Timeline of radio

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The timeline of radio lists within the history of radio, the technology and events that produced instruments that use radio waves and activities that people undertook. Later, the history is dominated by programming and contents, which is closer to general history.

Origins and developments[edit]

Although the title "inventor of radio" is popularly attributed to Guglielmo Marconi, his was just the practical application of 80 years of scientific advancement in the field including the predictions of Michael Faraday, the theoretical work of James Clerk Maxwell, and the experimental demonstrations of Heinrich Rudolf Hertz.[1]

  • 1820: Hans Christian Ørsted discovered the relationship between electricity and magnetism in a very simple experiment. He demonstrated that a wire carrying a current was able to deflect a magnetized compass needle.
  • 1831: Michael Faraday began a series of experiments in which he discovered electromagnetic induction. The relation was mathematically modeled by Faraday's law, which subsequently became one of the four Maxwell equations. Faraday proposed that electromagnetic forces extended into the empty space around the conductor, but did not complete his work involving that proposal.
  • 1861 to 1865: James Clerk Maxwell made experiments with electromagnetic waves.
  • July 30, 1872: Mahlon Loomis was issued U.S. Patent 129,971.
  • 1873: Maxwell, as a result of experiments, first described the theoretical basis of the propagation of electromagnetic waves in his paper to the Royal Society A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field.
  • 28 November 1875: Thomas Edison announced to the press that while experimenting with the telegraph, he had noted a phenomenon that he termed "etheric force". He abandoned this research when Elihu Thomson, among others, ridiculed the idea.
  • 1878: David E. Hughes was the first to transmit and receive radio waves when he noticed that his induction balance caused noise in the receiver of his homemade telephone.
  • 1880: David Hughes demonstrated his discovery to the Royal Society, but was told it was merely induction.
  • 1884: Temistocle Calzecchi-Onesti at Fermo in Italy invented a tube filled with iron filings, called a "coherer".
  • 1884 to 1886: Edouard Branly of France produced an improved version of the coherer.
  • 1885: Edison took out a patent on a system of radio communication between ships, which he then sold to Guglielmo Marconi.
    1887 experimental setup of Hertz's apparatus.
  • 1886 to 1888: Heinrich Rudolf Hertz validated Maxwell's theory through experiment. He demonstrated that radio radiation had all the properties of waves (now called Hertzian waves), and discovered that the electromagnetic equations could be reformulated into a partial differential equation called the wave equation.
  • 1885 to 1892: Claims have been made that Murray, Kentucky farmer Nathan Stubblefield invented radio, but his devices seem to have worked by induction transmission rather than radio transmission.
  • February 1892: British chemist and physicist William Crookes publishes an article suggesting "Hertzian waves" could be used in wireless telegraphy.[2]
  • 1893 to 1894: Roberto Landell de Moura, a Brazilian priest and scientist, conducted experiments. He did not publicize his achievement until 1900.
  • 1893: Nikola Tesla delivers a lecture "On Light and other High Frequency Phenomena" before the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and the National Electric Light Association St Louis. Tesla did not think air-born radio waves existed[3] but saw wireless and electromagnetic phenomenon as a promising wireless lighting and power distribution system with communication as a side aspect.[4] Tesla used sensitive electromagnetic receivers,[5] that were unlike the less responsive coherers later used by Marconi and other early experimenters.
  • 1894: Heinrich Rudolf Hertz died.
  • 19 August 1894: British physicist Sir Oliver Lodge demonstrated the reception of Morse code signaling using radio waves using a "coherer". He also demonstrates controlling frequency by changing inductance and capacitance in his circuits.[6]
  • November 1894: The Indian physicist, Jagdish Chandra Bose, demonstrated publicly the use of radio waves in Calcutta, but he was not interested in patenting his work.[7] Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell at a distance using electromagnetic waves, proving that communication signals can be sent without using wires.
  • 1894: The Russian physicist Alexander Popov built a coherer.
  • 1895: Marconi is the first scientist to achieve successful radio transmission.[8]
  • 1896: Marconi was awarded a patent for radio with British Patent 12039, Improvements in Transmitting Electrical Impulses and Signals and in Apparatus There-for. This is the initial patent for radio.
  • 1896: Bose went to London on a lecture tour and met Marconi, who was conducting wireless experiments for the British post office.
  • 1897: Marconi established the radio station on the Isle of Wight, England. In the U.S. during 1897, Tesla applied for two key radio patents. Those two patents were issued in early 1900.
  • 1898: Marconi opened the first radio factory, on Hall Street, Chelmsford, England, employing around 50 people.
  • 1899: Bose announced his invention of the "iron-mercury-iron coherer with telephone detector" in a paper presented at Royal Society, London.
  • 1900: Reginald Fessenden made a weak transmission of voice over the airwaves.
  • July 1901: Tesla begins construction of his Wardenclyffe Tower wireless transmission facility. The project ran out of funding by 1905 and was never completed.
  • December 1901: Marconi claims to have received in St. John's, Newfoundland a radio signal transmitted from Poldhu in Cornwall (UK).
  • February 1902: Marconi starts conducting more organized and documented tests sailing on board the SS Philadelphia west from Great Britain recording signals sent daily from the Poldhu station showing reception up to 2,100 miles (3,400 km).
  • December 1902: the Marconi station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada transmits the first signal from North America back to Great Britain.
  • 1904: The U.S. Patent Office reversed its decision, awarding Marconi a patent for the invention of radio.

