In early 1922, the four broadcasting stations that Westinghouse set up in 1920 and 1921 -- KDKA East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, WJZ, Newark, New Jersey, WBZ, Springfield, Massachusetts, and KYW Chicago, Illinois -- were among the most advanced and best known. Although fully three-quarters of the pioneer broadcasting stations licenced through June, 1922 eventually disappeared from the airwaves -- most of them by the middle of the decade, including the DeForest Company's New York City station, WJX -- all four of Westinghouse's pioneer stations survive today as major 50,000 watt facilities: KDKA-1020 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, WABC-770 New York City, WBZ-1030 Boston, Massachusetts, and KYW-1060 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Westinghouse's energetic and well-financed entry into radio broadcasting was a watershed event, helping to spark the transformation of broadcasting from a variety of independent efforts into a nationwide phenomenon. More than any other company, Westinghouse's activities inspired excitement and interest about radio by the general public.
However, one unfortunate side-effect of the prominence of the early Westinghouse stations is that reviews of early broadcasting sometimes are excessively dominated by the activities of this and other large companies in the northeast United States, overshadowing important developments by other, less publicized individuals and companies, throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Still, Westinghouse in general, and KDKA in particular, were very important factors in the development of the radio broadcasting industry.
Radio for Everybody, Austin C. Lescarboura, 1922, pages 58-65:
HOW RADIO-PHONE BROADCASTING CAME ABOUT
But the average reader of this book will no doubt be more interested in the radio-phone broadcasting development, which is a later-day phase. Before this broadcasting service became a regular thing, there were spasmodic efforts to send out musical programs, made by several radio companies, but these were intended rather as tests than as entertainment for tens of thousands of listeners. The present form of radio-phone broadcasting dates back to the latter part of 1920, when the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company inaugurated the first radio-phone concert through its Pittsburgh station. Only a small number of persons heard the musical numbers sent out by KDKA, the Westinghouse station in Pittsburgh. The phonograph was the only source of music, and the operator's announcements sufficed for lectures and talks. The novelty of the feat was sufficient, of course, for the public had not yet been pampered, so to say. Problems arose over the manner and method of broadcasting, which had to be solved by experiment. There were many times during the first few weeks of broadcasting when the concerts were anything but pleasant to the ear. Then, as time passed on and through experience the operators found out for themselves the kind of phonograph records which transmitted clearly and those which did not, what to avoid in the way of speech, what pleased the public and what raised its ire, and the various other little details which made or marred a radio performance, the concerts began to pick up not a little.
During this experimental stage letters began to trickle in from various parts of the country, telling of the reception of music and talks from KDKA. At first, returns were small, and mostly replies from established stations, which are always on the lookout for new developments in radio. These stations, by the way, lose no time in corresponding with other stations they hear. After a time letters began to come from persons who had only recently purchased receiving sets, perhaps after hearing the concerts at one of the amateur stations. These laymen increased in a steady stream and their number even at this writing increases steadily by leaps and bounds. Radio manufacturers are months behind in their production.
Practically all the broadcasting by KDKA was pioneering work. For instance, take the case of the radio church services. When the station was started, there was no program developed for Sunday evening. It was suggested that church services be tried. There was no precedent for this method of radio transmitting and consequently it was not known whether church services would broadcast well or, indeed, if the churches would consent to this method of handling their services. After some persuasion, however, permission was received from Calvary Episcopal Church of Pittsburgh, to broadcast its services. A district telephone line was installed between the church and the radio station for this purpose.
Four microphones were installed in the church, to catch the voice of Edwin J. Van Etten, rector of the church, the choir, the chimes, and the organ, and the entire services were first sent out January 2nd, 1921. No one thing ever broadcasted by the radio station has been so popularly received. Letters poured in by the score to the Radio Division, telling of the pleasure and benefit of this new department in radio. Newspapers all over the country carried editorial announcements of the fact that church sermons were being broadcasted from Pittsburgh through the medium of the radio-phone. This was the first effort of its kind; and it made the radio-phone safe for the future.
FROM CANNED MUSIC TO THE REAL THING
After a time, when the church services were well known to all radio enthusiasts because of the clearness of transmission, the Westinghouse Company was requested by members of the Herron Avenue Presbyterian Church to install a receiving set and loud speaker to take the place of a long absent pastor. This was done, and the church assembled for an Episcopal service. But it listened to a sermon preached about fourteen miles away. This service, it goes without saying, was also a record, a milestone, if you please, since it was the first time two congregations in separate churches had ever worshipped to one service, when a distance of miles separated them. It was also the first time that a metallic horn ever took the place of a flesh-and-blood minister. Again, this feat, almost in the miracle class were it not for the fact that we have come to expect such marvelous things from modern science, attracted the attention of the press, with the result that more people than ever began to take an active interest in the radio telephone.
In the meantime phonograph records comprised most of the evening musical programs. It was decided to do away as much as possible with the "canned" music and substitute real singers and musicians. Talent was not hard to obtain for this work, in most cases volunteering its services. Human voices began to come over the radio telephone instead of records, and were an agreeable change. Again an improvement was made in radio broadcasting--another milestone. Not satisfied with having merely local talent, the Radio Division of the Westinghouse organization entered into an agreement with the managers of the local operatic concerts, with the result that when stars of the first magnitude came to Pittsburgh, their efforts, vocal and instrumental, were and are being broadcasted over hundreds of miles.
