This article, written by Westinghouse's Louis R. Krumm, reviews the introduction of Westinghouse's radio broadcast service in general, and KDKA Pittsburgh's history in particular. Many broadcasting pioneers trace their history back to an experimental station, and in Westinghouse's case the inspiration was engineer Frank Conrad's 8XK in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. By the end of 1921, Westinghouse would be operating major broadcasting stations in four U.S. cities -- KDKA in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, WBZ in Springfield, Massachusetts, WJZ in Newark, New Jersey, and KYW in Chicago, Illinois.
Often overlooked is the fact KDKA was not originally licenced as a broadcasting station -- it was actually pressed into service for broadcasting purposes on short notice. KDKA was originally intended primarily as a radiotelegraph station, for communication between various Westinghouse factories. In fact, its first licence, issued October 27, 1920, makes no mention of broadcasting, only that it was to be used for two-way communication with other Westinghouse stations in Cleveland, Ohio, Newark, New Jersey, Springfield, Massachusetts, and Brooklyn, New York. In addition, the station's first few days of entertainment broadcasts, which began with election results broadcast on November 2, 1920, actually went out under a Special Amateur callsign, 8ZZ, which explains why Krumm refers to KDKA as "the matured successor of 8ZZ".
This article appeared in slightly different forms in two different magazines, Radio Age and Radio News. This layout is based on the Radio Age article. There are a few sentences which appeared only in one version of the article. In the following, portions in bold appeared only in the Radio Age version, while two sentences which appear only in Radio News are in italics.
Radio Age, July/August, 1922, pages 21-22, 32, and Radio News, September, 1922, pages 467, 589-595:
Development of Radiophone Broadcasting
L. R. KRUMM, Superintendent of Radio Operations of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, is one of the best informed men on wireless of the present day. Mr. Krumm served as Lieutenant Colonel, Signal Corps of the A. E. F.; was 18 months in France on the staff of the Chief Signal Officer, Gen. Edgar Russell; and had charge of all radio operations of the A. E. F. For his service during the War he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the United States, and the Legion D'Honneur by France. Mr. Krumm came to the Westinghouse Company from the army. Previous to his army service he was Chief Radio Inspector of the Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce.
ON FEBRUARY 27 of this year there was held in Washington an open hearing before a committee of radio engineers, military officers and government representatives, appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to formulate proposed laws and regulations to meet the new radio conditions which have developed since the termination of the war. Nearly two hundred representatives of various commercial, amateur and governmental radio interests attended this conference. The large number of reporters, photographers and moving picture operators in attendance also indicated the great public interest in this meeting.
What caused this sudden interest in new radio legislation? There have been no radical changes in the radio art as applied to international communication between the high powered stations in this country and those in foreign lands. Neither have there been any particular changes in radio communication between ships and between ships and shore stations. There have been some developments in radio telephone communication between ships and airplane and ground stations and in regard to locating ships at sea by means of radio and even some advance in communicating with submarines while submerged, but these were not the answer to our question.
$75,000,000 Invested in Radio
The main purpose of this conference was to devise means to meet the problems which had arisen through the establishment of the radio telephone broadcasting stations which are sending out news, live stock and grain reports, weather forecasts, sermons, speeches and entertainment and which have caused the installation during the last year and a half of anywhere from 700,000 to 1,000,000 radio receiving stations, representing a probable expenditure of approximately $75,000,000.
Previous to the establishment of broadcasting stations working on absolutely dependable schedules, the public's interest in radio had been limited to the technically inclined amateur operators with some knowledge of the electrical principles involved in radio telegraph communication. These men were dyed in the wool faddists on radio. They wanted to know what "made the wheels go round" and how to make them go. They wanted to establish radio telegraph transmitting stations. For this, it was necessary to study the Continental Morse code and secure operators' licenses from the government. All this they did in addition to investing considerable money and time in the purchase and installation of the equipment.
It was estimated before the World War that there were some 6,000 licensed amateur transmitting stations and probably 50,000 receiving stations which required no license. All these were closed during the war. The amateur receiving stations were allowed to reopen April 15, 1919. On October 1, 1919, amateur transmitting stations were allowed to operate again. The amateur radio activities had languished during the war period and probably there were fewer amateur stations after than before the war.
Mr. Conrad's Great Service
During the war, Mr. Frank Conrad, Assistant Electrical Engineer for the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, had become interested in radio work because he had given his best efforts to assist the government in producing the very highest type of radio equipment for the army and navy. Practically the only type of equipment which was produced in quantity and delivered in France in time to be of any service to the American troops and which met the requirements of warfare was an airplane transmitter known as SCR-73 set, developed and produced by this company and its subsidiaries. Mr. Conrad's activities covered, however, more than this equipment, as he was also interested in the development of various types of radio telephone sets. To aid him in his experiments he was given a special license to operate during the war a radio telephone at his home at Pittsburgh, Pa.
