FM’s static-filled history

I have just purchased a new book called “The Network: The Battle for the Airwaves and the Birth of the Communications Age,” about a subject that interests me greatly. The relationship of the brilliant engineer Edwin Armstrong and David Sarnoff, the CEO of RCA. Sarnoff saw the potential of radio broadcasting that was made possible by Armstrong’s AM circuit wizardry, and used it to build the mighty NBC network. He failed, however, to see the significance of Armstrong’s invention of FM, to the point where the FCC had to force Sarnoff into accepting FM for TV sound.

It’s a classic modern tragedy of an independent inventor being crushed by a giant corporation. Keeping in mind that Sarnoff also rolled over Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of all-electronic television, I do not yet know if the book’s author, Scott Woolley, sees Sarnoff as having been completely in the wrong. Based upon a segment on last Friday’s Marketplace, I get the impression that Woolley might favor the view that Armstrong should have accepted reality and given up the fight.

New Yorker, New Yorker

The only print magazine I still get in the mail is The New Yorker. Here are a couple of articles. First, Jeffrey Toobin’s excellent analysis of Antonin Scalia’s three decades on the supreme bench…

… and a retro piece, from 1965, about about the relationship between radio and Rock and Roll. It’s recommended by Herb Oscar Anderson, or HOA as he was known when he was the Morning Mayor on 77 WABC in the 1960’s.