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Today in Radio History

Today in Radio History

To know where you’re going you have to know where you’ve been. The history of radio broadcasting is interesting and extends beyond the work of Tesla, Marconi and Armstrong. It includes advances in audio, telephony, satellites, physics, electronics, computers and more. Follow some of these milestones with this handy reference of important dates from radio’s past.

This list is by no means complete. If you would like to suggest an event to add, tell us at [email protected]. Please include a reference for the historical information if possible.

January 1, 1902: Nathan Stubblefied demonstrates natural conduction telephone in Murray, KY

1, 1983: ARPANET switches from NCP to TCP/IP1, 1997EAS rules go into effect

3, 1929: Paley incorporates Columbia Broadcast System

3, 1983: Time magazine names the computer the “Machine of the Year”

4, 1923: WEAF and WNAC conduct first wired simulcast

5, 1932: The Shadow debuts on CBS5, 1940Armstrong demonstrates FM to the FCC

5, 1979: FCC eliminates Third Class operator requirement for stations6, 1838Morse Code privately demonstrated

6, 2004: First IBOC radio receiver commercially sold. Location: Cedar Rapids, IA

8, 1918: President Wilson 14 Points speech aired worldwide

8, 1927: Commercial transatlantic telephone service inaugurated between New York and London

8, 1993: NRSC OKs RBDS standard

9, 1943: Nicola Tesla dies

9, 1958: John Tukey coins term “software” in American Mathematical Monthly

10, 1987: NRSC-1 goes into effect to establish AM emphasis/de-emphasis curves

12, 1949: Claude Shannon proves mathematics of Nyquist Theorem.

12, 1995: FCC designates 2.31 to 2.36GHz for S-DARS use

18, 1983: First GUI/mouse computer, the Apple Lisa, unveiled.

19, 1943: FCC endorses Restricted Radio Operator Permits

20, 1920: Ernst Alexanderson granted US patent for magnetic amplifier

20, 1965: DJ Alan Freed, credited with coining the term “rock and roll” dies (Some claim Jan. 20 to be DJ Appreciation Day)

20, 2000: FCC creates LPFM

24, 1984: Apple introduces the Macintosh 128K

25, 1915: The first Intercontinental telephone call

25, 1964: USA launches second communications satellite, Echo 2

31, 1958: U.S. launches its first satellite, Explorer 

February 1, 1942: The Voice of America was introduced

1, 1949: 45 rpm discs are introduced by RCA Victor

2, 1982: Intel intros 80286 processor

2, 2009: WODS(FM) Boston launches 1,000th HD Radio multicast stream.

5, 1916: Alexanderson successfully tests multiple tuned antenna

6, 1929: RCA Victor formed.

7, 1915: First train-to-station radio message, Binghamton, NY

7, 1958: Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) is formed

8, 1996: Telecommunications Act deregulates ownership

9, 1934: FCC grants 500kW license to WLW for W8XO

14, 1946: First ENIAC computer demonstration

17, 1947: VOA begins transmissions to Soviet Union19, 1878Edison receives patent for phonograph

19, 1975: Harris introduces the first solid-state radio transmitter

22, 1857: Heinrich Hertz born in Hamburg, Germany

22, 1916: Ernst Alexanderson granted US patent for a selective tuning system

23, 1927: President Calvin Coolidge signs Public Law 632, the Radio Act of 1927, to create the Federal Radio Commission

24, 1942: VOA begins operations from New York City

26, 1934: President F.D. Roosevelt urges Congress to create the Federal Communications Commission

March 1, 1949: First 45 rpm record issued by RCA: Texarkana Baby by Eddy Arnold

1, 1972: Intel introduces 8008 processor

2, 1897: Marconi granted first wireless patent

3, 1843: President Tyler signs Telegraph Appropriation Bill.

4, 1910: DeForest experimental radio broadcast from Met, NY

4, 1925: First radio Presidential inauguration (Coolidge)4, 1982FCC allows industry to select AM stereo standard

5, 1927: Federal Radio Commission holds first meeting

5, 1998: Digital Radio Mondiale forms in China

7, 1876: Bell receives U.S. patent for telephone

8, 1979: Audio Compact Disc prototype is first demonstrated

10, 1876: Bell successfully transmits by telephone

10, 1922: “Radio Sweeping Country-Million Sets in Use” is the headline in Variety

11, 1948: Audio Engineering Society founded in New York City

12, 1933: President Franklin Roosevelt gives first radio Fireside Chat

15,1679: Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz describes binary numbering

17, 1990: ARPANET ceases to exist.

