Wednesday, January 14, 2009

History of WMAQ, Chapter 1, Pt. 1

Originally published in the December, 2008, Old Radio Times.(

The History of WMAQ Radio
By Tom Goatee
Reprinted with permission

Chapter 1

The history of WMAQ, Chicago’’s first radio station, so clearly parallels the History of Radio Broadcasting that it reads like a chronicle of many trials, tribulations, failures and successes that beset the first broadcasters, who were unknowingly laying the foundation for a great new industry: radio.

It is a far cry from the Early Twenties to Present Day Broadcasting. No industry has ever moved so quickly, so efficiently, to the high state of perfection that Broadcasting enjoys today.

It is difficult for most of us, who have lived and worked through this change, to fully comprehend the historical and sociological significance of our progress. Yet all this happened within a span of less than twenty years, two amazing decades.It is hard to say exactly when broadcasting first began, Before the First World War there were a few thousand radio amateurs, most of them noys and young men, who tinkered occasionally with "spark" sets and established purely local telegraphic communication.

During the War, however, the radio art underwent the first of its many radical changes. The army became interested in radio as a means of field communication and experimentation began on a more important scale. The vacuum tube was developed and used with some fair success, and this opened the path for many new circuits never possible before. Many of the radio amateurs received further training from the Government and, in addition to serving their country both here and abroad, they gained a great deal of practical experience in radio communication.

After the War was over there were well over twenty thousand men in this country with a technical working knowledge of radio. Some of these found immediate employment as ship or land commercial operators. But a much greater number returned to their former employment, and looked upon radio, specifically amateur radio, as just an interesting hobby. The ban on amateur activity was lifted in the summer of 1919, and new "ham" stations using new equipment began to appear, various scattered from 50 to 250 meters. They were still primarily interested in radio telegraphy, because telephony was too new and much two expensive for experimentation. Vacuum tubes could neither be bought or manufactured, except by the Government, due to frozen patent rights held by competing companies.


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