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The Birth of FM

Radio Lecture #6

Drew Hamilton

on 7 March 2011

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Transcript of The Birth of FM

The Father of FM Radio
Professor Charles Xavier
Daddy Warbucks
Edwin Howard Armstrong
Armstrong Disliked AM's Limitations
Static interference from household appliances
Limited audio quality
nighttime interference from ionospheric refraction
Birth of FM
In 1933, he patented FM Radio
Used the frequency of the radio wave, instead of the amplitude
In 1936, to sell his idea, he played a jazz song for a group of engineers: first broadcasting it in AM, then switching to FM midway through the song
Quote from that experiment: "If the audience of 50 sound engineers would have closed their eyes, they would have believe the band was in the same room.
Battle with RCA
While Armstrong was a brilliant inventor, he didn't have the marketing savvy to sell FM to people
He went to David Sarnoff, friend and preside of RCA (which owned NBC as you recall) to help develop FM radio
Sarnoff orignially helped Armstrong, even allowing him to start an experimental station from RCA's offices in the Empire State building
But soon, RCA focused on the new invention of television, and didn't want a new, improved radio form to compete with it
RCA stopped pushing FM as hard as Armstrong wanted, so he sold the rights to manufacture FM radios and by 1941, 50 FM stations were on the air
The Gloves Come Off
RCA actually did these things to stop FM radio:
RCA closed the experimental FM station in NYC
Then, RCA lobbied the FCC to move the frequency range for FM radio from 42-50MHz to 88-108MHZ
The FCC agreed to move it, so where did every FM radio built before then end up?
The Trash
Every FM radio was now worthless
The Gloves Come Off
RCA actually did these things to stop FM radio:
RCA then claimed THEY had invented FM radio and held the patent on it, and should get any $ from it.
A patent fight in court took place between Armstrong and RCA....and RCA WON!
RCA legally had stolen the patent for FM radio
With the patent, RCA basically killed FM
By 1949, TV was coming into its own, furthering FM's descent into unimportance
By 1950, most FM radio stations had been shut down
Armstrong continued to fight in court to get his patent back, but years of legal battles left him drained...both emotionally and financially
Jan 31, 1954
Armstrong Leapt from his 13th floor
apartment in NYC

The Birth of FM
B: 12-10-90
D: 1-31-54

FM Wars: A New Hope
Armstrong's widow did renew the fight to get his patent back and was eventually successful
RCA realized eventually that TV would never completely eliminate the need for radio, so they began to reinvest time into FM
At first though, people were skeptical to buy FM radios, because the old ones were made obsolete so quickly
Eventually though, quality won out and FM radio became popular
Full transcript