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City Iowa City, Iowa
Branding Iowa Public Radio
Frequency 910 kHz
First air date June 26, 1922 (originally experimental as 9YA 1915-1922)[1]
Format National Public Radio
Power 5,000 watts (daytime)
4,000 watts (nighttime)
Class B
Transmitter coordinates 41°31′26″N 91°30′11″W / 41.52389°N 91.50306°W / 41.52389; -91.50306
Callsign meaning State University of Iowa (legal name for the University of Iowa)
Former callsigns WHAA (1922-1925)
Owner University of Iowa
Sister stations KSUI
Webcast Listen Live

WSUI (910 AM) is a public radio station in Iowa City, Iowa, in the United States. It is operated by the University of Iowa and a member of Iowa Public Radio's news network. Its signal serves most of eastern Iowa. WSUI is one of two National Public Radio member stations serving eastern Iowa, the other being KUNI in Cedar Falls. It is a sister station to all-classical KSUI.

WSUI got its start prior to the era of broadcast radio, operating a "wireless telegraph" transmitter under the experimental radio call sign 9YA in 1911.[2] It began airing regular voice broadcasts in 1919. It was granted a full license on June 26, 1922 as WHAA, becoming WSUI in 1925. It is the oldest educational station west of the Mississippi River.[3][4] It was one of several AM stations opened by Midwestern universities in the early days of radio.

The studios were located for many years in the University's Engineering Building. They were relocated to a former supermarket building south of campus in the late 1990s, when expansion of the College of Engineering required WSUI and KSUI to vacate their space in the Engineering Building.

WSUI's original three self-supporting broadcast towers were located just west of Mormon Trek Boulevard on the far west side of the campus. On June 29, 1998, a fierce line of thunderstorms packing winds of nearly 100 miles-per-hour toppled two of the towers. For months afterwards, WSUI's nighttime power output from the single remaining tower was limited to 1250 watts non-directional. Today, the towers are located about 10 miles south of Iowa City. A single tower is used during the day. Due to the transmitter's power and height, as well as Iowa's flat land (with near-perfect soil conductivity), its daytime signal covers almost all of eastern Iowa and part of western Illinois. Power is fed to all three towers in a directional array at night to protect WLS in Chicago at nearby 890 AM, concentrating WSUI's signal northward toward the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas.

The early years[edit]

The assigned station call sign, 9YA (the "Y" in the call sign indicating operation under a Technical and Training School license) had been in use by the State University of Iowa—now the University of Iowa—since 1915, sometime after the installation of the university's first Morse code transmitter in 1913.[5] As of 1916 university electrical engineering students were operating a 2 kilowatt spark gap transmitter at a 750-meter wavelength that could be heard 1000 miles away, with two-way communications taking place within a 500-mile radius,[6] and were transmitting 300-word lessons on a regular schedule that dealt with wireless communication.[7] Carl Menzer, whose interest in wireless began at his high school in Lone Tree, entered the State University of Iowa as a freshman in 1917, and was later to become station director for WHAA/WSUI, a position he held until his retirement in 1968. After the World War I wartime moratorium on radio transmission was lifted in 1919, Menzer brought vacuum tube technology to 9YA, signaling the start of regularly scheduled voice and music broadcasts.[8]

The first “radio telephone” station, built using two donated experimental vacuum tubes, required use of two microphones for voice and for pickup of a windup phonograph, the microphones needing to be swapped frequently when the one in use became too hot to touch due to high current. In spite of audio quality and technical issues the station gained a following among a collection of crystal sets enthusiasts,[9] and within two years had inspired sufficient interest to cause State University of Iowa President Walter A. Jessup and other university educators to envision feasibility of advanced study in broadcasting, leading to application for a university broadcast license. On June 26, 1922 the call letters WHAA were assigned, by the end of September test transmissions were complete, and on October 17, 1922, the now official broadcast station was dedicated in a gala on-air commemoration that included talk by President Jessup.[10]

WSUI was a charter member of NPR in 1971, and was one of the 90 stations to carry the inaugural broadcast of All Things Considered. It also served as a source of NPR programming for the Quad Cities until that area got its own public radio station, WVIK, in 1980.

Notable alumni[edit]

WSUI alumni include Harry Kalas, who served as Sports Director for the campus radio station WSUI and did play-by-play for all types of sports. Kalas received baseball broadcasting's highest honor—the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Early television[edit]

Iowa is a pioneer in educational broadcasting; it is home to two of the oldest educational broadcast stations in the world, the University of Iowa's WSUI and Iowa State's WOI. In 1933, The University of Iowa experimental TV station W9XK, later W9XUI provided twice a week video programming, with WSUI providing the audio channel.

By 1941, the FCC allocated TV channels 1 and 12 for the W9XUI television station.[11] This early attempt at educational broadcasting ended with US entrance into World War II.[12][13] The concept of pure educational television, which Dr. E.B. Kurtz and his Iowa colleagues pioneered, was buried by the commercial television system which dominated development of the electronic media in Iowa after World War II.[14] In 1970, WSUI-TV became KIIN, to create statewide Iowa Public Television network.


  1. ^ "Special Land Stations, Alphabetically by Names of Stations" (PDF). Radio Service Bulletin. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation: 3. April 1915. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  2. ^ Griffith, W.I. "Report on radio activities of Iowa colleges and universities". Iowa Digital Library. Iowa State Planning Board. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Jeff Stein (2004). Making Waves: The People and Places of Iowa Broadcasting (PDF). WDG Publishing. p. 11. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
  4. ^ Epstein, Sara (1999-04-09). "WSUI's radio days: 80 years on the air". FYI. The University of Iowa. Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  5. ^ Ford, Arthur (January 1922). "9-Y-A" (PDF). Iowa Alumnus. The State University of Iowa: 111–113. Retrieved 2012-08-16. 
  6. ^ "Wireless Briefs from S.U.I." (PDF). The Transit. The State University of Iowa College of Engineering: 79–80. 1916. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  7. ^ "Wireless Education Latest Undertaking" (PDF). News Letter. The State University of Iowa. 2 (8): 1. November 18, 1916. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  8. ^ Hugh Richard Slotten (2009). Radio's Hidden Voice: The Origins of Public Broadcasting in the United States. University of Illinois Press. p. 17. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  9. ^ Menzer, Carl (November 1968). "Fifty Years of Broadcasting" (PDF). The Transit. The State University of Iowa College of Engineering. LXXIII (2): 21. Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  10. ^ Ebert, Sylvanus (February 1938). "Radio History at Iowa" (PDF). The Transit. The State University of Iowa College of Engineering. XLII (5): 5. Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  11. ^ "Television stations authorized by the FCC, January 1, 1941". RCA Radio Travel-Log. 1941. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  12. ^ "The FCC: Seventy-Six Years of Watching TV" (PDF). FCC. Summer 2003. Retrieved 14 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Rick Plummer. "A Short History of Television Station W9XK/W9XU". Early Television Museum. Retrieved 14 July 2012. 
  14. ^ "The Untold Story, W9XK - Iowa City". Wartburg College. Retrieved 14 July 2012. 

External links[edit]