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The History of Radio

Many people contributed to the creation of radio. The journey began with Hans Christian Oersted, who in 1820 posited that a magnetic field is created around a wire that has a current running through it. In 1830, English physicist Michael Faraday confirmed the theory. Then in 1864, James Clerk Maxwell stated that electromagnetic currents or waves travelled at the speed of light. In the late 1880s, German physicist Heinrich Hertz successfully tested this theory. Shortly after, Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian inventor, began making short-distance broadcasts in his own backyard. Then in September of 1899, he shocked the world by telegraphing the results of the America's Cup yacht races from a ship at sea to a station in New York. Soon after, he broadcast his first transatlantic signal. On December 24, 1906, Canadian-born physicist Reginald Fessenden sent the first long-distance transmission of human voice and music, truly setting the stage for radio broadcasting. Lee De Forest and Edwin Armstrong made further contributions in the early 1900s, and public demand for radio grew. Entertainment broadcasting began around 1910 and included De Forest’s program. The first commercial radio station (KDKA, based in Pennsylvania) debuted in 1920. This ushered in the Golden Age of Radio, which lasted from the 1920s to the 1950s, when the introduction of television caused a decline. While it may not be as popular as it once was, even in today’s digital age, radio continues to be a strong force in American life.

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