The Rise of Radio: From Marconi through the Golden Age
By Alfred Balk
Reviewed By Jim Moneghan
Since I am a radio collector and not necessarily interested in the radio broadcasts of the "Golden Age" of radio, I was not sure how long this book would hold my interest. I found out very quickly -- I could not put it down. The actual radio broadcasts from the early days to the early 1960s is the book's primary focus, but there is so much more.
The beginning of radio is covered in the first few chapters, starting with electricity (Volta, Edison, etc.), the start of radio (Fleming, Marconi, etc.), and the inventors and their technical innovations that made radio broadcasting and reception to an entire country possible (Deforest, Armstrong, etc.). Coverage of the formation of RCA, the first broadcasts of KDKA, the battle between RCA and AT&T over broadcasting rights and infringements, and the formation of the networks -- it's all here. From the chaotic 1920s, when anyone could get a transmitting license, to regulation, to the eventual deregulation of radio, all are covered in detail.
The "Golden Age" of radio is well represented, from the technical inventions and improvements to the maturity of radio broadcasts and the performers themselves. Coverage included shows like Amos & Andy, Lum & Abner, The Jack Benny Show, and many others that changed the way we listened to radio and brought a slew of new radio stars to our living rooms every week.
The beginning of television in the 1930s and the impact that television had on radio viewers and radio broadcasting during the late 1940s-1950s are covered in detail. The end of radio broadcasting as it was known in the early 1960s is another part of this story. Also included is the invention of FM radio by Armstrong and its impact on the industry, as well as the battle with Sarnoff that followed.
This book is a pleasure to read and an excellent resource that adds depth to your radio library. It moves along at a good pace and easily holds your interest throughout. In fact, after I finish this review, I think I will read the book again!
Alfred Balk is a writer, consultant and vintage radio collector. Formerly a magazine editor, he has taught at Columbia and Syracuse Universities. He has also written more than one hundred article for national magazines, including Harper's, Reader's Digest, Saturday Evening Post, Columbia Journalism Review and Saturday Review.
The Rise of Radio -- From Marconi through the Golden Age by Alfred Balk is published in a 350-page, 9" x 6" soft cover format for $35.
(Jim Moneghan, 45 Arnold Street, Lincoln, RI 02865)
Jim Moneghan has been a radio collector for 37 years. His primary interests are in pre-1925 radios, parts, and literature, as well as in 1930s vacuum tubes.