Archive for Thursday, March 17, 2005

Radio in 1922

March 17, 2005

The history of radio in Lansing is interesting in that before store-bought radios were economical, people could buy the parts to assemble and fine-tune them.

The price of a store bought radio in the early '20s was from $100 to $325. You could buy a house in Lansing for $400. In the letters that my dad wrote in 1922, he talked about his frustrations in fine-tuning these radios. My dad and my Uncle Albert Sherley both built radios and compared their results. Dad had trouble trying to get more volume, and my Aunt Lizzie suggested using one of the parts Uncle Albert had. Dad was excited about the difference it made. He then went to Kansas City to find the same part.

Uncle Albert would place his new radio in a large crock in his front yard, and the neighbors would gather around to listen. My dad and Uncle Albert, who was the chief engineer at the penitentiary, both had inventive minds, and I could listen for hours when they discussed their ventures.

All radios had an antenna clip on the back, and many people had outside antennas from 50 to 100 feet long for better reception. The radios also had a ground clip, which was important for good reception.

In 1922 radio license floodgates opened, but there were only three frequencies in the United States to choose from. Our local stations shared the same frequency, therefore there was a schedule posted in the newspapers about the times each station could be listened to, whether it would be news, market reports or music.

By 1924 some stations had their own frequency; others continued to share time on 360 meters. WDAF had great music in the evenings. Dad talked about long-distance programming, probably from as far as the coasts. Someone invited Dad over to listen to their phonograph and he made the remark, "why would I want to listen to 'canned music' when I could listen to real music on the radio?" In reality that was probably "canned music" too.

In 1922, George Owen Squier was involved in the new transmission technologies of piped-in music. His idea led to the establishment of music service Wired Radio, known now as "Muzak." He died in 1934.

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