19, 1918: Standard Time Act establishes Standard and Daylight time in the U.S.

19, 1928: Amos n’ Andy debuts on WMAQ, Chicago

20, 1902: Nathan Stubblefield demonstrates ship-to-shore broadcast to multiple receivers in Washington, DC

21, 1952: Alan Freed hosts first rock concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, at the ClevelandArena

22, 1993: Intel intros Pentium processor

26, 1975: The first Altair 8800 personal computer ships

27, 1899: Marconi transmits across English Channel

April 2, 1974: Intel intros 8080 processor

2, 1997: FCC auctions first S-DARS licenses to CD Radio and American Mobile Radio Corp.

3, 1973: Martin Cooper of Motorola makes the first public cell phone call.

5, 1985: Thousands of radio stations and other audio outlets simultaneously play the song “We Are the World.” 

5, 1964: First official SBE meeting held in Chicago

6, 1875: Bell granted patent for multiple telegraph

8, 1948: Ampex delivers first audio tape recorder, the Model 200, to Bing Crosby Enterprises.

9, 1860: Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville invents the phonautogram to record sound

10, 1989: Intel intros 486 processor family

14, 1983: Society of Broadcast Engineers holds first national frequency coordinators meeting at KLAS(TV), Las Vegas

16, 2005: NRSC adopts NRSC-4 (United States RBDS) and NRSC-5 (United Sates IBOC) standards

17, 1934: WLW licensed to operate at 500kW

19, 1928: Harry Nyquist publishes Nyquist Sampling Theorem

19, 1965: Gordon Moore describes Moore’s Law

20, 1961: FCC authorizes FM stereo standard

21, 1921: The first real radio station arrived in Toledo, when Earl Frank fired up a 10-watt transmitter in the Navarre Hotel. His station, which he called WTAL would later become 1370 WSPD.

22, 1993: Mosaic, the first Web browser, is released

25, 1874: Guglielmo Marconi born27, 1791Samuel Morse born

May 2, 1934: WLW begins operation with 500 kW transmitter

3, 1971: All Things Considered debuts

4, 1920: RCA holds first meeting6, 1937WLS(AM) reporter Herb Morrison describes fiery disaster of zeppelin Hindenburg (“Oh, the humanity!”) at Lakehurst, NJ.

9, 1932: WFLA/WSUN, Clearwater, Fla., tests first directional antenna in the U.S.

11, 1998: Lucent Digital Radio created

12, 1908: Stubblefield granted patent 887,57 for wireless telephone (conduction system)

12, 1941: Konrad Zuse displays the Z3 program-controlled (freely programmable) computer

15, 2001: XM Satellite Radio completes satellite system

16, 194: 6Jack Mullin demonstrates Magnetophon at Institute of Radio Engineers convention

20, 1901: Fessenden applies for high-frequency dynamo patent

22, 1990: Microsoft releases Windows 3.0

24, 1844: Morse telegraphs, “What hath God wrought?” from Washington to Baltimore

26, 1903: Fessenden granted patent for the liquid barretter microphone

June 1, 1961: FM stereo begins use

1, 1979: Intel intros 8088 processor

1, 1988: NRSC-2 goes into effect to establish AM transmission mask

2, 1896: Marconi files full specs for first wireless patent

7, 1932: FCC issues CP for WLW to build W8XO for 500kW

8, 1978: Intel intros 8086 processor

14, 1922: WEAR, Baltimore, broadcasts President Harding’s speech at the dedication of the Francis Scott Key Memorial, the first time a U.S. president has been broadcast live.

14, 1983: Docket 80-90 creates new FM stations15, 1945NBC Blue Network becomes the American Broadcasting Company

15, 1946: WTOD (now WWYM) 1560 AM went on the air in 1946 and set a record by building out the station from CP to operational in a little over 90 days.

16, 1934: Armstrong transmits FM signal 70 miles from Empire State Building to Long Island

19, 1934: Communications Act of 1934 creates Federal Communications Commission

20, 1948: 33-1/3 rpm discs are introduced by Columbia

23, 1891: Tesla granted patent 454,622: coupled tuned circuit radio-frequency oscillator

24, 1910: Public Law 262, titled “Act to require apparatus and operators for radio communication on certain ocean steamers,” requires Commerce Dept. to license radio operators for ocean-going ships

29, 1904: Edison receives patent for alkaline battery

July 1, 1911: Radio Division of Department of Commerce created

1, 1920: GE and AT&T sign cross-license agreement

1, 1923: WMAF and WEAF create first network

1, 1934: Federal Communications Commission replaces Federal Radio Commission

1, 1948: President Harry S. Truman nominated Frieda Hennock to be a commissioner of the FCC, a position never held before by a woman; she was confirmed by the Senate on July 6.

