Friday, April 8, 2016

Broadcast Radio (for the second time).

Quite awhile back, in 2012, I posted this item on Wyoming's first commercial radio station:
Today In Wyoming's History: January 2. It must have been quiet, or at least different, before that.

Today In Wyoming's History: January 2: 1930 First commercial radio station in Wyoming begins operation. KDFN later became KTWO and is still in operation.

Hard to imagine an era with no radio. But Wyoming lacked a commercial radio station until 1930. This was a Central Wyoming station (or is, rather, it still exists). I'd guess Cheyenne could have picked up Denver stations by then, but in Central Wyoming, having an AM radio prior to 1930 must have been pointless.
Since that time, I posted the item about the use of radio by the Army in 1916, and got to rethinking this topic, amongst other communication topics.

In doing that, I went back as I thought I'd posted before on broadcast radio.

And, indeed I did, but what I didn't do is label it, so it was hard to find.  Indeed, that's been a problem with my earlier blogging. By failing to label things correctly, old posts are easy to loose.  In this particular case, not only did I loose it, but I'd forgotten as a result, that I had done a particular post.  Usually I recall my older posts and I was very surprised that I hadn't posted on this topic. Turns out that I did.  I new I had posted on some single episodes of radio shows from the glory days of radio and when I couldn't find them I did a search on the raw data section of this site and found those posts, and my first one on broadcast radio as well.  So I've edited them all and now radio as a label has tripled in frequency here.  Anyhow, at that point, I thought about axing this post, but as it was mostly already done, and as it actually adds content, I have not.  My original post is here:
When I was young, my father listed to the radio a fair amount. What I really recall about that in particular is that he'd listen to Denver's KOA, which was an all talk radio station, but not like the ones we have now that are all right or left political talk.  It had a lot of different radio programs, and sports.  He particularly listened to the Denver Broncos and Denver Bears (their minor league baseball team at that time) broadcasts, and the radio shows that they had which discussed those teams. That certainly wasn't all they aired, however, and at one time, when I was fairly young, I used to listen to a fair amount of KOA myself.

The first radio tube, circa 1898.
KOA is still around, but those days are really gone, as are the days of all local radio.  We picked up KOA. . . .

Frankly, even when I posted the item above, I didn't really appreciate the rapid onset of radio, or how late it really came into being.  I knew that there weren't home radios in 1916 and that during the Great War people didn't get their news that way. But when did commercial broadcast begin?

Well, 1920. Sort of suddenly and in a lot of places at first.

I referenced Denver above. Denver had a commercial broadcast radio station in 1920. That's' really early if you consider that 1920 was the year that the first commercial broadcast station began operation in the United States.  And for that matter, it was that year for the United Kingdom as well. So that Wyoming wouldn't have a station until 1930 really isn't surprising.  So Colorado had a commercial station the very year that commercial radio started in the United States.

As for Colorado, I was correct in my supposition about it probably having stations prior to Wyoming, as noted, but I am amazed by how quickly radio came on there.  Colorado had 94 stations by 1922.  So, one in 1920, and then 94 in 1922. The first one, KLZ, is still in operation.  For that matter, KTWO is also still in operation.

Still, let's consider that.  Up until 1930, there was no radio in Wyoming, unless of course you could pick up a Denver channel from Cheyenne (and I don't know if you could, or not).  1930 is within the lives of our older citizens, although that's a decreasing number of them given the year.  My late father was born in 1929.  My mother in 1925.  One of the local high schools was built in 1923.  The building I work in was built in 1917.

So, prior to 1930 in Wyoming, as in much of the US, there was no radio.  Now, 1929 is hardly the ancient world.  And important things were happening in the teens and twenties to be sure. World War One, the stock market crash, etc.  People didn't get the news of those things by way of radio.  Newspapers, which often were published twice a day in that era, were the quickest means of news delivery for the average person where radio was not.

And, of course, prior to 1920, there was no commercial radio at all.

And not only is this significant as to news, but entertainment.  Popular music existed, but the knowledge of it came by way of friends and associates, not radio.  You could buy records, but you weren't hearing them on the radio.  There was even a top 100 for years in the teens, but those records didn't get on that list by way of radio play.  Sales, then as now, determined that, but the decision to purchase didn't come from hearing a song played on the radio.  You'd heard that song played on somebody's record player.

When radio came in, in the 1920s in many places, and starting in 1930 in Wyoming, as we've seen, it made a huge change.  People took to home radios really quickly and they became an institution.  It's odd to think, in that context, of how new they really were

Well, there's a lot more about all that on my post Radio.

Oddly, one thing I didn't cover in that first post, was car radios.  Radios have been, as odd as it may seem, a big part of a car my entire life.  Indeed, when I was a teenager and in my early twenties everyone wanted to have a really nice stereo in their cars.  Some pretty junky cars had some pretty nice radios, which of course were also tape player.  That hasn't really changed over the years, although car radios have gotten really good so that the need to change them is smaller than it once was.  The newest ones in a lot of vehicles also play CDs, Itunes libraries and, via Bluetooth, can act as telephone receivers.  It won't be long until every vehicle has, effectively, a car phone, something that was once quite a rarity.

So its odd to realize that early cars didn't have radios.  Indeed, I own one truck made in 1962 that didn't come equipped with a radio.  I added one, but I sort of regret doing that now.  But I was about 20 at t he time.  When I had a 1945 CJ2A I did not equip it with a radio, and it didn't have one.  Anyhow, the first car radios were an add on and were so expensive that they nearly rivaled a fair percentage of the value of a typical average American car itself.  Early Motorola car radios, first offered in 1930, cost $130.  Crossley Motors, a British manufacturer, offered the first car to have a regular factory installed radio in 1933, although Chevrolet offered a radio option in 1922. The Chevrolet radio however, was impractical due to its massive antenna and large speakers.  Contrary to some assertions, there were other cars manufactured in the 1920s with radio options, but they were unusual and not standard on any car.

Radios themselves didn't become suddenly standard in the 1930s for automobiles.  That wouldn't happen until after World War Two, and even then some things that are standard now remained options. The radio in my 1954 Chevrolet Deluxe Sedan, for example, had push buttons. The regular 54 had a radio, but no buttons.

Anyhow, I don't mean to divert this to a discussion about cars and radios, rather than just radio, but this serves to illustrate how new radio really was.  In the 1920s there were a lot of places in the US where having a radio would have been pointless, as there were no stations. By the 1930s, radio was everywhere and radios were coming into automobiles, in spite of the limitations of tube technology.  By the 1950s, when television was starting to come in, radios were a standard feature in cars, but not necessarily trucks.  Now, in an age when we listen to less radio thanks to other forms of audio information and entertainment, radios are still everywhere.

In the 1940s and 1950s one thing that established people had was a really nice home stereo, with radio and turn table.  Now, these big old pieces of furniture seem odd to us.  How things have changed.


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