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For the most part, it can be fun to read and writev about the history of radio and some of the interestingvfacts about how radio works. Sometimes, however, the darker side of radio's past looms large. Such is the case of the story of Edwin Howard Armstrong. Armstrong's innovative mind led him to three of the most significant inventions in the history of radio and electronics. It also led him into a fight he just couldnt win. Here's a brief account of his story.
While Lee De Forest was working on his Audion at AT&T, Armstrong, then a young undergraduate at Columbia University in New York, was just about to make his first impact on the future of electronics. In 1912, during his third year at Columbia, Armstrong discovered a way to improve the reception qualities of De Forest's Audion: a regenerative circuit. By feeding a radio transmission's waves back through the Audion tube, Armstrong boosted his radio's reception, and in so doing, created the first radio amplifier. Armstrong also noticed that if he repeatedly cycled the electromagnetic waves (of the radio signal) through the tube, the tube itself would begin to act as a transmitter. With this breakthrough, radio stations would no longer have to rely on large, expensive generators for their transmitters. Armstrong had entered the annals of radio history.
The success of young Armstrong's regenerative circuit prompted De Forest to claim that he had invented it himself. De Forest pushed his case through the U.S. Patent Office, and lost. But he was persistent, and eventually maneuvered his case against Armstrong through federal courts and finally to the U. S. Supreme Court. There, in a decision that still upsets historians, scientists and radio engineers alike, a U.S. Supreme Court Judge apparently misunderstood the case before him, and actually ruled in favor of De Forest.