Spark-gap telegraphy[edit]

Using various patents, the company called "British Marconi" was established and began communication between coast radio stations and ships at sea. This company, along with its subsidiary American Marconi, had a stranglehold on ship to shore communication. It operated much the way American Telephone and Telegraph operated until 1983, owning all of its own equipment and refusing to communicate with non-Marconi equipped ships. Many inventions improved the quality of radio, and amateurs experimented with uses of radio, thus the first seeds of broadcasting were planted. Around the turn of the century, the Slaby-Arco wireless system was developed by Adolf Slaby and Georg von Arco (later incorporated into Telefunken).

A spark-gap transmitter for generating radio frequency electromagnetic waves. Such devices served as the transmitters for most early wireless systems.
  • 24 December 1906: Reginald Fessenden used an Alexanderson alternator and rotary spark-gap transmitter to make the first radio audio broadcast, from Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Ships at sea heard a broadcast that included Fessenden playing O Holy Night on the violin and reading a passage from the Bible.
  • 1907: Marconi established the first permanent transatlantic wireless service from Clifden, Ireland to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.
  • 1909: Marconi and Karl Ferdinand Braun were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for "contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy".
  • April 1909: Charles David Herrold, an electronics instructor in San Jose, California constructed a broadcasting station. It used spark gap technology, but modulated the carrier frequency with the human voice, and later music. The station "San Jose Calling" (there were no call letters), continued in an unbroken lineage to eventually become today's KCBS in San Francisco. Herrold, the son of a Santa Clara Valley farmer, coined the terms "narrowcasting" and "broadcasting", respectively to identify transmissions destined for a single receiver such as that on board a ship, and those transmissions destined for a general audience. (The term "broadcasting" had been used in farming to define the tossing of seed in all directions.) Charles Herrold did not claim to be the first to transmit the human voice, but he claimed to be the first to conduct "broadcasting". To help the radio signal to spread in all directions, he designed omnidirectional antennas, which he mounted on the rooftops of various buildings in San Jose. Herrold also claims to be the first broadcaster to accept advertising, although advertising generally involves paid announcements. He exchanged publicity for a local record store for records to play on his station.
  • 1910: The Wireless Ship Act was passed by the United States Congress, requiring all ships of the United States traveling over two-hundred miles off the coast and carrying over fifty passengers to be equipped with wireless radio equipment with a range of one-hundred miles. The legislation was prompted by a shipping accident in 1909, where a single wireless operator saved the lives of 1200 people.[9]
  • 1912: The RMS Titanic sank. While in distress, it contacted several other ships via wireless. After this, wireless telegraphy using spark-gap transmitters quickly became universal on large ships. The Radio Act of 1912 required all seafaring vessels to maintain 24-hour radio watch and keep in contact with nearby ships and coastal radio stations.[9]
  • 1913: Marconi initiated duplex transatlantic wireless communication between North America and Europe for the first time, using receiver stations in Letterfrack Ireland, and Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.
  • 1913: The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was convened and produced a treaty requiring shipboard radio stations to be manned 24 hours a day. A typical high-power spark gap was a rotating commutator with six to twelve contacts per wheel, nine inches to a foot wide, driven by about 2000 volts DC. As the gaps made and broke contact, the radio wave was audible as a tone in a crystal set. The telegraph key often directly made and broke the 2000 volt supply. One side of the spark gap was directly connected to the antenna. Receivers with thermionic valves became commonplace before spark-gap transmitters were replaced by continuous wave transmitters.

Audio broadcasting (1915 to 1950s)[edit]

Ad for an Atwater Kent radio receiver in the Ladies' Home Journal (September, 1926)
  • 1916: First regular broadcasts on 9XM (now WHA) - Wisconsin state weather, delivered in Morse Code
  • 1919: First clear transmission of human speech, (on 9XM) after experiments with voice (1918) and music (1917).
  • 1920: Regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment began in Argentina, pioneered by the group around Enrique Telémaco Susini.
  • 1920: Spark-gap telegraphy stopped.
  • 20 August 1920: E.W. Scripps's WWJ in Detroit received its commercial broadcasting license and started broadcasting. It has carried a regular schedule of programming to the present. Broadcasting was not yet supported by advertising. The stations owned by manufacturers and department stores were established to sell radios and those owned by newspapers to sell papers and express the opinions of the owners.
  • 31 August 1920: The first known radio news program was broadcast by station 8MK, the unlicensed predecessor of WWJ (AM) in Detroit, Michigan.
  • October 1920: Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the first US commercial broadcasting station to be licensed when it was granted call letters KDKA. (Their engineer Frank Conrad had been broadcasting from his own station since 1916.)
  • 26 February 1922: In California, Joseph Franklin Rutherford transmitted his first radio Bible sermon.
  • 1922: Regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment began in the UK from the Marconi Research Centre at Writtle near Chelmsford, England. Early radios ran the entire power of the transmitter through a carbon microphone.
  • Mid 1920s:
  • 1920s: Radio was first used to transmit pictures visible as television.
  • Early 1930s: Single sideband (SSB) and frequency modulation (FM) were invented by amateur radio operators. By 1940, they were established commercial modes.