1, 2002: Sirius Satellite Radio begins service

4, 1970: Casey Kasem first hosts American Top 409, 1879Bell Telephone Company founded

9, 1992: First AM HD Radio transmission (on 1660 from Xetron, Cincinnati)

10, 1856: Nicola Tesla born

10, 1962: Telstar 1 launched

12, 2000: USA Digital Radio and Lucent Digital Radio merge to form iBiquity Digital

14, 1995: Fraunhofer picks “.MP3” to be file extension of MPEG Layer III audio files

16, 1961: Leonard Kleinrock publishes concept of packet switching.

17, 1934: FCC adopts Order No. 1

20, 1897: The Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company is founded in England

20, 1937: Marconi dies

24, 1939: The first experimental FM stations go on the air

27, 1940: Billboard publishes first recorded music sales chart

31, 2001: ABC ends DAT/SEDAT satellite transmission

August 1, 1981: MTV begins operations; first video aired: The Buggles, Video Killed the Radio Star

5, 1921: KDKA Pittsburgh broadcasts first baseball game

6, 2009: DAB+ commences in Australia

7, 1981: FCC establishes General Radiotelephone Operator License, ceases issuing First and Second Class Operator licenses.

8, 1991: Tim Berners-Lee posts first HTML Web page

11, 1942: Actress Hedy Lamarr (Hedy Kiesler Markey) and composer George Anthiel receive U.S. patent for spread-spectrum-frequency-hopping system

12, 1877: Edison invents phonograph12, 1902Fessenden granted patent for hot-wire barretter

12, 1960: USA launches Echo 1, first communications satellite

12, 1981: IBM introduces PC with MS-DOS

13, 1912: Radio Act of 1912, titled An Act to Regulate Radio Communication, is approved

14, 1967: UK government’s The Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act comes into force, closing down most offshore radio stations.

15, 1794: First semaphore-telegraph announces victory of France over Austria

17, 1982: First audio CDs are manufactured (a recording of Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony)

18, 1937: FCC issues first FM construction permit to W1XOJ, Boston. Station signs on in 1941 as WGTR.

27, 1910: James McCurdy sends first aircraft-to-ground wireless message

28, 1922: WEAF New York airs first commercial (“This program brought to you by…”)

31, 1920: Detroit radio station 8MK airs what is believed to be the first radio news broadcast. The station later became WWJ.

September 2, 1969: Internet forerunner ARPAnet begins operation

9, 1958: Stereo records and phonographs introduced.

11, 2001: Terrorist attack on New York City silences four FM and nine TV stations

12, 1958: Kilby and Noyce unveil first integrated circuit

12, 2001: XM Satellite Radio begins broadcasting

13, 1956: IBM RAMAC 305 computer hard drive (IBM 350 disk storage unit) developed

14, 2007: FCC allows AM IBOC operation at night (MM Docket 99-325)

15, 1921: Westinghouse’s WBZ, Springfield, MA, receives broadcast license

15, 1934: Mutual Broadcast System forms15, 19658-track players marketed

17, 1995: BBC begins Eureka-147 DAB broadcasts

18, 2006: WIYY(FM), Baltimore, becomes the 1,000th station to commence HD Radio transmissions

20, 1956: First multistage rocket, the Jupiter C, launched

21, 1994: First mobile AM HD Radio reception; transmitted from Xetron, Cincinnati over a distance of about 6 miles

22, 1899: DeForest seeks employment with Marconi29, 1926NBC incorporated

29, 1936: First use of radio broadcasts for a US presidential campaign

29, 1992: First FM HD Radio broadcast: WILL(FM), Urbana, Ill.

