A S h o r t H i s t o r y o f R a d i oA S h o r t H i s t o r y o f R a d i oWi t h a n I n s i d e F o c u s o n M o b i l e R a d i oW i n t e r 2 0 0 3 - 2 0 0 4If success has many fathers, then radiois one of the world’s greatestsuccesses. Perhaps one simple way to sort out thismultiple parentage is to place those who have beengiven credit for “fathering”radio into groups.The Scientists:• Henirich Hertz—thisGerman physicist, whodied of blood poisoning atage 37, was the first toprove that you couldtransmit and receiveelectric waves wirelessly.Although Hertz originallythought his work had nopractical use, today it isrecognized as the fundamentalbuilding block of radio and everyfrequency measurement is namedafter him (the Hertz).• Nikola Tesla—was a Serbian-American inventor who discoveredthe basis for most alternating-currentmachinery. In 1884, a year aftercoming to the United States he soldthe patent rights for his system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers, and motors to GeorgeWestinghouse. He then established his own lab where heinvented, among other things, the Tesla coil, an inductioncoil widely used in radio.• Ernst Alexanderson—born in Sweden, this remarkableinventor developed the first alternator to maketransmission of speech (as opposed to the dots and dashesof telegraphs) possible. It is said that this holder of 344patents “virtually invented everything General Electric didin the field of AM, FM, and TV.”• Reginald Fessenden—this Canadian spent much of hisworking life in the U.S. where he developed a way tocombine sound and radio carrier waves. His first effort totransmit this mixed signal— to a receiver where thecarrier wave would be removed and the listener could hearthe original sound— failed. However, in 1906, usingAlexanderson’s Alternator, Fessenden made the first long-range transmission of voice from Brant Rock, MA.• Edwin Armstrong—this WWI Army officer, ColumbiaUniversity engineering professor, and creator of FM radioinvented the regenerative circuit, the first amplifying re-ceiver and reliable continuous-wave transmitter; and thesuperheterodyne circuit, a means of receiving, convertingand amplifying weak, high-frequency electromagneticwaves. His inventions are considered by many to providethe foundation for cellularphones.The Businessmen:• Guglielmo Marconi—this Italian crea-tor spent most of his working life inEngland where he introduced many ofthe first uses of wireless telegraphy toEuropean navies. His radio apparatus iswidely considered to be the reason thatover 700 people survived the Titanic disaster in 1912—instead of dying as they likely would have if ships at seawere still using carrier pigeons to communicate over greatdistances.• Lee DeForest—credited with being the “father of Ameri-can radio.” DeForest was a direct competitor to Marconi atthe turn of the century (1899), when he was the chief scien-tist at the U.S.’s first radio firm—American Wireless Tele-phone and Telegraph—until Marconi took over the com-pany’s assets in 1912 after a series of financial scandals.Although he held 300 patents, DeForest’s greatest techno-logical contribution is considered to be his 1906 “Audion”vacuum tube.Clockwise frombottom-ErnstAlexanderson(1878-1975),Reginald Fessin-den (1866-1932),Heinrich Hertz(1857-1894),Edwin Armstrong(1890-1954), LeeDeForest (1873-1961), and NikolaTesla (1856-1943).Center colorphoto is Gug-lielmo Marconi(1874-1937).PIONEERS OF RADIO
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of uses of radiospectrum and technology. Everything from baby moni-tors and broadcasting to radar and radio beacons areapplications of radio. These two pages focus on thefirst historical use of radio—mobile radio.P a g e 2I n s i d e F o c u s o n M o b i l e R a d i o1885Heinrich Hertz provedthat electricity can betransmitted in electro-magnetic waves. Heconducted experi-ments in sending andreceiving these wavesduring the late 1880s.1891Radios (what we’dcall wireless tele-graphs today) began toappear on ships at sea.This reduced the isola-tion of the ships thusimproving both reli-ability and safety.1892to1893Nikola Tesla wire-lessly transmittedelectromagnetic en-ergy. He made thefirst public demonstra-tion of radio in St.Louis in 1893.1896to1897Guglielmo Marconifiled for patent protec-tion of his radio appa-ratus. He establishedthe Wireless Tele-graph and SignalCompany in 1897.1899The R.F. Matthewswas the first ship torequest emergencyassistance using awireless apparatus(Marconi’s system).1901First transAtlanticsignal sent-by Mar-coni from Ireland toCanada.1902Amateur (todayknown as “ham”)radio introduced to theU.S. via a ScientificAmerican article on“How to Construct anEfficient WirelessTelegraphy Apparatusat Small Cost.”GENERALRADIOTIMELINE...Continued on last page...Technologiesthat underpinmobile radio werefirst put to work inthe 1890s onbehalf of ocean-going ships, whichhad previouslyrelied on carrierpigeons and flagsfor theircommunications.In 1910, FrederickBaldwin and JohnMcCurdy werethe first to trailan aerial behindtheir bi-plane todemonstrateradio’s uses foraviation.In 1921, DetroitpolicecommissionerWilliamRutledge wasthe first public safetyofficial to use radioequipped vehicles.Today, maritime, aviation,and land-based mobile radiosystems remain among themost important non-broadcast uses of theradio spectrum.But mobile radio isn’t justfor safety purposes today.Taxi drivers, tow truckdispatchers,and package delivery ser-vices are just a few of thebusinesses that make inno-vative use of mobile radio.In fact, mobile radio hasbecome such a key tool inall business communica-tions that one of the FCC’smajor challenges is ensur-ing efficient and effectiveuse of the radio spectrum bybusiness, while guaranteeingthe reliability and inter-operability of all publicsafety radio uses.In finding a way to make thisall work, the FCC helpsmake America a safer andbetter place to live.The Titanic, showing itsradio antennas strung frombow to stern (1912).MOBILE RADIO AT WORKRobert Loraine was thesecond pilot to demon-strate wireless transmis-sion from aplane (1910).Detroit police radio carwith antennas runningacross the roof (1921).
