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July Highlights of Radio Tech History

What were radio people talking about 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago this month?

This is the seventh installment in a recurring series that looks back at developments that have shaped radio broadcasting during the past 100 years, noting advancements and historical moments month by month. Read June’s story here.

100 Years Ago – July 1924: In an exclusive article for Radio World magazine (no connection with today’s RW), the Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, whose agency now controls all RF spectrum-related matters, states that radio broadcasting “is the only industry I know of which has generally with one acclaim welcomed and prayed for government control.” Hoover also comments on possible use of spectrum for personal telephone communications, saying that this is “not a practical application,” and adding “If we allow private communications by radio telephone, we would have the air filled with invitations to a dinner or comments on Lilly’s bobbed hair….”

Circa 1928: Soon after the launch of regularly scheduled broadcasting, Herbert Hoover was sworn in as Secretary of Commerce in the new Warren Harding administration. In this office, Hoover was responsible for radio regulation, and through a series of ‘radio conferences,’ helped establish many of the principles of U.S. broadcasting that have carried over into the 21st century.

75 Years Ago – July 1949: Broadcast equipment manufacturer RCA is promoting a new concept in broadcast gear — plug-in modular devices. The company’s new BA-1A preamp, BA-4B monitoring amp, BX-1B power supply, and several other audio amplifying devices are all equipped with this feature for drastically reducing lost air time due to failures. The company claims that replacement of these units is “now as easy as installing or removing an electronic tube.”

50 Years Ago – July 1974: The FCC is preparing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its first meeting as a federal agency, held July 11, 1934. The action formally marked the end of the earlier Federal Radio Commission and removal of telephone, telegraph and cable regulation from the State Department and Interstate Commerce Commission. A special anniversary celebration ceremony is planned July 10 in the FCC’s lobby, with current Chairman Richard Wiley highlighting the history and accomplishments of the agency.

25 Years Ago – July 1999: Broadcasters are put on notice that the FCC is moving forward with a requirement for mandatory electronic filing of forms and reports. Although the Commission has issued assurances that the new computerized process will be “user friendly,” skepticism persists due to problems encountered in connection with the electronic report filing mandate earlier this year in connection with TV children’s programming. (The FCC’s computer crashed and a filing extension had to be granted.) Broadcasters are also worried that they will be living in a “glass house,” with competitors and adversaries having immediate access to electronically file information, as well as the potential for error from inadvertently hitting the “send” button before reviewing information. 

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