San Jose Mercury Herald, December 10, 1922, page 25:
FORMER SAN JOSE BOY NOW FOREMOST EXPERT IN RADIO
Emile Portal, Vice President of Kennedy Corporation, as Youth of 16, With Charles Herrold, First Successfully Broadcasted Concert Through Air.
BACK in 1910 a knickerbockered youngster of inquiring mind parted with $1.50 and after some delay received, from New York, a boxed radio outfit that would not work. Undaunted, he began to study it, to tinker with it, and finally, to project his own ideas into its mechanism, with results highly satisfactory to the youthful investigator.
Two years later, from the top of the Garden City Bank building, the 16-year-old pioneer in radio and Charles Herrold broadcasted the first successful radio program ever given to the world. He was still a student in the San Jose high school, and spent all his leisure time working on, and improving the equipment of the broadcasting station. Although there were few receiving stations in 1912, he gave weekly programs of phonograph music from his broadcasting station topping the bank building.
Now Leading Radio Man.
Today Emile A. Portal, he of the investigative turn of mind, is admittedly one of the leading radio men of the world and, at 26, is vice-president of the Colin B. Kennedy corporation, the biggest manufacturing concern of radio equipment in the United States.
During the winter of 1912-13 the boy, then employed as an engineer by the National Radio company, installed a broadcasting station in the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco, where more ambitious programs than those sent from his San Jose station were broadcasted to his rapidly increasing audience. He continued his experiments, his work attracting nation-wide attention from those interested in electricity and radio.
It was natural, then, that he should make this his life work. Natural, also, that he should be pre-eminently successful in it. Three years ago he became connected with the Kennedy corporation which at that time had its headquarters in San Francisco. Its business became so large that the factory was moved to St. Louis near the source of raw materials, and since then Mr. Portal, who has been doing research work and handling production, makes frequent trips to the east. He maintains his home in California, however, and is in charge of the San Francisco office.
Mr. Portal has just returned from a four-months' business trip to St. Louis, New York and Chicago where he reports, radio has made tremendous strides within the last few months. The striking difference between the broadcasting in the east and the west is in the programs, he said. In the west we have little except phonograph or inferior music or mediocre musical programs by amateurs; in the east everything of the best is put out by radio--fine symphony concerts operatic selections sung by stars, speeches and recitations by real talent.
Tells of Progress.
Already in New York the concerts of one of the big metropolitan symphonies are being broadcasted and thousands may listen in in the privacy of their homes or in their hotels, to the magnificent music played by artists he commented, describing the strides made in the radio field. It is only a question of a little time until grand opera performances will be broadcasted. And when that is done--when a man can sit in his armchair with his pipe and a newspaper and listen to the best symphony or grand opera music in the country the radio will justify its existence.
"When there are more broadcasting stations, and especially when there are better programs, a man with a radio outfit in his home will have the widest choice in the variety of his entertainment. The radio is not going to replace the telephone--I have no delusion about its future. It is primarily for entertainment and the time is coming when a man with a radio outfit will have more high class entertainment at his beck and call--for the slight movement of a dial will connect him with any one of a score of broadcasting stations--than has ever been dreamed of Put." He added something must be done to keep mediocrities from offering their entertainments and the advertising nuisance must be stopped for these are the things that are injuring the future of the radio."
During Mr. Portal's stay in New York he put in an apparatus at the Yale club so that members and friends might hear the progress of the Yale-Princeton game from the field, instead of receiving it, as heretofore by telegraph. Every word and syllable of the announcer's description was distinctly heard in the clubrooms--even the cheers of the crowd on the bleachers added enthusiasm to the closely packed mass of humanity, who in New York thrilled to the spirit of the devotees of football on the field miles away in New Jersey.
So successful was the radio transmission that when the Yale-Harvard game was played, the New York alumni who could not get away to New Haven enjoyed the game in their own club rooms. "Instead of the attendance being less than usual," said Mr. Portal, "it was more than ever and every inch of space, including the aisles in the lounge were filled, the three entrance doors were so packed that it was almost a physical impossibility to get in and out the little balcony was packed and the crowds backed up into the billard room and the corridors and stairway leading to the big lounge. The spontaneous enthusiasm at the first game when the tide of favor was nothing compared with the demonstrations at the club during the Yale-Harvard game. Several of those in my immediate vicinity in conversation agreed that they had never seen greater enthusiasm right on the ground than was evidenced by our audience.
Clemenceau's Arrival Told.
"The announcer's description of Mr. Clemenceau's arrival on the field and of the triumphal passage from the Harvard to the Yale side between periods with certain pertinent references to his mission were very impressive. You could have heard a pin drop in the big room, so enthralled were the crowd, when the Yale band (transmitted from the field by a radio) struck up the Marseillaise the crowd rose to a man and joined in the refrain. Apparently the announcer and others at the field cleared everything for it and it came through without interruption or distortion of any kind.
"The telegraph operator with his instruments was there in reserve. I had told the club that I recommended that they not countermand the order for the service, not knowing what might happen. He rendered no service whatever however except that between periods he did give the score of the Army and Navy game and at another game. The superiority of the radio report over the telegraph method was most graphically demonstrated. The inactive operator and the muffled sounder were mute testimonials of the passing of the old and the advent of the new. Several, including the superintendent of the club, commented on this feature.
Many Big Stations.
"The big radio stations in the east cost from $15,000 to $30,000 for equipment. Most of the big newspapers have now installed stations and printed programs of the evening's entertainment. This has resulted in greatly increased circulation. San Francisco is already erecting a broadcasting station, however, which will eclipse any other in the country, and it will be in operation within a few weeks.
"One may even go to church in one's own home, now, and listen to the preacher's sermon before the cheerful blaze of the fireside. However, from the preacher's viewpoint this has its drawbacks. One minister in Atlanta, Georgia, voiced his complaint of the difficulty in collecting the offering because many of his parishioners remained comfortably at home listening to the service, beyond the reach of the contribution plate."