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  The History of... Radio

By the late 1800's, Americans had nearly 50 years of experience with a new communication device that used electricity and magnets to instantly "write at a distance." The success of the telegraph led Alexander Graham Bell to develop an "electrical speech machine" in 1876 that also used electricity and magnets to capture and send the sound of the human voice over long distances. But as wonderful as these amazing devices were, they shared a common weakness - their messages could only go where their wires led.
So what was a ship at sea or a sheriff on an open range to do when they urgently needed to summon help?
Today we know that wireless communication using the radio frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum answered these questions.
Inventor Ernst Alexanderson was the General Electric Company engineer whose high-frequency alternator gave America its start in the field of radio communication. In 1904, Alexanderson was assigned to build a high-frequency machine that would operate at high speeds and produce a continuous-wave commission.
Before the invention of his alternator, radio was an affair only of dots and dashes transmitted by inefficient crashing spark machines. After two years of experimentation, Alexanderson finally constructed a two-kilowatt, 100,000-cycle machine. It was installed in the Fessenden station at Brant Rock, Massachusetts, on Christmas Eve, 1906. It enabled that station to transmit a radio broadcast which included a voice and a violin solo.
The first commercial radio station was, KDKA Pittsburgh, in 1920, since then the radio industry has enjoyed tremendous popularity, provided listeners with endless hours of entertainment and information, and played a valuable role in the making of history.
For more information on this subject visit The FCC History Project.
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On April 3, 1973, Martin Cooper made the first cellular phone call.



last reviewed/updated on 06/24/04 

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