Westinghouse was brought into the patent allies group, General Electric, American Telephone and Telegraph, and Radio Corporation of America, and became a part owner of RCA. All radios made by GE and Westinghouse were sold under the RCA label 60% GE and 40% Westinghouse. ATT's Western Electric would build radio transmitters. The patent allies attempted to set up a monopoly, but they failed due to successful competition. Much to the dismay of the patent allies, several of the contracts for inventor's patents held clauses protecting "amateurs" and allowing them to use the patents. Whether the competing manufacturers were really amateurs was ignored by these competitors.

These features arose:-

  • Commercial (United States) or governmental (Europe) station networks
  • Federal Radio Commission
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Birth of the soap opera
  • Race towards shorter waves and FM
  • 1933: FM radio was patented; Edwin H. Armstrong invented it. FM uses frequency modulation of the radio wave to minimize static and interference from electrical equipment and the atmosphere, in the audio program.
  • 1937: W1XOJ, the first experimental FM radio station, was granted a construction permit by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  • 1940s: Standard analog television transmissions started in North America and Europe.
  • 1943: the Supreme Court of the United States, in a case on radio patents involving the U.S. government vs the Marconi Company, restores some of the prior patents of Oliver Lodge, John Stone Stone, and Nicola Tesla.[10][11] The decision was not about Marconi's original radio patents[12] and the court declared that their decision had no bearing on Marconi's claim as the first to achieve radio communication, just that since Marconi's claim to certain patents were questionable, he could not claim infringement on those same patents[13] (there are claims the decision may have let the U.S. government avoid paying damages that the Marconi Company was claiming for use of its patents during World War I via simply restoring the non-Marconi prior patent).[10]
  • After World War II: The FM radio broadcast was introduced in Germany.
  • 1948: A new wavelength plan was set up for Europe at a meeting in Copenhagen. Because of the recent war, Germany (which was not even invited) was only given a few medium-wave frequencies, which are not very good for broadcasting. For this reason Germany began broadcasting on USW, "ultra short wave" (nowadays called VHF). After some amplitude modulation experience with VHF, it was realized that FM radio was a much better alternative for VHF radio than AM.

Later 20th century developments[edit]

  • 1954: Regency introduced a pocket transistor radio, the TR-1, powered by a "standard 22.5V Battery".
  • 1960: Sony introduced their first transistorized radio, small enough to fit in a vest pocket, and able to be powered by a small battery. It was durable, because there were no tubes to burn out. Over the next twenty years, transistors displaced tubes almost completely except for very high power, or very high frequency, uses.
  • Early 1960s: VOR systems finally became widespread; before that, aircraft used commercial AM radio stations for navigation. (AM stations are still marked on U.S. aviation charts).
  • 1963: Color television was commercially transmitted, and the first (radio) communication satellite, TELSTAR, was launched. In the late 1960s, the U.S. long-distance telephone network began to convert to a digital network, employing digital radios for many of its links.
  • 1970s: LORAN became the premier radio navigation system. Soon, the U.S. Navy experimented with satellite navigation.
  • 1987: The GPS constellation of satellites was launched.
  • Early 1990s: Amateur radio experimenters began to use personal computers with audio cards to process radio signals.
  • 1994: The U.S. Army and DARPA launched an aggressive successful project to construct a software radio that could become a different radio on the fly by changing software.
  • Late 1990s: The digital transmissions began to be applied to broadcasting.

Telex on radio[edit]

Telegraphy did not go away on radio. Instead, the degree of automation increased. On land-lines in the 1930s, Teletypewriters automated encoding, and were adapted to pulse-code dialing to automate routing, a service called telex. For thirty years, telex was the absolute cheapest form of long-distance communication, because up to 25 telex channels could occupy the same bandwidth as one voice channel. For business and government, it was an advantage that telex directly produced written documents.

Telex systems were adapted to short-wave radio by sending tones over single sideband. CCITT R.44 (the most advanced pure-telex standard) incorporated character-level error detection and retransmission as well as automated encoding and routing. For many years, telex-on-radio (TOR) was the only reliable way to reach some third-world countries. TOR remains reliable, though less-expensive forms of e-mail are displacing it. Many national telecom companies historically ran nearly pure telex networks for their governments, and they ran many of these links over short wave radio.

21st century development[edit]

Internet radio[edit]

Internet radio consists of sending radio-style audio programming over streaming Internet connections: no radio transmitters need be involved at any point in the process.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]