After the armistice he retained his interests in his work and, operating under this special license was able to continue development of his radio telephone station to a degree of success exceeding anything heretofore attained. The Westinghouse Company, which, previous to the war, had no radio interests, also decided that a company of its magnitude could no longer exclude radio from its activities and had entered this branch of the electrical business. It was intensely interested in Mr. Conrad's researches and he continued his work with its encouragement and assistance.
In the winter of 1919 Mr. Conrad established at his residence in Pittsburgh, Pa., a radio telephone broadcasting station and began the regular broadcasting of music and entertainment. This station was then known as 8XK, the call letters assigned in the new license he carried from the Department of Commerce. The station has been fully described in the September, 1920, number of "QST," radio magazine. At first his efforts were confined to the broadcasting of phonograph music every Wednesday and Friday night. Soon his supply of records was exhausted and one night, in response to many letters requesting the latest popular music, he announced that he had exhausted his records and was financially embarrassed trying to keep up with the demand for newer music and suggested that possibly his hearers would like to help him out in this dilemma. He was the recipient of nearly 500 records. The magnitude of the response to this appeal indicated the appreciation of his audience and the demand for its continuance.
Music Transmitted Direct
He broadened his activities by providing a studio in which artists, instrumental and vocal, could render selections for transmission from his radio station, a short distance away.
Mr. H. P. Davis, Vice President of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, who was largely responsible for his company entering the radio field, had been watching not only the technical development of the equipment but also the attitude of the public towards broadcasting, realized the necessity of providing this service in a systematic and properly organized manner as a part of his company's business operations, and, therefore, in the fall of 1920, began the construction of a broadcasting station at the East Pittsburgh plant.
Experiments were carried on for several weeks previous to election night in November, 1920, when it was intended to inaugurate this service by broadcasting the election returns. A special license was obtained from the government radio inspector in Detroit, Mich., and the call letters 8ZZ were assigned to the station in the beginning.
The election results were startlingly satisfactory and the letters of appreciation received by the company dispersed any doubts as to the advisability of continuing broadcasting. Plans for the improvement and enlargement of the station were immediately inaugurated and regular nightly programs were announced with specially selected artists as entertainers. A wave length of 330 meters was originally assigned to this station.
It was immediately evident that suitable programs must be provided for Sundays, as the ordinary entertainment did not seem appropriate. This naturally resulted in the desire to broadcast church services, but this required additional technical development, as it was desired to transmit the complete service from the chimes to the postlude. It was therefore necessary to devise equipment which could be installed in the church, pick up the choir and congregational singing, the sermon and oral parts of the service and amplify them sufficiently so that they could be transmitted over the telephone line without distortion. Remember, this required transmission over thirteen miles of telephone line and cable. The acoustics of most churches leave much to be desired and this line transmitting was no simple problem. However, the enthusiasm shown by the radio audience after the first broadcasting of church services convinced the Westinghouse Company officials they had made no mistake in attempting this feature, and they have continued it ever since in all their stations and devoted a large part of their development effort to improving this part of their broadcasting service.
Radio in the War
Much was printed during the war regarding the radio telephone developments for our fighting forces. While many interesting developments resulted and some fundamental principles founded there was very little practical application of radio telephony during the war, and practically none by the fighting forces. In the development work Mr. Conrad had been an active participant and he began his broadcasting work with this war experience as a basis and used the personnel and manufacturing facilities of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company.
When the company took up broadcasting actively they immediately provided the necessary funds to develop it to the utmost. It is not exaggeration to state that their station at East Pittsburgh, now known as KDKA, the matured successor of 8ZZ, has never been more than one week old in the sense that better and improved forms of equipment are continuously being provided. KDKA may, therefore, be called the father of the broadcasting activities in this country today.
It is true that radio telephone broadcasting had been attempted spasmodically even previous to the war. Various experimenters had sent out music from their stations in the course of their efforts to develop radio telephony. These experiments had been with varying results as to quality and were never maintained with any regularity or dependability so that the war found this country without any commercial or reliable radio telephony. Wartime developments indicated the possibilities which the coming of peace made realities. During the war all commercial radio activities were suspended by government decree. The development of KDKA since that time has just been followed.
After KDKA had been operated for nearly a year and its practicability demonstrated the Westinghouse Company proceeded to establish additional stations at their branch factories at Newark, N. J, and East Springfield, Mass. These were opened in the fall of 1921. With the establishment of the additional stations the Department of Commerce had assigned a wave length of 360 meters to all the Westinghouse stations.
