Thursday, January 15, 2009

History of WMAQ, Chapter 1, Pt. 2

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

The History of WMAQ Radio
By Tom Goatee
Reprinted with permission

Chapter 1

But in spite of these adverse conditions, manay amateurs went ahead with radio telephonic experimentation. The priceless "E" tubes, "OG" tubes and others were occasionally obtained by some amateurs---usually "from a friend in the Coast Guard", or other slightly illegal sources. The many difficulties blocking the paths of the early radio amateurs in their experimentation did little to shake their enthusiasm.

By the time the winter had arrived in 1919, there were many amateurs on the air "actually talking". And from that time Morse code was destined to take a back seat in radio, to be used principally for communication.

Not satisfied with merely talking to other local amateurs (and, incidentially not being "tied down" by any federal regulations) the hams son conceived the idea of broadcasting entertainment. And so, using their home-made "rigs" and makeshift equipment, they began transmitting programs to their friends---and to the public.

This condition was particularly so in the Chicago area, where a great many amateurs resided within a comparitively small radius. One of the largest of these stations was owned by Austin A. Edward, and influential "ham" who not only had the best equipment available but also constructed a small studio in his home. Other well known stations in this same vicinity were operated by Thorne Donnelly, Arthur Leonard, Jr. and even our own Larry Dutton (NBC, Chicago).

All through the sping of 1920 interest in amateur radio broadcasting continued on the gradual increase. "Hams" gladly built and sold small crystal receiving sets for their neighbors and friends, but there were relatively few people who knew---or even cared---about the possibilities of radio.

Then a remarkable thing happened. And radio underwent another radical change.

A Pittsburgh engineer, Frank Conrad, had spent most of the spring developing and perfecting a radio-telephone transmitter in the Westinghouse Laboratories at East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was assigned an experimental call by the government, and began transmitting speech and test programs late in the spring. Only a few amateurs with receiving sets heard his programs. Then others began to listen. Soon Dr. Conrad had an enthusiastic following of listeners, and he began a more-or-less regular experimental schedule.

Late in the spring of 1920, Pittsburgh department stores advertised and quickly sold “receiving apparatus for listening to Doctor Conrad’s radio programs”. The general public was finally becoming conscious of radio broadcasting. Every program, no matter how irregular, was assured of a large audience. And the Westinghouse Electric Company began to take an interest in the possibility of broadcasting.


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