a brand name for the French company Thompson and has little R&D or technical significance.
AT&T is a shell of a company whos assets were sold off leaving only a name that has been bought by Cingular with the hope that they can craft a new image.

Oh, and in twenty years Damn Interesting will run a story how all these towns and cities had their very own independent radio stations that said what they wanted, played what they wanted, when they wanted long before we succummed to the mind numbing pablum of clear channel and npr.


Reporter
Posted 12 August 2006 at 05:17 am

First AM radio - KDKA, Pittsburgh, November, 1920
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dt20ra.html


Drakvil
Posted 12 August 2006 at 07:05 pm

I don't think that we're going to see moonbounce used as a method for radio stations for several reasons:
1) If you have Dish or DirecTV you will notice that you are not allowed to receive the local stations for other parts of the country... you have to tell them when you sign up which part of the country you live in and they enable your set-top box to receive the stations that are local to you - this is because the local individual stations do not wish to compete on a national basis, and the network affiliates do not wish to compete with other affiliates of the same network (actually let people decide if they want to watch WNBC [NY] or KNBC [L.A.]? Outrageous! Can't have that!)
2) By having transmissions that are globe-spanning (I know someone who spoke via ham radio in California with someone in Switzerland using moonbounce and less than 100 watts of power) the number of stations able to operate will be reduced by several orders of magnitude... currently each area has their own channel 2, 4, 5, 7, etc. that operate on the same frequency and the reason this works is that each doesn't have the range to reach into the operating area of the other. If channel 2 in San Francisco was being received in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Berne, Paris, London and Tokyo and was wiping out the signals of the local stations there, would the market stand for it? Would the people in Tokyo an Paris be happy about having to listen to a station broadcast in english? Would we want channel 4 to be in chinese, channel 7 to be french and channel 9 to be in farsi? We would run out of channels before each language widely used on this planet had it's own channel.
3) The moon revolves around the Earth at a rate that has it rising and setting about 55 minutes later each night, (therefore 28 days from one full moon to the next) so you would get less than a 13 hour window where moonbounce would be effective for you and that window would be almost an hour different each day.


live8evil
Posted 13 August 2006 at 12:51 am

Misfit7707 said: I am the 29th person to post a comment! WOO!"

haha

I hope you're paying out the people who brag about being first.


zDom
Posted 14 August 2006 at 02:51 pm

tannman said: "Agreed I left FM when we became nothing more then card turners that was handed a playlist. However in the Los Angeles market one vet jock has it in his contract that during his show he has full creative control, Jim Ladd at KLOS FM. I know do net radio…not as big or popular yet but a lot of fun."

Jim Ladd is still around? I remember listening to him back in high school, somewhere around 1983ish.

It was DJs like Ladd and the jocks at K-SHE 95 in St. Louis that made me eventually have a go at the disc jockey business.

Unfortunately for ME, after about a year on the job, the industry embraced satellite feeds by which one on-air personality could (without any local flavor) be the voice for 50 radio stations at the same time.

All the entry-level jobs kinda dried up as small-market radio stations could subscribe to a feed cheaper than hiring a couple minimum-wage disc jockeys.

I ended up writing for a newspaper eventually - another medium that was supposed to be eliminated, first by radio, then TV, then the Internet.

Local content is what keeps newspapers (and radio stations, and TV stations) going.

But anyway, glad to hear Jim Ladd is still at it : )


zeroelus
Posted 15 August 2006 at 12:25 pm

I also agree that even though Satellite Radio is an interesting option, It will unlikely replace FM or AM.

First of all, as far as I know, only US, Canada and the northern part of Mexico get sat coverage.

Second, FM is incorporating digital signals (HD Radio), with good backwards compatibility for current fm gear, which will mean better quality on local stations.

And personally, I see Sat as more of a convenience instead of having to switch through CDs, but mp3 players can do that for me too, so I'd choose an mp3 player over Sat. Of course, this may not be the case for everyone. Still I think FM is established, and needs innovations just to keep it's status as no. 1, Sat has to fight to keep growing, and AM will keep being the indie option for the masses ...until WiFi(or some similar technology) becomes ubiquitous.


shanachie
Posted 31 August 2006 at 09:32 am

Re Sat radio and Clear Channel: I see these both sadly as continuing the homogenization of the culture. They contribute to the centralization and normalization of the music we hear.

A couple of years ago I took a vacation on Grand Cayman in the Carribean. I was really looking forward to hearing some different music: steel bands, reggae, and such. Maybe even some calypso? Instead, everywhere we went all that was played was American pop and country, the same stuff I was already bored with. One day I saw a sign announcing that the bar down the street was having a live, local steel band that evening! Finally, some real Carribean music! When I went, however, they just played steel band arrangements of American pop and country music. Huge disappointment.

at radio and Clear Channel just continue that trend.


binaryspiral
Posted 06 October 2006 at 04:42 pm

I've had Sat Radio - it's the same crap on 110 stations with a $14/month maintenance fee.

