Aug. 20 marks National Radio Day. Radio's significance in the world may not be as obvious today, but before television and the affordability of vinyl records, radio was king.
Experimental work on the connection between electricity and magnetism began around 1820, but it took almost a century and the work of many prominent scientists before "radio" became successful. Italian inventor and engineer Guglielmo Marconi developed, demonstrated and marketed the first successful long-distance wireless telegraph.
In 1901 he broadcast the first trans-Atlantic radio signal and, jointly with Ferdinand Braun, won the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics, "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy."
Check out "Signor Marconi's Magic Box: The Most Remarkable Invention of the 19th Century & the Amateur Inventor Whose Genius Sparked a Revolution," by Gavin Weightman, and "Radios: Wireless Sound," by Roger Barr.
By the 1920s, the home radio occupied a
prized spot in homes, where the family gathered to listen to news or entertainment programs. Radio broadcasting included live and prerecorded sound and content included comedy, drama, news, music, and sports reporting.
The on-air announcers and programmers were known as disc jockeys. The world's first radio disc jockey was 16-year-old Ray Newby, who began regularly playing records on a small transmitter in San Jose, Calif., in 1909.
To fully appreciate radio's history, you can listen to the two CDs included with the book "We Interrupt This Broadcast," by Joe Garner, or watch the documentary "Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio," produced by Ken Burns.
One historic broadcast announced the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America's declaration of war on Japan. The broadcast of H.G. Wells' radio play, "War of the Worlds," caused widespread fear and panic, because the radio performances by Orson Welles' Mercury Theater Players were so believable. Recordings of other original radio programs are available to check out and enjoy.
For more information on radio and radio personalities, check out "Same Time, Same Station: An A-Z Guide to Radio from Jack Benny to Howard Stern," by Ron Lackmann; "Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves," by Gene Fowler & Bill Crawford; "Public Radio: Behind the Voices," by Lisa A. Phillips; and "Good Day! The Paul Harvey Story," by Paul J. Batura.
Radio is an important part of our nation's history and continues to play a valuable role today.
A new library catalog launches the first week of October with enhanced searching and great new features. You'll be able to save your reading history, create reading wish lists, get text messages, email check-out receipts, and pay fines online.
For more information about this or any other topic, contact your local library. Central Library: 748-5555; Braden River: 727-6079; Island: 778-6341; Palmetto: 722-3333; Rocky Bluff: 723-4821; South Manatee: 755-3892. (All numbers are area code 941.)
You may also access the library via the Internet: www.mymanatee.org/library
Judy Mullen, is the assistant supervisor of the Braden River Library.