On April 14th 1912 the Titanic crashed into an ice field in the North Atlantic. The captain determined that they were going to sink quickly and so at 12:15am he ordered his wireless operator to send the distress call.
- “ This was simultaneous drama on the high seas, driven by steam power and choreographed by the magic of wireless telegraphy. ”
-The world began to get news of the disaster at 1:20am when a wireless station in the Newfoundland picked up the message that the Titanic was sinking. Shortly after, the hundreds of wireless instruments along the Atlantic coast began to transmit.
-The Titanic ’ s wireless had a range of only 1,500 miles so the signals to Europe had to go first to New York and then across the ocean by cable, but still the news of the situation reached the entire world by morning.
On April 21st, the New York Times commented on the magical power of the telegraphy by saying,
“ Last week 745 human lives were saved from perishing by the wireless. Few New Yorkers realize that all through the roar of the big city are constantly speeding messages between people separated by vast distances, and that over housetops and even through the walls of buildings and in the very air one breathes are words, written by electricity. ”
-Although the wireless had been used before to save lives at sea, this particular rescue effort was highlighted because so many were aware of the tragedy.
-The wireless made possible to experience many distant events at the same time, which was demonstrated by the sinking of the Titanic, which played a major change in the experience of the present. Prior, information about events that were a significant distance away were reported long after the events occurred, rendering it as history to the individuals who received it.
-The telegraph had been in operation since the 1830 ’ s, but its use was limited to trained operators and confined to transmitting stations. The wireless proliferated source points of electronic communication and it was the telephone that brought it to the masses.
The History of Wireless Telegraphy
1887 Heinrich Hertz produced electromagnetic waves in a laboratory.
1894 Guglielmo Marconi devised an apparatus to transmit and receive them.
1897 Marconi went to England and established the first coast station on the Isle of Wight for communication with ships at sea.
1901 Message was sent across the Atlantic from a special high power transmitter in England and two years later King Edward VII and President Roosevelt exchanged messages over it.
1903 International Congress on Wireless Telegraphy was held in Berlin to regulate their use.
1912 By this time, the wireless was an essential part of the international communication linking land stations and ships at sea in an instantaneous, worldwide network.
- invented 1876
- enhanced long distance personal relationships
- business relationships furthered
- USA 1879 sermons broadcast over telephone lines
- Zurich 1880 concert broadcast 50 miles
- Belgium 1884 concert broadcast as far at 250 miles
- Hungary 1888 news broadcast
o News and entertainment broadcast to 6000 subscribers
- USA 1896 telephones reported presidential election results
Early Radio- Chapter 28
- In the early 1920’s, American boys and men led the way in a cultural revolution with the listening of radio in the 1920’s
- It was usually a frustrating and monotonous process as they would move a thin wire (cat whisker) around a chunk of crystal and hear a blend of talking, music, and static – this method was usually used by amateurs who did not have much money
- Those with more money had sets with 5 tuning dials – which all had to be set perfectly in order to tune into particular stations
usually it was boys who embraced the radio device and they were the ones who began to introduce it to other family members
this led to “exploratory listening” which meant that individuals listened to the radio not for community purposes, but for change, to hear many different messages, to see how far they could get, and to hear the strange mixture of static and voices
However, they mostly listened to get a more immediate sense of their nation
So, this tuning into this new idea of radio listening each night for many hours, was an entirely new cognitive, emotional, and cultural experience
- the 1920’s were known as the “boom” years of radio, when almost nothing was fixed – this included the frequencies of stations, financial support, and government regulations
there were no radio networks, very little advertising, and there was no predictable program schedules (except for Sunday broadcasts of church services)
Today, radio broadcasting is supported by advertising in order to promote “compulsive consumerism”
“… broadcasting is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, all too often in ways that benefit corporate consolidation and greed at the expense of real diversity on, and access to, the airwaves”
Many of these models get set in the mid-late 1920’s
Because we have had advertising-supported broadcasting for around 70 years, we take it for granted and sometimes people forget that this was very controversial and widely debated during the 1920’s
It was actually AT&T who established radio advertising in 1922 on the WEAF station
During this time of early radio, people did not just walk into a store, buy a radio, plug it in and listen to music like we do today
everyday people had to put it together, learn how to listen and how they wanted to listen, and what they wanted to listen to at the same time that stations and networks were deciding what was best to broadcast
