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Dr. Frank Conrad


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The Father of Broadcast Music
 
Dr. Frank Conrad, the "Father of Radio Broadcasting",  invented the concept of broadcasting and coined the term.  In its infancy radio was point-to-point with one operator communicating directly with only one other operator via Morse code. Fank Conrad added a microphone to his self built radio set to send transmissions to everyone who had a receiver.  He was  was an engineer of electical devices at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh.  As a hobby he built and experimented with a small cystal radio set in 1912 to receive transmissions of time signals from the Naval Observatory.  Wanting to communite to others Conrad  in 1916 built a 75 watt transmitter in his garage on Penn Avenue in Wilkensburg, Pa.   It was licensed by the Department of Commerce with call letters 8XK.  Limited in his skill at Morse code, Conrad added a microphone to his transmitter.
 
Testing out his microphone Conrad placed a phonograph player in front of his microphone, put on a record, and broadcasted music to his listeners. Amateur ham radio operators around Pittsburgh tuned into hear his broadcasts of music recordings and talk. Word of his broadcasts spread when the Pittsburgh newspapers wrote about his shows.  As his popularity increased Frank aired records on a regular schedule for two hours a day on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.  Listeners wrote to Conrad to request specific songs. Conrad may have also invented "Payola" when he made an arrangement with the Hamilton Music Store to mention the store on the air in exchange for free records.
 
Frank Conrad's boss at Westinghouse, Vice President H.P. Davis, saw the potential of radio as a mass entertainment and news medium. He also wanted to sell radio receivers.  Westinghouse constructed a wooden radio shack with a 200 Watt transmitter and large antenna on the roof of one of its Pittsburgh buildings in 1920.  On October 27, 1920 the U.S. government licensed the transmiter as the first commercial broadcast radio station in the world with call letters KDKA,  It made its first broadcast on November 2, 1920.  About 100 listeners in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia tune in to hear the Harding-Cox presidental election results.

Click this to hear a recording of the broadcast; KDKA 1920
 
The first KDKA broadcast sparked a craze the swept the nation.  KDKA increased its transmitter to 500 watts so that it could be heard across most of the Eastern U.S. and Canada.  By 1922 there were 500 broadcast stations in the U.S.
 
As the first radio station in the world KDKA made many historic broadcast firsts.  KDKA was the first station to broadcast live music concerts, professional sporting events, church services, and election results.
 
During the 1920’s through the 1940’s KDKA broadcast live performances the KDKA Little Symphony Orchestra and other Pittsburgh area big bands. From 1941 to 1959, KDKA broadcast the Farm Hour featuring the live music Slim Bryant and his Wildcats.
Frank with his Transmitter
Frank Conrad's Garage
 

KDKA Radio 1920