Way Back When

1 February 1942

The Voice of America began transmissions from 270 Madison Avenue in New York City.

17 February 1919
Station 9XM at the University of Wisconsin in Madison broadcast human speech to the public at large. 9XM was first experimentally licensed in 1914, began regular Morse code transmissions in 1916, and its first music broadcast in 1917. Regularly scheduled broadcasts of voice and music began in January 1921.
That station is still on the air today as WHA.

20 February 1864

Mahlon Loomis, an American dentist and amateur inventor, wrote in his journal: “I have been for years trying to study out a process by which telegraphic communications may be made across the ocean without any wires, and also from point to point on the earth, dispensing with wires.” Two and a half years later, Loomis claimed to have done this very thing between two mountaintops in Loudoun County, Virginia. Unfortunately, there is no independent proof of this feat.

23 February 2007

The FCC Report and Order that eliminated all Morse code testing requirements for all American Amateur Radio License applicants, took effect.

Walter Houser Brattain (10 February 1902 – 13 October 1987) was an American physicist at Bell Labs who, along with John Bardeen and William Shockley, invented the transistor. They shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for their invention. Brattain devoted much of his life to research on surface states.

John Bardeen (L) with William Shockley and Walter Brattain (R) in the lab with their breakthrough invention.

Thomas Alva Edison (11 February 1847 – 18 October 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. His remarkable innovations and inventions include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a practical electric lamp (light bulb). Edison also developed a system of electric power generation and distribution. His work in these fields was an outgrowth of his early career as a telegraph operator.


He was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention, and he is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory.

William Bradford Shockley Jr. (13 February 1910 – 12 August 1989) was an American physicist and inventor. Shockley managed the research group that included John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain, inventors of the transistor. The three were jointly awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Model of the first transistor

Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (18 February 1745 – 5 March 1827) was an Italian physicist, chemist, and a pioneer of electricity and power, who is credited as the inventor of the electrical battery and the discoverer of methane. He invented the Voltaic pile in 1799. His invention proved that electricity could be generated chemically and debased the prevalent theory that electricity was generated solely by living beings. The unit of electrical potential—volt—is named after him.

Voltaic Pile

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (22 February 1857 – 1 January 1894) was a German physicist who first conclusively proved the existence of electromagnetic waves theorized by James Clerk Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory of light. Hertz proved the theory by engineering instruments to transmit and receive radio pulses using experimental procedures that ruled out all other known wireless phenomena. The unit of frequency, cycle per second, was named the hertz in his honor.

Hertz’s 1887 apparatus for generating and detecting radio waves: a spark transmitter (left) consisting of a dipole antenna with a spark gap powered by high voltage pulses from a Ruhmkorff coil, and a receiver (right) consisting of a loop antenna and spark gap.

David Sarnoff (27 February 1891 – 12 December 1971) was a businessman and pioneer broadcaster. His 60-year career took him from an office boy at the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America (aka American Marconi), to president of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

     At RCA, Sarnoff saw the potential of radio for mass communications. During his tenure, RCA launched the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the first US radio network. RCA became a leading manufacturer of radio and television receivers, vacuum tubes, broadcast transmitters and other equipment.

     Recognizing the potential for television, Sarnoff led RCA to fund development of an all-electronic television system. The system “borrowed” ideas from Philo T. Farnsworth’s image dissector leading to a protracted legal battle.