Old-time radio

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Old-Time Radio (OTR) and the Golden Age of Radio refer to a period of radio programming in the United States lasting from the proliferation of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s until television's replacement of radio as the dominant home entertainment medium in the 1950s. During this period, when radio was dominant and the airwaves were filled with a variety of radio formats and genres, people regularly tuned in to their favorite radio programs. In fact, according to a 1947 C. E. Hoover survey, 82 out of 100 Americans were found to be radio listeners.



Radio content in the Golden Age of Radio had its origins in the théâtrophone. Broadcasting began in the 1880s and 1890s with audio recordings of musical acts and other vaudeville. These were sent to people by means of telephone and, later, through phonograph cylinders and discs. Visual elements, such as effects and sight gags, were adapted to have sound equivalents. In addition, visual objects and scenery were converted to have audio descriptions.

On Christmas Eve, 1906, Reginald Fessenden was said to have sent the first radio program broadcast, consisting of some violin playing and passages from the Bible. While Fessenden's role as an inventor and early experimenter is not in dispute, several contemporary radio researchers have questioned whether the Christmas Eve broadcast took place, or whether the date was in fact several weeks earlier. The event was never reported in any sources of Fessenden's time, and was mainly disseminated after his death, in a book authored by his wife Helen. (See for example, Halper and Sterling, "Seeking the Truth About Fessenden"[1] and also James O'Neal's essay[2]) 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 (or "ham") radio operators. Radio was especially important during World War I, since it was vital for air and naval operations. In fact, World War I sped the development of radio by transitioning radio communications from the Morse code of the wireless telegraph to the vocal communication of the wireless telephone through advancements in vacuum tube technology and the introduction of the transceiver.

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