Guest endymion Posted March 26 Report Share Posted March 26 In his book Free Culture, noted intellectual property attorney and futurist Lawrence Lessig tells the story of the inventor of FM radio.In 1935, there were about a thousand radio stations across the US that were all using the current state of the art in broadcasting: AM radio. The receivers of AM radio broadcasts are very simple but they are susceptible to static and interference as lightning and other types of noise add to the radio station's signal.An inventor named Edwin Howard Armstrong saw a new way forward. He was awarded the first patents for his new FM radio technology in 1935, and in 1936 he gave a demonstration of a prototype to a group of fellow radio engineers gathered at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City. The transmitter was in faraway Yonkers, further than any AM radio station could reach.The audience, unaware of even the possibility of transmitting music over radio with clarity, was shocked at the demonstration:A glass of water was poured before the microphone in Yonkers; it sounded like a glass of water being poured....A paper was crumpled and torn;it sounded like paper and not like a crackling forest fire....Sousa marches were played from records and a piano solo and guitar number were performed....The music was projected with a live-ness rarely if ever heard before from a radio â€œmusic box.Armstrong had a vision for a new direction in broadcasting. He saw a possible future where broadcasting served people better by doing a better job of carrying music. His FM radio invention could carry music more clearly and it could carry it over much longer distances than AM radio. The radio engineers immediately understood the value of his invention, and so would the public once they were given the opportunity. There was only one problem.Edwin Howard Armstrong worked for RCA. Like today, the world of broadcasting in 1936 was dominated by a handful of companies. At the center of that establishment was RCA, an intellectual property holding company that was created to consolidate radio patents for the war effort during WWI. RCA established a monopoly over commercial radio in the 1920s and by 1936 it was creating a new market for commercial music, having introduced the 33 1/2 RPM record in 1931. David Sarnoff, president of RCA, had a different reaction to the invention of FM:I thought Armstrong would invent some kind of a filter to remove static from our AM radio. I didnâ€™t think heâ€™d start a revolutionâ€”start up a whole damn new industry to compete with RCA.Motivated by profit rather than an interest in the advancement of humanity, RCA saw FM radio not as an exciting new development but as a threat. Since Armstrong worked for RCA when he invented FM radio, they simply sat on the invention and did not develop it. When Armstrong grew impatient and began promoting his technology, RCA discredited him and questioned whether FM radio was really an improvement, using a marketing strategy that we now know as FUD, for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.RCA managed to withhold the new advancement from the public just long enough for it to launch a lobbying initiative. They hired the former head of the FCC and made stifling FM radio his sole job function. Beginning in 1936, he succeeded for RCA by winning a series of crippling rulings from the FCC that would hinder the usefulness of the new technology. FM radio could transmit over greater distances than AM, but not if that were illegal.Partly in order to make room for RCA's new television broadcasts, the FCC moved FM radio from its ideal position in the radio spectrum to where it sits now, between 88 and 108 megahertz. The FCC limited FM radio's ability to broadcast music over great distances by sharply limiting the broadcast power of FM transmitters, which protected the early AM retransmission network. In a final ironic twist, after diminishing the importance of FM and winning the initial battle for control, RCA sought and won its own patents on FM technology.RCA ran roughshod over Edwin Armstrong in its fight against FM radio. In 1954, after his wife had left him during the ongoing patent dispute, Armstrong jumped to his death from his 13th floor apartment in New York. FM radio would not overtake AM radio in the market for decades after his death. Acting out of greed, RCA forced the general public, our parents and grandparents, to listen to forty years' worth of unnecessary clicks, pops, and static. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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