We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, June 21. 2007
Since when does "the public," ie the government, "own" the airwaves? A radio operator buys or leases a frequency, and then transmits radio waves on that frequency. Who gave the government ownership of frequencies? The government took them over in a weird example, I guess, of eminent domain, in the 1930s. However, the arguments used could just as well have been used for government ownership of news print.
Boortz makes the history of the notion very clear. Perhaps it would be analogous to the government taking ownership of bandwidth. How long until political use of bandwidth is regulated by Washington?
We wrote about this yesterday.
Photo: Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. The first transatlantic radio message from the US was sent from Teddy Roosevelt to King Edward Vll in 1909, from good old Wellfleet on Cape Cod. The beach location is now called Marconi Beach, and it is surrounded by protected land - part of The Cape Cod National Seashore - thanks to JFK.
Addendum: For fascinating historical detail about the early goverment intrusion into radio, read the first comment on this post.
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Boortz mised a few items..We , the US basically had to have the worldwide network of broadcasting stations that were being developed for the Britisn via Marconi....realizing communication is everything here's the 411...
"In order to set the stage for the story, it is necessary to review the founding of the Radio Corporation of America."
"When the United States entered World War I, the transatlantic radio telegraph station at New Brunswick, New Jersey, was taken over by the U.S. Navy. This station was owned by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, which was controlled by the British Marconi Company. This station was equipped with a 50kW Alexanderson alternator installed by the General Electric Company for demonstration purposes. The Navy wanted the 50kW unit replaced by the 200kW alternator, which was nearing completion at General Electric. American Marconi refused to finance the change. Because of the dire war situation, GE, at its own expense, installed the 200kW alternator and remodeled the entire system to make full use of its capabilities, thereby providing the Navy Department with the only reliable transoceanic communication from June 1918 to March 1, 1920, when the station was returned to its owner."
"Anticipating the day of return of this powerful station, British Marconi, in March 1919, opened negotiations with GE for the purchase of twenty four Alexanderson alternators, fourteen for American Marconi and ten for British Marconi, with exclusive rights for their use. The transaction was nearly completed when a report of the proposal reached the Navy Department. On April 15, 1919, Rear Admiral W.H.G. Bullard, Director of Communications of the Navy, and Commander S.C. Hooper of the Bureau of Engineering of the Navy Department, visited the offices of the GE Company. Admiral Bullard pointed out that such a sale would result in foreign interests maintaining a monopoly on worldwide communications for an indefinite period. He asked them, as patriotic Americans, not to make it impossible to form an American communications company powerful enough to meet competition of foreign interests. He proposed that GE organize an American radio-operating company, controlled wholly by American interests, which could exploit the advantages of the Alexanderson alternator in worldwide communications."
"The GE Company ceased negotiations with the British Marconi Company and proceeded to work out plans for the proposed corporation. The master plan included the purchase of American Marconi and the rights to use much other equipment and many types of circuits, some of which were owned or controlled by organizations other than American Marconi. The officers of GE moved swiftly. Tentative agreements were made, each being contingent upon the confirmation of all. The parts of the puzzle dovetailed."
"On October 17, 1919, GE caused to be organized under the laws of the State of Delaware the company known as the Radio Corporation of America. In the certificate of incorporation, it was provided that 'no person shall be eligible for election as a director or officer of the corporation who is not at the time of such election a citizen of the United States'. On November 20, 1919, the American Marconi Company was officially merged with the Radio Corporation of America. It continued to exist for legal purposes to wind up its affairs, but ceased to function as a communications corporation. On this same date, a cross-licensing agreement was affected between RCA and GE. On July 1, 1920, a cross-licensing agreement was concluded with GE and AT&T. By another agreement on the same date, these rights were extended to RCA and the Western Electric Company. A similar cross-licensing agreement between RCA and the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company was signed June 30, 1921."
"It should be borne in mind that RCA was formed as an operating company for the purpose of providing ship-to-shore communication. It had no manufacturing facilities until the formation of a subsidiary company, RCA Radiotron, Inc., in 1930. Up to that time, [RCA] functioned as a distributing agent for apparatus (including vacuum tubes) made for it by GE and Westinghouse." [The Wireless Specialties Apparatus Company also made some early RCA apparatus, but no tubes.] GE made the first tubes for RCA in December 1920. Westinghouse did not make tubes for RCA until late 1921. Also, while GE and Westinghouse made and distributed receiving and small transmitting tubes for the general consumer solely through RCA up to 1930, both companies maintained a line of industrial types under their own brand.
