Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

FM's Father is Born: The Way It Was, 18 December

1890: WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY, EDWARD?---Mother and Father Armstrong, of course, don't even think to ask when their new son is born today. But they and a nation will get the answer when the lad E(dwin). Howard reaches his 43rd year . . . and patents frequency modulation radio---FM.

Now, you don't think a fellow could develop something that significant without even a little, ahem, interference, do you? Didn't think so. And you're right.

He had early set out to eliminate the last big problems of radio---static. Radio then carried the sound patterns by varying, or modulating, the amplitude (power) of its carrier wave at a fixed frequency (wavelength)---a system easily and noisily broken into by such amplitude phenomena as electrical storms. By the late 1920's Armstrong had decided that the only solution was to design an entirely new system, in which the carrier-wave frequency would be modulated, while its amplitude was held constant. Undeterred by current opinion---which held that this method was useless for communications---Armstrong in 1933 brought forth a wide-band frequency modulation (FM) system that in field tests gave clear reception through the most violent storms and, as a dividend, offered the highest fidelity sound yet heard in radio.

But in the depressed 1930's the major radio industry was in no mood to take on a new system requiring basic changes in both transmitters and receivers. Armstrong found himself blocked on almost every side. It took him until 1940 to get a permit for the first FM station, erected at his own expense, on the Hudson River Palisades at Alpine, N.J. It would be another two years before the Federal Communications Commission granted him a few frequency allocations.

When, after a hiatus caused by World War II, FM broadcasting began to expand, Armstrong again found himself impeded by the FCC, which ordered FM into a new frequency band at limited power, and challenged by a coterie of corporations on the basic rights to his invention. Facing another long legal battle, ill and nearly drained of his resources, Armstrong committed suicide on the night of Jan. 31, 1954, by jumping from his apartment window high in New York's River House. Ultimately his widow, pressing twenty-one infringement suits against as many companies, won some $10 million in damages. By the late 1960's, FM was clearly established as the superior system. Nearly 2,000 FM stations spread across the country, a majority of all radio sets sold are FM, all microwave relay links are FM, and FM is the accepted system in all space communications.

---Lawrence P. Lessing, in Dictionary of American Biography.


1945: A CHRISTMAS SHOW FROM SAN FRANCISCO---Actor and World War II flying ace Wayne Morris joins the Christmas fun with Jerry Colonna, Frances Langford, and Trudy Erwin, though Bob (Hope) may not have as much fun buying a new a house as he thinks, on tonight's edition of The Bob Hope Show. (NBC.)

Announcer: Wendell Niles. Music: Skinnay Ennis and His Orchestra, Frances Langford. Writers: Possibly Jack Douglas, Hal Block, Larry Marks.

1949: GETTING A CHRISTMAS TREE IN THE MOUNTAINS---Their mayor hasn't yet put up the annual town Christmas tree, so Alice (Faye) dragoons eager Willie (Robert North) and reluctant Phil (Harris) and Remley (Elliott Lewis) into getting it from the mountains themselves, which may have been her first mistake, of course, on tonight's edition of The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. (NBC.)

Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Sharp, Phil Harris Orchestra. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.

1953: A TAX REFUND---The Squire of 79 Wistful Vista (Jim Jordan) expects his angry calls to City Hall to pay off at last with a refund of his property tax overpayment, until the check in the mail gets blown out of his hand in a nasty wind, on today's edition of Fibber McGee & Molly. (NBC.)

Writers: Phil Leslie, Ralph Goodman.


1864---S. Parkes Cadman (preacher: National Radio Pulpit), Wellington, Shropshire, UK.
1885---J. Anthony Smythe (actor: Carefree Carnival; One Man's Family), San Francisco.
1886---Ty Cobb (baseball Hall of Fame outfielder: Baseball: An Action History), Narrows, Georgia.
1888---Dame Gladys Cooper (actress: The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour), Lewisham, UK.
1897---Fletcher Henderson (pianist/arranger/bandleader: Jubilee; Magic Carpet), Cuthbert, Georgia.
1908---Dame Celia Johnson (actress: Desert Island Disks), Ellerker Gate, Richmond, UK.
1910---Abe Burrows (as Abram Solman Borowitz; writer: This Is New York; Duffy's Tavern; The Danny Kaye Show; writer/host: The Abe Burrows Show), Brooklyn.
1913---Lynn Bari (as Margaret Schuyler Fisher; actress: Dan Carson; The Abbott & Costello Show; Suspense; Lux Radio Theater), Roanoke, Virginia.
1915---Bill Zuckert (actor: Crime and Peter Chambers), New York City.
1916---Betty Grable (Elizabeth Ruth Grable; actress: Hollywood Showcase; Screen Guild Theater; So You Want to Lead a Band), St. Louis.
1917---Ossie Davis (as Raiford Chatman Davis; actor: Cavalcade of America; The Big Show), Cogdell, Georgia.


Blogger Erica said...

Crazy thing, I have an uncle named Ralph Goodman, from around the same era...

...But he was working as a pharmacist in East New York back then...I think.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Erica---There are a small boatload of Goodmans in my family---it was my mother's maiden name. But I don't recall a Ralph among them, either. Oh, well. By the way, you're a sweetheart for linking my blog to yours, too.---Jeff

5:00 PM  

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