Golden Age of Radio
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The old-time radio era, sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Radio, refers to a period of radio programming in the United States lasting from the proliferation of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s until the 1950s, when television superseded radio as the medium of choice for scripted programming and radio shifted to playing popular music. During this period, when radio was dominant and filled with a variety of formats and genres, people regularly tuned into their favorite radio programs. According to a 1947 C. E. Hooper survey, 82 out of 100 Americans were found to be radio listeners.
The broadcasts of live drama, comedy, music and news that characterize the Golden Age of Radio had a precedent in the Théâtrophone, commercially introduced in Paris in 1890 and available as late as 1932. It allowed subscribers to eavesdrop on live stage performances and hear news reports by means of a network of telephone lines. The development of radio eliminated the wires and subscription charges from this concept.
It was not until after the Titanic catastrophe in 1912 that radio for mass communication came into vogue, inspired first by the work of amateur (“ham”) radio operators. Radio was especially important during World War I as it was vital for air and naval operations. World War I brought about major developments in radio, superseding the Morse code of the wireless telegraph with the vocal communication of the wireless telephone, through advancements invacuum tube technology and the introduction of the transceiver.
After the war, numerous radio stations were born in the United States and set the standard for later radio programs. The first radio news program was broadcast on August 31, 1920 on the station 8MK in Detroit; owned by The Detroit News, the station covered local election results. This was followed in 1920 with the first commercial radio station in the United States, KDKA, being established in Pittsburgh. The first regular entertainment programs were broadcast in 1922, and on March 10, Variety carried the front page headline: “Radio Sweeping Country: 1,000,000 Sets in Use.” A highlight of this time was the first Rose Bowl being broadcast on January 1, 1923 on the Los Angeles station KHJ.