On November 11, 1921, Armistice Day, an anniversary of the war, which in a way was the father of broadcasting, the Westinghouse Company opened its broadcasting station located on the Commonwealth Edison Building at Chicago, Illinois. This station was opened by arrangement with the Chicago Edison Company, who desired to open it with the broadcasting of complete grand opera from the Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, which started its season the following Monday, November 14, 1921.
This, as far as the writer knows, was the first case in which complete grand opera from the overture at the beginning to the final chorus was sent out by radio telephone.
Each of the Westinghouse stations cover a different section of the country, but each has been successful in arousing great interest and causing the installation of innumerable receiving stations.
Confusion in Broadcasting
Other business interests established broadcasting stations each of which was assigned to the 360 meter wave length.
The operation of all these stations on the wave length originally assigned the Westinghouse stations had brought up a chaotic condition in the ether which brought about the conference referred to in the beginning of this article.
It was evident that provision must be made to assign different wave lengths to the various stations which must be classified as to range and purpose and that limitations must be imposed as to schedule, power and area of activity. The enormous publicity given the Westinghouse Company because of its pioneer activities attracted the attention of many firms who desired to do likewise, without a realization of the time and money expended or that the greatest expense of the proper operation of such a station is the facilities necessary for the improvement and development of the equipment, such as are usually only available to a company interested in the manufacture of radio equipment. Secretary Hoover of the Department of Commerce recognized that unrestricted establishment of broadcasting stations would result in bedlam and therefore inaugurated the movement which resulted in the committee meeting referred to in the opening of this article.
No prediction as to the future uses and applications of broadcasting can be too broad. There will be no greater unifying factor in our national life. The immense advantage of a universal national language such as we have is not fully appreciated in this country because it has never occurred to us that any nation would use more than one language in its intercourse. Those of us who have a clear conception of the national conditions in some of the European countries where several languages are spoken realize what a common language means to the nation.
Now that in broadcasting we have a means of transmitting this common language to practically all the nation at one time, the effect in knitting us together as a nation cannot be overestimated. It may play a great part in our national legislative activity and the day may come when the speeches of senators and congressmen may be sent out from a broadcasting station covering the entire nation. The President may issue his national proclamations by radio telephone. National political campaigns will no doubt be waged by means of speeches broadcasted by the candidates. Selective system of broadcasting may develop by which subscribers can obtain the particular character of information or amusement they desire without the possibility of being interfered with by other stations.
Broadcasting has already supplemented the newspapers to a wonderful extent and may greatly increase their activities. Its value to farmers or others living at remote points where newspaper information is not easily accessible is beyond calculation. Already the live stock and grain reports information sent out by the Department of Agriculture regarding farm projects and business has met a response indicating that this is one of the most important fields of service in radio broadcasting. Here is the means that brings the information to the radio listener even quicker than it would an auditor in audiences of ordinary size. In many parts of the middle west the farmer is guided almost entirely by the information he obtains from the Westinghouse station at Chicago, which broadcasts quotations every half hour of the Board of Trade operations. Local brokers handle the farmer's orders which his country line telephone enables him to place upon the receipt of the guiding radio information.
President Roosevelt during his administration appointed a commission to endeavor to devise means to keep the farmer, in the words of the old song, "down on the farm." Broadcasting will accomplish more in this direction than any means yet devised. Moving pictures and the broadcasting brings cosmopolitan life into the most remote farming regions. Public health instruction is sent out from one government station and the function will no doubt be greatly increased.
Selectivity in Broadcasting
However, in closing this article, the most important impression that we desire to leave is that unlimited broadcasting activities, instead of attaining all the objects outlined heretofore, will, rather, prevent successful attainment. Free speech does not mean that we can all talk at once, and only those with a real message can get attention. Many of us labor under the delusion that we are called and have such a message, but if we speak only in behalf of ourselves or repeat platitudes we add to the din but not to progress.
Unfortunately, the elements controlling radio limit the number of stations that can operate successfully within limited wave bands or geographical areas. The public must decide whether it shall endeavor to pick out the worthwhile message in a bedlam of broadcasting that may come with the establishment of a large number of stations or whether they prefer to limit and classify the broadcasting stations, granting them a license which will carry some of the exclusive features and advantages of a franchise and with its continuity dependent upon the maintenance of a certain standard of excellence and revocable when it is evident that the station no longer fulfills the public demands.
Radio broadcasting stations are now fulfilling a public service without any direct recompense and it is an old adage that things obtained gratis are not always appreciated. It behooves the radio public to consider carefully the effect of unlimited broadcasting and to take an active interest in the radio laws and regulations which may be formulated to control it.