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The Evolution Of Radio In The 20th Century And Into The Television Age

1223 words - 5 pages

Since the beginning of history, humans have been searching for ways to more effectively communicate with one another. Into the 19th century, Americans searched for more efficient ways to communicate than through letter and newspaper. The invention of the radio and subsequent revolution it caused forever changed the ways in which we interact with each other. Up until the invention of the radio, Americans were isolated in their homes and communities and news spread relatively slowly. In the words of Howard Smith, “Radio had converted America from being isolationist to internationalistic,” in more ways than one (Keith, 12). Homes were no longer quiet: they were now filled with the sounds of radio plays, sports games, music, talk shows, and much more. America blissfully accepted the radio and radio reached its peak well into the 1940s (3). However, another up and coming medium of communications was beginning to form from the funds radio brought in. Television, originally called “Radio-vision,” by its developer David Sarnoff, was to replace radio altogether and change not just America, but the world forever (10). To a certain extent, Sarnoff was correct. Radio was the first step in bringing media into the homes of Americans, but television was much more personal. By the 1950s, radio took a beating as ½ of the United States had televisions in 1953 (12). However, radio adapted and persevered through it’s adaptability and endless possibilities of subject matter. Radio had, and still does, hold a place in the hearts of Americans and people around the world for what it brought to the lives of everyone. Radio brought entertainment and excitement into the hearts of everyone, and it is the remembrance of this legacy that allows radio to live on today. Though radio has been bombarded with other forms of communication since its creation, its timelessness and simplicity has kept it strong throughout the 20th century and in the world today.
The first development of radio began during the late 19th century by German scientist Heinrich Hertz. Hertz’s goal, however, was not aimed at developing radio as we know it today, but rather proving the existence of electromagnetic radio waves (Maltin, 1). Radio waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and are, obviously, not visible to the human eye. Radio waves act similarly to light waves in that they can be as small as 1 mm long to hundreds of miles long, but carry sound instead of light (Graham, 6-7). In 1888, Hertz proved the theory, proposed a decade earlier by James Clerk Maxwell, that the electromagnetic spectrum exists, and since then others have built off this discovery (7). The person who most often receives the credit for inventing radio as we know it today is Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian scientist (Empire of the Air, Burns). Marconi held the first patent in radiotelegraphy with is creation of the world’s first wireless telegraph through the use of electromagnetic radio waves in 1896 (Graham, 9). Marconi’s...

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