October 1, 1982: First CD players are sold in Japan

2, 1995: FCC eliminates licensed operator requirements

3, 1938: Alec Reeves patents Pulse Code Modulation (French Patent 852,153 filed Oct. 3, 1938)

3, 1942: First successful rocket launch starts space age

3, 1837: Morse files a caveat on the telegraph with U.S. Patent Office

4, 1957: Sputnik is launched

4, 1983: President Reagan signs Radio Marti into law

5, 1921: First baseball World Series game broadcast on radio

7, 1957: American Bandstand premieres

7, 1970: Intel introduces computer memory chip

15, 1990: NRSC-3, recommendations for AM receiver specifications, is adopted

17, 1985: Intel intros 386 processor family

17, 1919: RCA established

23, 2001: Apple introduces iPod 

27, 1920: KDKA granted broadcast license

30, 1745: Invention of the Leyden jar (the first capacitor) by Dean Ewald Jurgen von Kleist of the Cathedral of Cammin

30, 1938: Radio Mercury Theater performs The War of the Worlds; panics listeners

November 1, 1926: NBC begins operations

1, 1987: Microsoft releases Windows 2.0

1, 2006: NPR launches Content Depot

2, 1920: KDKA broadcasts election results.

2, 1920: The first radio receivers sold4, 1916Sarnoff proposes “radio music box” for radio reception10, 1992First AM HD Radio broadcast with audio codec

13, 1906: de Forest patents Audion tube

13, 1975: SBE adopts Certification Program

14, 1911: Ernst Alexanderson granted US patent for the high-frequency alternator, a 100 kHz mechanical alternator

14, 1994: FCC adopts EAS rules

15, 1896: Niagara Falls electric power station connects to power grid with first long-distance power transmission

15, 1899: Transatlantic Times receives first news by wireless

15, 1926: NBC makes its first network broadcast

15, 1971: Intel intros 4004 processor

15, 1985: Microsoft intros Windows 1.0

16, 1904: Fleming patents thermionic tube (diode tube)

18, 1883: Railroads introduce four standard time zones in the U.S.

19, 1954: First mass-market transistor pocket radio introduced, the Regency TR-1.

22, 1899: Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America registered

23, 1993: FCC makes C-QUAM AM stereo standard

24, 1890: Edouard Branley coins the term (radioconductor”); the first use of the word “radio”

28, 1925: The WSM Barn Dance (later renamed The Grand Ole Opry) debuts on WSM, Nashville

29, 1929: NBC begins use of the chimes

December 1, 1995: FCC eliminates Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit requirement to operate a broadcast station

6, 1923: President Coolidge makes the first presidential address on U.S. radio

7, 1938: The St. Louis Dispatch begins a two-year experiment to deliver newspapers by radio facsimile, first transmission via W9XZY

9, 1968: Douglas Engelbart demonstrates the computer mouse

12, 1901: Marconi receives first trans-Atlantic wireless signal

12, 1960: Laser invented

14, 1877: Ernst Werner von Siemens patents the first loudspeaker

15, 1961: John Battison calls for Institute of Broadcast Engineers in Broadcast Engineering editorial

16, 1925: Dynamic loudspeaker is designed by Chester Rice and Edward Kellogg.

18, 1958: U.S. launches SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment) to transmit radio message from President Eisenhower, effectively becoming the first communications satellite

20, 1991: USA Digital Radio created

22, 2000: Sirius Satellite Radio completes satellite system24, 1898First ship-to-shore message sent

24, 1906: Fessenden transmits first distant voice/music broadcast

27, 1947: Bell Labs invents transistor

Station Histories

We receive lots of inquiries asking when stations originally signed on the air. Help us build this list with historic stations and call signs.

Station Sign-on Date Notes

WSM(AM), Nashville, Tenn.: Oct 5, 1925 

WSRS(FM), Worcester, Mass.: Jun 17, 1940 (Was W1XTG, 43.4MHz)

The following events carry significance for radio, but we have not yet found a specific date on which to cite the event. If you canprovide a date, please let us know at [email protected].

1977: FCC adopts ATS rules for FM and ND AM

1986: FCC adopts ATS rules for all stations

1822 or 1827: Charles Wheatstone coins the term “microphone”

1946: Term “bit” for binary digit is used for first time by John Tukey. Heworked for Bell Labs

1956: The term “byte” is first used in by German-born American computer scientist Werner Buchholz (Source: Letter from Bucholz to Radio magazine. He could not provide an exact date.)

1950: Info about error correction codes first published

1969: Dutch physicist Klass Compaan comes up with idea for CD

1981: Digital Audio Disc Committee accepts CD standard

1925: 78 rpm (specifically 78.26) designated as standard speed (previously, speeds could range from 78 to 80)

1937: VU meter standard established by CBS, NBC and the Bell Telephone Company.

1938: PPM designed

1939: I.G. Farben creates magnetic tape: iron oxide on plastic film