- Published: 03 December 2008
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Frank Luce, age 13, of Portland, Ore., for his question:
WHEN DID WE START RADIO BROADCASTING?
Radio developed in the late 1800s. An Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi came up with a way of sending telegraph signals by radio in 1895. There are many claims for the first radio broadcast of human speech over the air but most historians now give credit to an American physicist named Reginald Fessenden who made a broadcast in 1906.
Experimental radio broadcasts actually started about 1910. In that year, an American scientist named Lee DeForest produced a program from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The program starred the famous singer Enrico Caruso.
An experimental radio station opened at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1915 and another began operating in Pittsburgh in 1916.
Many people consider radio station WWJ in Detroit to be the first commercial radio station. It started regular broadcasts on August 20, 1920. Others claim the distinction for station KDKA in Pittsburgh.
KDKA grew out of the Pittsburgh experimental station that started in 1916. Its starting date as a regular broadcasting station is uncertain. But the station's broadcast of the 1920 presidential election results on November 2, 1920, is generally considered the start of professional broadcasting.
The first license to broadcast regularly went to station WBZ in Springfield, Mass. The federal government issued the license on September 15, 1921.
Stations soon sprang up in every part of the United States.
Network broadcasting started as early as October, 1922. At that time, WJZ in New York City and WGY in Schenectady, New York, broadcast the World Series. The two stations formed a simple network. They were connected by telephone lines.
The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) formed NBC, the first permanent national network in 1926.
The period of time called the Golden Age of Broadcasting started about 1925 and continued until about 1950. During this period, radio was a major source of family entertainment. Every night, families throughout the country gathered in their living rooms to listen to comedies, action filled adventure dramas, music and other kinds of radio fare.
Adventure shows in the late afternoons were especially designed for children. Children in every part of the country rushed home from school each day to hear their favorite programs.
During the daytime hours in the Golden Age of Broadcasting, millions of women listened to dramas that were called "soap operas" because soap manufacturers sponsored many of them.
In 1919, Woodrow Wilson became the first United States president to make a radio broadcast. He spoke from a ship to World War I troops aboard other vessels.
In 1947 another important event happened to benefit the radio: scientists at the Bell Teleplhone Laboratories developed the transistor.