The Cunningham Connection
Elmer Cunningham had been a successful West Coast manufacturer and seller of tubes since 1915. His tubular AudioTron was one of the most widely used U.S. tubes between 1915 and 1920. "[When] the Radio Corporation of America was formed in October 1919, they promptly initiated litigation for patent infringements, instituting suit against Cunningham in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, charging infringement on the Fleming and deForest patents. Cunningham must have been in a unique bargaining situation. His position was set forth in an article entitled 'The Vacuum Tube Situation' in the February 1920 issue of the Pacific Radio News. (Click here to see the text of the article). The case was settled out-of-court by two agreements signed the same day (June 15, 1920)." [In the article, Cunningham essentially says the Fleming patent does not apply to his tube as an amplifier. However, it is suspected that Elmer Cunningham had some kind of 'dirt' on RCA as a bargaining chip. Tyne could not write this in 1943, since all the principals were still alive.]
The first agreement gave Cunningham a license to manufacture 5000 tubes over a period of 90 days. The second agreement provided that when the 90-day license had expired, Cunningham's company would cease to make vacuum tubes. "RCA agreed to supply Cunningham with tubes until the expiration date of the deForest patent No. 879,532 on February 18, 1925. The tubes were to be of Cunningham's choice, selected from samples submitted by RCA, and supplied in cartons ready for delivery. Both the tubes and cartons were to bear names and marks designated by Cunningham. There was to be no indication of the name of the manufacturer or RCA. These tubes were to be sold to Cunningham at a discount of 20% below the lowest net price quoted to any other customer." At the very least RCA got an instant West Coast distribution network out of the deal.
In practice, while the early tubes did not mention RCA, most early Cunningham tubes (just like RCA tubes) bore the GE or Westinghouse markings as well as the Cunningham logo. Cunningham probably found this advantageous. On the surface it might seem that Cunningham-branded tubes might be better than RCA-branded. This could be true of early production, but I suspect Elmer Cunningham did little, if any, inspecting after 1923 (the year the UV201A was introduced), and there are no apparent differences between RCA and Cunningham tubes of the same type.
The initial agreement must have been very successful for all involved, since Cunningham continued to receive tubes from RCA after the original agreement expired in 1925. Elmer Cunningham was closely aligned with RCA. When the subsidiary RCA Radiotron, Inc. was formed in 1930, he became its first president. 'Cunningham' was maintained as a separate brand up to 1933 when the names were combined to 'Radiotron Cunningham'. Boxes from this era show a Cunningham logo on one side and an RCA logo on the other. The Cunningham name was dropped from tubes in 1936, but 'Cunningham' was revived as a separate brand after World War II.
the first A.M. broadcast was shore to ship, in 1900. The experimenter out at sea, six miles distant in one of the great lakes (IIRC), hadn't told the crew what he was doing with the gear in the pilot house, they just thought he was a paying passenger weather scientist, and when the words started coming through the gear, it scared hell out of them. I'd like to have a rousing finish for this story, like, "They jumped overboard" or something, but, I don't.
I'm sorry, but is there ever a time when we can call government intrusion, government necessity. Is there a greater good? Honest question. I think we need more dialog on sorting that out.
In the story above of the development of RCA it was recognized that whoever controlled the first worldwide communication for ship to ship,ship to shore, and landbased communication would have a strategic advantage in any conflict. In this case it was a matter of national security.
I would agree with what I believe is your essential question,"Does the government have to have it's finger in every pie?" My answer would be no,no and no. In this case however I think events were moving very rapidly that would have allowed the Royal Navy to gain the upper hand. So the nascent military-industrial complex stepped in and worked the pressure points. In this case I believe it was in our national interest.
Kudos to Habu for his info-
May I also recommend Erik Larson's book Thunderstruck, about Marconi (and a murder case) which also illustrates the difficulties he had with the British science establishment and the government in developing his receivers.
I got the point of your post H., and a good one it was. But I was more juxtaposing from BD's addendum re "goverment intrusion into radio" and your post which seemed too support the proposition. I was really just looking too point out that there are times when the 'government', for the good of the nation should interfere in the business of business. Though we may not all agree on exactly under what conditions that should occur. I agree with your 4.1, which is the 'dialog' I mentioned in my post. Thanks.
Our government is empowered to act in the name of furthering the general welfare.The words are almost without meaning today during our progressive era hangover but the original understanding is simple and straightforward. Canals, the trans-continental railroad, the interstate highway system even the Louisiana Purchase will easily fit within the plain meaning. Redistribution of wealth and the drive for social engineering in the name of abstract equality do not. The Wagner Act , the New deal, the War on Poverty and the Great Society, are good examples of abusing that power for reasons other than the fact that they were obscenely expensive failures.A government attempt to affect over the air programming in the name of 'fairness' regardless of demand in the marketplace will be added to the list of spectacular government failures if the effort is made.