I like the way HD radio is going... two stations in my area are broadcasting HD comercial free to get people on board. When you digitize the audio and broadcast it - FM becomes CD quality, AM becomes long range FM quality... all those AM stations will now have the ability to broadcast decent quality music in > 100 mile radius.

I'm all for free music... sat radio will be around for the niche markets - like OTR truckers, people with extra cash to burn, or for people who really want to hear a specific station for $14 a month. However for the masses - HDR is the next evolutionary step in radio.


vonmeth
Posted 20 November 2006 at 02:30 pm

To the person saying the Church apologized.

Well, yes they did, but it was about 400 years after the fact ... So we can look forward to them apologizing around 2350 ....


a1c
Posted 08 August 2008 at 10:01 pm

Note to self: patent, patent, patent some more.


TomS937
Posted 08 August 2012 at 10:31 am

Maybe, Armstrong was pushed. People have committed murder for much less money. Using the depression as a cover, someone might have thought they could easily put the threat of FM behind them forever if they could just...


gypsy spider
Posted 31 January 2014 at 08:56 am

I was born in the 50s, heard the beatles in the 60s and became a pro musician in the 70s. all as a result of radio. I listened to radio more than I watched tv because I loved the music and the format. When fm really took off in the 70s we were hearing music in full versions and albums and it inspired me, and countless millions more I'm sure to want to play. Some of my best memories and times were spent around the radio with friends partying and dancing and hearing the latest version of the greatest music ever written. It wasn't our parents music, it wasn't muzak. it was OUR MUSIC. FM put more bands and artists on the map than ever before, it opened up opportunities for artists from around the world to be heard. The great thing was that the government overlords doing big business' bidding could control the technical aspect of radio and tv; BUT they could not regulate inspiration and artistry...well ok we didn't hear too much Zappa and the such, but could you imagine Cheech and Chong being widely broadcast today with all of the political correctness and easily offended special interest groups obsessively listening and striking out at anyone who dares to speak against them and THEIR ideals??? There is more regulation and "spying" going on now than ever in the past. We are all supposed to just listen to the experts and government sactioned talking heads without ever questioning or critisizing. All in the name of paranoid national interests. We used to have free speech and free radio. Now everything is packaged for political correctness. So I just listen to JAZZ-FM. They have the least amount of talk and commercials and play nothing but great jazz. I still love rock, r&b and blues but they just aren't the same as the great days of radio of the 50s to the 70s. By the way anyone remember Raould Casablanca of CFOX in Vancouver during the early 70s. He was awsome. They just don't broadcast like that anymore.
Plain toasted bread anyone???!!!
Sorry if I'm ranting but this is my first time and I feel like a virgin. Be gentle with me out there...LOL...G.S.


James Love
Posted 10 April 2014 at 01:50 am

I noticed that there were a few comments who blamed Armstrong's fate on capitalism. But he got screwed twice and both times were by the government.

In the first case the Supreme Court shot down his patent despite the fact that he was first for 2 years. That is all government.

As for the 1945 ruling changing the frequencies...yes RCA was clearly the culprit there. But they used their lobbying influence (and God knows how much in the way of political campaigns) to influence the GOVERNMENT to suddenly change the dial. The government was the one who actually made the decision.
That was not the fault of capitalism. That was the government being influenced by crony capitalism.


stealth
Posted 28 December 2014 at 07:50 am

The only reason why AM radio can be heard farther than FM, is not necessarily because of the mode, but because AM radio runs on the MF band while FM runs on the VHF band. MF signals can travel hundreds of thousands of miles. VHF signals can sometimes do this, but not like MF can. That's why you hear all those old stories about "picking up AM channels/programs from far away late at night". As an amateur radio operator, we have a band called the 160 m band that the frequency is 1.8-2.0 MHz. (AM radio is 535 KHz-1.7 MHz) so the 160 meter band is just above the AM radio band. And at night we can work the world with the 160 meter band. Same concept with AM broadcast radio.


Robert
Posted 22 March 2015 at 01:56 pm

GREED, GREED, GREED!!!! Little do these big companies realize is of they were honest in there dealings, and didn't push the GENIUIS OUT OF THE WAY FOR MONEY, BIG BUSINESS in the long run would make so much more. WHO KNOWS HOW MANY MORE INVENTIONS THIS GUY WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF. "GREED SEE'S THE SHORT TERM, INTEGRITY SEE'S THE LONG TERM".


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