The year after the FCC made its final 1982 decision onspectrum for cellular systems, Ameritech MobileCommunications (Chicago) and CellularOne(Washington, D.C.) became the first operationalcommercial cellular providers in the United States.Personal communications for people on–the-go, not justthose in vehicles, evolved further in the 1990s andcontinues growing today.P a g e 3I n s i d e F o c u s o n M o b i l e R a d i oCellular phones, including Personal CommunicationService devices, may seem like one of the newestland mobile services, but the idea of a mobile radiotelephone has been around for quite a while.In the early 1920s both the Marconi company and theBell Laboratories were testing car-based telephonesystems. Bell Labs believes its 1924 system wasactually the first two-way, voice-based radiotelephone.Other predecessors to today’s cell phones includedthe radio telephones used by the military during bothWorld Wars.The science behind cell phones, as we know themtoday, was clearly known by 1945 as evidenced by aSaturday Evening Post article, “Phone Me by Air,”which quoted FCC Commissioner E.K. Jett onfrequency reuse for “small zonesystems.” He said, “In each zone,the…frequencies willprovide from 70 to 100 differentchannels, half of whichmay be usedsimultaneously in thesame area withoutoverlapping.”Although not yet acellular system, in1946 Bell initiatedAmerica’s firstcommercial mobile radiotelephone system. Bell,as well as Ericsson, Nokia,and Motorola then went on todevelop cell phone technologiesthroughout the 1950s and 1960s.The FCC approved a majorallocation of spectrum for mobile radio systems in1970. In 1973, Motorola’s Martin Cooper wascredited with the invention of the first personal,handheld cellular radio telephone.Clockwise from top right—a WWI mobile militaryphone, of the type Edwin Armstrong used to develop his ground-breakinginventions; Marconi’s 1922 car phone system with receivers, amplifiers, andspeakers mounted on the running boards; Martin Cooper with his 1973 cellulartelephone; older and newer generations of mobile radio telephones; and BellLabs’ 1924 test of a mobile radio telephone.CELL PHONES—ONE OF TODAY’S MOSTPOPULAR USES OF MOBILE RADIO
1948WIRELESS—ONE WORD, MANYMEANINGSWhile a rose may smell the same regardless of what it’s called, the term “wireless”has referred to distinctly different things throughout the past century. The one com-mon characteristic among all these uses of the word is that they all describe a com-munication product that sends or receives information via electromagnetic waves.• 1900s—sending a wireless meant you were aboard a ship sending a telegramto the home office to let them know when you’d arrive.• 1920s—listening to the wireless meant you could hear the Navy’s time andweather reports, USDA’s crop and market news, as well as concerts, lectures,and sermons.• 1980s—talking on your wireless unit meant youhad a cellular or PCS telephone.• 2003—using wireless likely means taking a pictureusing your digital 3G-enabled cell/PCS phoneand sending it, along with a text message, to afriend’s Internet email address.WHERE TO LEARN MOREP a g e 4TIMELINEReginald Fessenden is the1st to transmit a program ofspeech and music.1906Lee DeForest produces the“Audion,” a triode vacuumtube that allowed for ampli-fication of radio signals.1906First radio transmissionfrom an airplane.1910Federal regulation ofAmerican airwaves begins.Amateurs had to be li-censed; ships had to have aradio and trained operators.1912All U.S. radio stations notneeded by the governmentare closed as WWI begins.1917Edwin Armstrong patentedthe Super Heterodyne Re-ceiver based on work hedid as an officer in theArmy Signal Corp.1918The Federal Radio Com-mission established to bringorder to chaotic airwaves.1927Cellular radio telephony,with call handoff and fre-quency reuse, was con-ceived at Bell Laboratories.1947The FCC reallocated TVchannels 70-83 for mobileradio services.1970The FCC permitted spreadspectrum, the technology ofchoice for many of today’sdigital, commercial cellularand PCS services.1985The FCC reallocated spec-trum at 2 GHz for emergingdigital mobile services.1992The first cellular systemusing digital CDMA tech-nology was commerciallylaunched by QUAL-COMM.1995A S h o r t H i s t o r y o f R a d i oFind out more about the history and technology of radio by visiting any of the fol-lowing sites:• Early Radio History—http://earlyradiohistory.us• Engineering history—http://www.ieee.org/organizations/history_center/• Electromagnetic spectrum—http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/science/know_l1/emspectrum.html• Radio History Society—http://www.radiohistory.org/• Surfing the Aether—http://www.northwinds.net/bchris/• Marconi Calling—http://www.marconicalling.com/front.htm• Edwin Armstrong—http://users.erols.com/oldradio/index.htm• Mobile Telephone History—http://www.privateline.com/index.html• Mobile Services—http://www.ntia.doc.gov/openness/sp_rqmnts/mobile1.html• FCC Regulation of Wireless Services—http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/Albert Einstein, when asked, in 1938, to explain radio, iswidely reported to have said:"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of avery, very long cat. You pull his tailin New York and his head ismeowing in Los Angeles. Do you understandthis? And radio operates exactly the same way:you send signals here, they receive them there.The only difference is that there is no cat."Marconi and Hertz usedthese devices in the 1880’sand 1890’s to transmit anddetect radio waves.Photos courtesy of: American Instituteof Physics, Emilio Segré Archives;ArrayComm; AT&T History Collection; David Massey,Perce Cox collection; Detroit Free Press; IEEE Canada; IEEEHistory Center; John Jenkins and the Spark Museum; Mike Katzdorn; MarconiPLC; Tesla Memorial Society; Thinkstock; and Thomas White.