Highly Trained Advisors – Se Habla Español

The First Broadcast

Though not everyone agrees on what the first radio station in the US was, most people agree that Westinghouse helped fund the first commercial radio broadcast on KDKA Pittsburgh back in 1920. KDKA grew out of the hobby of Frank Conrad, an assistant chief engineer at Westinghouse. Conrad was a modest man with a modest education; he didn't have a high school diploma or even a degree from a prestigious university. In fact, he didn't have a degree at all except for an honorary doctorate he received later in life from the University of Pittsburgh. What he did have though, was a genius for radio.

In 1916, Conrad started transmitting music on his amateur radio, 8XK. Soon after, he received requests for more music from people who picked up his broadcast on their crystal radios. His popularity grew; it wasn't long before he had the interest of a local music store and was borrowing records from them in exchange for an advertisement. That was probably the first radio advertisement on the air, and it was probably the beginning of what we think of today as commercial radio.

When Westinghouse picked up on the popularity of Conrad's idea, they decided to create KDKA, and they used the station as a way to get more radios into people's homes. KDKA's first broadcast on November 2, 1920, was of the Harding-Cox Presidential election returns.

The more KDKA broadcast, the more people wanted to buy radios, which made for even more broadcasts. On August 5, 1921 they broadcast the first professional baseball game. This successful cycle soon paved the way for thousands of radios to find their way into American homes.

By 1924, the simple idea that Frank Conrad had begun in his garage in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania had grown to a huge industry. Just four years after the commercially licensed KDKAs first broadcast, RCA sales of their "Radio Music Box" totaled nearly $84 million. This was an astounding amount of money back then, and it points to just how much people loved having the ability to send and receive (broadcast) information instantly across a wide area.

Try to imagine a world without radio. You would lose the single most affordable, user-friendly and democratic mode of communication available. With radio, people across the country can practically hear one another's thoughts. They can share information, or just share in the knowledge that they're not alone with the questions on their minds. Sure the Internet can do some of that too, but it's not as easy or affordable as radio. We owe much of our thanks for this remarkable medium to a humble man who simply pursued a hobby with passion - Frank Conrad.

Though the garage from which Conrad first broadcast music was taken down in 2001, you can see a picture of it at the National Museum of Broadcasting Web Site

As always, please contact us with any comments or article suggestions you might have.

Send this article to a friend!
Share this article with a friend! Please complete the fields below, and we'll send your friend an email from you with a link.
Note: You and your friend's email addresses are only used once as a referral. We will not collect or store the email addresses.
500 character max
  • This WiFi Antenna is hands down the best. It allows me to connect to a business almost a half mile away. Two months time and this baby paid for itself. I am a very happy with my purchase.
    — John A., Mill Valley, CA
  • This radio deserves five stars because it sounds great, the ease of use and preset stations. This radio will become your favorite radio, also backed by great customer service if ever needed, thank you very much.
    — Pete P., Santa Rosa, CA
  • This is an excellent internet radio. I have had the unit playing constantly from the time I received it. Excellent sound for such a small unit and the remote works wonderfully.
    — James H., Richmond, BC
  • Good sound, lightweight and comfortable; not too tight on the head. I like one feature; it doesn't tell you where to place the speakers, left side or right side.
    — Harry W., Manassas, VA
  • I purchase this product specifically for AM recordings and it has worked superbly. I wanted to wait awhile before I gave my opinion on the product. It has worded exactly as advertised and more.
    — Jack L., San Pedro, CA
  • Very nice, economical home lighting. If you're used to the white light of fluorescent bulb replacements, these will offer the same type with no toxic ingredients or damaging UV radiation.
    — Gary B., San Francisco, CA
  • This antenna does work well; however placement and the shape you have it bent into is very important. I live about 70 miles away from Toronto and receive a lot of Toronto FM stations static free with the FM reflect.
    — Thomas S., Buffalo, NY
  • I'm not sure how I gone this far in life without it. I just love it. The best sound ever from an AM radio.
    — James G., Springfield, MA
  • This device is awesome. As a contractor, I can not access my customer's network for security reasons. Now, with my office on the second floor, I can connect to a WiFi hotspot 1.5 miles away and my signal strength is strong!
    — Robert S., Tabernacle, NJ
  • I just received my EP radio yesterday. I'm totally impressed with the old school simplicity and the modern day sound quality. Thank you, C.Crane!
    — David C., Raleigh, NC
  • I have had only one, thank the lord, occasion to use this in and emergency situation and it worked flawlessly. Only one in the area with radio for two days of power loss... Thank you CCrane!!
    — Vernon P., Dufur, OR
  • This radio is totally fantastic!!! It will provide service in any condition and works as engineered and advertised. I am going to order more units for all family members.
    — Glen B., Bethlehem, PA
  • This radio is wonderful. Small but powerful. Several years of service and no problems.
    — William B., Litchfield, IL
  • Just received this little jewel... did not open the manual and I was listening to NPR within minutes... no kidding. I'm a radio guy and the audio is great and look forward to a lot of great listening.
    — Lin F., Inman, SC