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Turn Down the Lights…Turn Up the Volume November 15, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Educational Ranting, Film and Television, News and politics.
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Antique Radio

And Now…The Halls of Fantasy.  The Golden Age of Radio is considered to extend from the 1920’s when locally produced content began to proliferate on the air, until the 1950’s when TV replaced radio as the dominant media venue.  During this time, some of the best drama, comedy, and general entertainment was produced and presented to the American people.  As transmitter range and power increased, news from around the world began to penetrate areas of America where no such contact had ever been made before.  A great opening of the American mind to many new ideas occurred.  Whether this is good or bad will no doubt fuel debates for years to come, but whether for better or worse, America was introduced to the world at large.

Prior to the “roaring 20’s” the country was an innocent place.  Isolationism, the belief that America’s interests would be best served if America remained aloof from the politics and wars of the rest of the world, was the order of the day.  This idea, coupled with the difficulty in gathering and distributing global news, meant that most Americans lived, died, and even thought, no more than a few miles from the place of their birth.  Americans did not think about the rest of the world beyond what was available in the local newspaper.  In urban areas global news was available to an extent and Americans were fairly cosmopolitan but the country was still agrarian in nature and, outside of larger towns and cities, the majority of Americans could care less about Europe, Asia, or the rest of the world.

World War I introduced America to the rest of the world.  However, the isolated nature of battle in World War I prevented much contact with soldiers of other nations.  Trench warfare and the confining of most soldiers to their own areas behind fortified lines, kept new ideas at bay.  Radio was in its infancy and mostly limited to tactical and strategic applications.  Little news reached the folks back home in rural America beyond what was printed in the papers and even this was slow in coming.  At the end of World War I, the United States rejected the Treaty of Versailles, rejected membership in the League of Nations,  and quickly abandoned the European battle fields to return to her isolationist policies.  Middle America and the rural part of the country had adopted a distinctly “us vs. them” philosophy.  Statesmen like William Jennings Bryan and George W. Norris led the charge to keep the Monroe Doctrine firmly in place.  They vigorously attacked the Eastern, urban elite who promoted involvement in matters European.

Meanwhile, on the technological front, America continued to move forward.  By the 19th century, many scientists and inventors were aware that wireless communication was possible.  All that remained was to put in place an infrastructure of transmitters and make receivers affordable to the average household.  Many famous inventors such as Henry Ford, Nicolai Tesla, and Thomas Edison worked to improve the range and clarity of radio broadcasts.  However it was an Italian named Guglielmo Marconi who was awarded the patent by the US government.  Some people feel that this was done in order to avoid paying Tesla royalties for the patented process he was already using. (citation. In March of 1916 the American Radio and Research Company became the first station to broadcast a continuous presentation.  It lasted around 3 hours and contained dance music, university lectures, the weather, and bedtime stories.

World War II was a very different conflict as compared to World War I.  The philosophy of the battlefield had changed from a medieval siege warfare mentality to a more flexible fire and maneuver scheme.  Small units of soldiers were frequently in contact with units from other countries, both enemy and ally for extended periods of time.  Soldiers were allowed to enter towns and villages and came into contact with local residents.  These events helped to expose Americans to new ideas and customs but it was the advent of the battlefield correspondent that brought about an end to the isolated philosophy in America’s rural areas.  Evening after evening, families gathered around the wireless to hear the news from battles in places most had never heard of.  People began talking about terrain features in Berlin and rivers in France that, until the war, no one could have found on a map even if they had known what country to look in.  The United States, and the world, were ready for an awakening.

The new prosperity in America after the end of World War II allowed people of every sort the time to rest and enjoy the fruits of their labor.  While all the goods and services had not yet reached the country folk, radio was a staple in nearly every household.  Suddenly it was important to know what was going on in the world.  The new prosperity marked a change in the thinking of middle America.  The old isolationist ideas were set aside and a more progressive mind-set was adopted.  Of equal importance, the amount of free time that agrarian families had exploded as tractors and mechanical tools replaced horse-drawn implements.  These two conditions joined to give radio and more specifically radio entertainment an in-road into rural America.

What began as a trickle became a flood.  Soon stations were springing up all over the US.  Shows were being produced locally, perhaps not always well, but content generation is the key to success in the media.  Soon the idea of producing and selling shows became popular.  Now local stations could present “Big City” quality material for a small fee.  The fee could be more than made up for in advertisement revenue.  Broadcast radio was in its hey day.  Only the advent of pictures to accompany the sounds could have derailed its popularity.

In honor of the old radio broadcasts and to introduce young people who may not have ever heard of Old-Time Radio, we present a typical broadcast from HauntedRadio.net.  The following presentation is an episode of the old Abbot and Costello show (brought to you by Camel cigarettes…How long has it been since THEY advertised anything?).  This show features the great Peter Lorre.  Click here if you have never heard an old radio show.  This one even includes old commercials and announcements.  Abbott and Costello (with Peter Lorre)

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