Little Bits of History

Zounds! Sounds!

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 26, 2011

Edwin Armstrong

December 26, 1933: Edwin Armstrong is granted US patent number 1,941,066 for FM radio. Armstrong was born in 1890 in Chelsea, New York and was educated at Columbia University. His early patents included a regenerative circuit which he filed in 1914 while still a junior in college. He went on to collect a total of 42 patents. His first one however, was the subject of a 12 year legal battle with Armstrong, RCA, and Westinghouse on one side and Lee De Forest and AT&T on the other.

While defending and eventually losing his patent lawsuit, he continued to work on frequency modulation radio in the basement lab at Columbia’s Philosophy Hall. FM radio created a much clearer sound without the static associated with AM radios of the time. Armstrong submitted his patent on July 30, 1930 and was finally granted that patent for a “Radio signaling system” three-and-a-half years later.

Frequency modulations (FM) “conveys information over carrier waves by varying its frequency.” Armstrong presented a paper entitled  “A Method of Reducing Disturbances in Radio Signaling by a System of Frequency Modulation” to the Institute of Radio Engineers in New York City on November 6, 1935. The paper was published the next year. The whole concept is based on mathematical theory that is further enhanced by the Modulation Index making the whole completely incomprehensible to non-math majors.

To make FM radio successful, the signals are sent via the “FM band” and must be picked up and translated by an appropriate receiver. The first FM radio broadcasts in the US were finally achieved in 1946. Most of the world uses the broadcast band 87.5 to 108.0 MHz with Japan as an exception. Usually the broadcast band of today is an exact multiple of 100 kHz. We also have stereo FM radio and Dolby sound systems to further enhance our listening enjoyment.

“My father hated radio and could not wait for television to be invented so he could hate that too.” – Peter De Vries

“George is a radio announcer, and when he walks under a bridge… you can’t hear him talk.” – Stephen Wright

“People in America, when listening to radio, like to lean forward. People in Britain like to lean back.” – Alistair Cooke

“Cinema, radio, television, magazines are a school of inattention: people look without seeing, listen in without hearing.” – Robert Bresson

Also on this day:

Kwanzaa – in 1966 the first Kwanzaa was celebrated.
Searching – In 1986, Search for Tomorrow went off the air after more than 35 years.