There was also a large shift in terms of perceptual culture- that involved uncertain ideas about manhood and nationhood in the early1920’s
It was men and boys – as mentioned previously- who brought this device into the home and by playing around with the device, it allowed them to affirm new forms of “masculine mastery”
At the same time, the search for nationhood and the reclaiming of “tribalism” – more specifically “white tribalism” characterized the 1920’s
- This technology allowed listeners to change their identities as individuals and as members of a nation by listening into signs of unity and signs of difference
By the late 1920’s, “chain broadcasting” began to centralize radio programming in NY
However, during the same time, many independent stations featured locally produced programs with local talent
So, listeners could tune into both and begin to identify with shows that sought to capture and represent a “national” culture and those that wanted to defend regional and local cultural authority
Hot debates surrounding centralized broadcasting and local broadcasting during this time began to show how radio was playing a role as a culturally nationalizing force
What was considered “listening” went through three distinct but overlapping stages in the 1920’s: 1) “DXing” (around 1920-1924): trying to tune into has many faraway staions as possible 2) “Music Listening” – also came in around the same time as DXing but was made popular in 1925 with the introduction of improved loudspeakers 3) “Story Listening” – people sat down at the same time each week to listen to the same characters enact comedic or dramatic performances (ex. Amos ‘n’ Andy – 1929)
The Rise of Amateur Broadcasters - Part 2
Radio was becoming a more and more popular form of entertainment. An important emergence of the radio was the fraternity of amateur operators
Before 1912 amateur broadcasters were allowed to broadcast whatever they wanted.
After 1912 they were put on reservations of waves less than 200 meters.
The amateur fraternity took off between 1906 and 1907
This happened after the discovery that certain crystals, like silicon or Carborumdum, were excellent detectors of radio waves. These crystals were cheap, durable and reliable, making them widely popular .
The main amateurs involved in creating radio, were mainly white-middle class males. It was seen as a hobby.
Since it was a hobby, the cheaper the equipment the better, one component was often too expensive was the headphone set, as a result, telephones began disappearing from public booths.
By 1910 the amateurs on the radio outnumbered all other broadcasters including private wireless companies and the military.
The navy was often interrupted with amateur broadcasts and so they sought to get the amateurs banished from the airwaves.
The crash of the Titanic turned the public and congress against amateur broadcasters. When the wireless operator announced that the ship had hit an iceberg there was an immediate response, amateurs filling the airwaves with questions. This interfered with the rescue mission, and many ships were given false information, like that the Titanic was safe and being towed, which meant some ships did not respond to the distress signal.
Four months after this, the Radio Act of 1912 was passed that all amateurs had to be licensed, and they were forbidden from transmitting on the main commercial waves and the military waves.
Chapter 28 – Part 3
World War 1 – federal government banned all amateur activity and stations
Wanted to prevent interference with government transmissions
Already 15 times as many amateur stations than other stations combined
This amateur broadcast audience formed the core of DXers
DXing – a hobby involving tuning in and identifying distant stations
1920 ’ s American culture was shifting away from tradition and towards modernity
Most Americans were ambivalent towards these changes
New technologies, shorter hemlines, spread of modernism in art, music and literature were at the forefront of these changes
The speed at which information traveled was increased because of radio
People perceived that listening to radio redefined everyday life
Radio ’ s rapid growth was something that had never been seen before
The perception that people were abandoning the ways of the past was embodied in the radio boom
Many American ’ s wanted to cling to and restore life as it had been before, a tension existed.
Violent race riots in St Louis, Chicago and Washington DC, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, revealed racial fissures in the culture.
Prohibition was an ethnic conflict and an attempt to promote Protestant middle class culture as a means of organizing a disorderly world
Anglo conformity insisted that immigrants abandon their past and embrace Anglo American appearances and behaviors
This clashed with a refusal to assimilate, become homogenized and disappear.
Radio played a central role in delivering and forging a national culture in the 1930 ’ s and 40 ’ s, but it didn ’ t do it at its conception.
It created an environment that people used to strengthen and celebrate local, ethnic, religious, and class based communities.
Chapter 27 Discussion:
-- What are some possible other benefits for businesses that the telephone helped provide?
Chapter 28 Discussion:
--How much influence do you think the amateur broadcasters had on radio? Do you think that history would have been different if there had been stricter regulations for broadcasters before 1912? What if there had never been a radio act? How would that have changed history?