Not only in opera, but in the world of sport, the radio-phone service has been introduced. Casting about for features that would enliven the evening programs, it was decided to broadcast, as an experiment, blow-by-blow returns of a boxing match held in Pittsburgh. A private wire was installed from a boxing club to the radio station, and a man prominent in sporting circles engaged to render a round-by-round version of the progress of the fight. So KDKA was the first broadcasting station ever to send out fight returns. Afterwards, the Dempsey-Carpentier bout in Jersey City, N. J., was broadcasted by a Radio Corporation station round by round.
But operatic engagements and boxing bouts do not cover the entire gamut of public interest. So to the existing features there were added the news of the day, weather forecasts, agricultural reports, and other items of general interest, not to forget the occasional addresses by prominent men.
In order to perfect the transmission of music and speeches by radio, the Westinghouse engineers have made considerable researches of the different frequencies of both. A studio has been built especially for the artists who sing, so that the radio-phone reproduction will be accurate. The studio in East Pittsburgh consists of a room 20 by 30 feet, completely lined with burlap and devoid of windows, so that there will be no reflection of sounds. A report is made of every song, where the singer stands, the transmitters, and other incidental details. This report is checked up later with a receiving station and from this data considerable information has been obtained regarding the transmission of various kinds of music. This is only by way of showing how the new art has had to be developed, step by step.
EXTENDING THE BROADCASTING AREA
So successful did the East Pittsburgh radio-phone station prove and so great was the interest shown by the public and reflected by the unprecedented and even undreamed of demands for radio receiving equipment that the Westinghouse organization set to work opening up other broadcasting stations. At Newark, N. J., on the roof of the Company's plant, there was installed a powerful broadcasting transmitter known as WJZ. Down on the first floor of the building there is an attractive studio, equipped with various musical instruments and hung with curtains to make it sound-proof. In this studio artists have been singing and playing, while speakers have delivered their messages, for the benefit of the greatest audience ever gathered at one time. It is estimated that over 300,000 persons hear the concerts and talks broadcasted by the Newark radio-phone station, and that the effective area covered by this service takes in one-tenth of our total population. The service of this station can be heard by anyone within a radius of 100 miles of Newark, though as a matter of fact reports of the reception of the musical numbers and talks have come from Canada, Wisconsin, Florida, Cuba, and 600 miles out at sea.
Then there is the Springfield station, known as WBZ, which supplies New England with the Westinghouse radio-phone service. Another station has been established in Chicago, known as KYW, and is intended for the Middle West and the Western States.
The Westinghouse programs are of a high order and provide a wide variety of entertainment. Thus the Newark station, WJZ, every evening from 8:20 to 9:15 broadcasts a concert with well-known operatic or concert stars frequently singing or playing in person. At 8:00 a digest of the day's news is sent out. An especially popular feature is the "Man-in-the-Moon" fairy tales for children. As this is written these bedtime stories are sent out on Tuesdays and Fridays at 7:00 p. m. The stories delight the youngsters all over the reception area. At many of these parties the children are ushered into a darkened room just before 7:00 p. m., and each is handed a telephone receiver connected with the receiving set. An illuminated moon lends atmosphere to the occasion. Suddenly, out of the silence, comes a voice--"Hello children, are you listening? This is the Man-in-the-Moon talking. What do you suppose I saw today?"--and a wonder-story follows, interspersed with musical selections.
In addition, news bulletins are given out during the day, every hour on the hour; the official Government weather forecast is sent out three times a day; and the official Arlington time signals are made available for amateur receivers at 9:55 p. m., with the final dash at 10:00 sharp. Other features, such as election returns, bulletins of championship baseball and football games via direct telephone line from the fields, lectures by famous scientists, and so on, are given from time to time. These details are announced in advance over the radio-phone and are given in weekly programs issued by the Company. Indeed, it is the certainty of the present radio-phone service that makes it so interesting. One can look forward to some definite evening because the musical program of that evening happens to be of most interest. It is very much like going to a concert or vaudeville; for, while the actual performance cannot been seen, although it is clearly heard, this obstacle is perhaps more than counter-balanced in many instances by the fact that the audible side of the performance is brought right into the home.
The Springfield station, in addition to many of the foregoing-mentioned features, sends out a periodical talk to farmers about market and stock conditions. The complete transmission of grand opera from the Chicago Opera Company productions has been the feature of the recently established station on the Commonwealth Edison Building in Chicago. It is possible that the radio-phone in time will be as popular in the home as the phonograph is today. But its destiny rests entirely in the hands of those who supply the broadcasting service, to be sure.
Aside from the Westinghouse organization, there are other broadcasting stations. During the pioneer days of broadcasting the Radio Corporation of America's station at Roselle Park, N. J., known as WDY, did excellent work. At the time of this writing this station has been discontinued, leaving much of the broadcasting in the Middle Atlantic States to WJZ. The Roselle station was known for its operatic concerts, which included a lecture on the opera of the evening, together with the best selections from that opera. Then there were the radio parties, which were made up of songs, talks, dialogues monologues and other vaudeville features.
There are various other organizations devoting a goodly part of their efforts to broadcasting radio-phone news and concerts. In fact, as things stand at present it is safe to state here that virtually every part of the United States is covered by one or more stations. To give a list of stations is virtually impossible, for in an art that is so new there are bound to be frequent changes. Hence no attempt is being made to offer a list, because it would be hopelessly obsolete by the time it got into print. The reader is referred to the radio periodicals and to the daily newspapers that have radio sections, for the last-minute information on radio-phone stations.
As it is, the WJZ or Newark station of the Westinghouse organization is shortly going out of existence as this is being written. Word has gone out to the effect that the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, which is a factor in the Radio Corporation of America combine, is about to open a radio-phone broadcasting station on the roof of its 24-story building on Walker Street, New York City. Steel towers 100 feet high will support the aerial and the station will be far more powerful than WJZ which it is replacing.