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1916 __ Radio Music Box
David Sarnoff (1881-1971)
Comment : In 1916, in a letter to the company's general manager, David Sarnoff described the "Radio Music Box" which would "make radio a 'household utility' in the same sense as the piano or phonograph". The idea is to bring music into the house by wireless. (Radio Corporation of America, Principles and Practices of Network Radio Broadcasting -- Testimony of David Sarnoff Before the Federal Communications Commission November 14, 1938 and May 17, 1939, New York: RCA Institute Technical Press, 1939, p.102 Thomas)Apr. 14, 1912 : David Sarnoff, 21, a telegraph operator, intercepted the first distress signals from the doomed ship Titanic. On the job for 72 straight hours, he kept the world posted on rescue attempts and the names of survivors. When it was over, the name Sarnoff was a household word.David Sarnoff, employed as contracts manager at the Marconi Company, sent a memo to his boss: "I have in mind a plan of development which would make radio a household utility in the same sense as the piano or phonograph. [...] The receiver can be designed in the form of a simple 'Radio Music Box' [...] [which] can be placed in the parlor or living room. [...]". (Compiled from various sources)Sarnoff kept in touch with everything going on in the wireless and radio world : its future was constantly before him. In November 1916 he wrote to his superior, Edwad J. Nally, vice president and general manager of American Marconi, a memorandum outlining a plan. Its main ingredients were not now; Lee de Forest was at that very time broadcastng music and news bulletins.including election returns.in New York City. But Sarnoff translated the idea into a business plan and began with the consumer. General manager Edward Nally seems to have considered the idea "harebrained". Sarnoff's reaction was characteristic. He put the memorandum aside and bided his time. With the formation of RCA, he apparently felt his time had come. In January 1920 he spoke to Owen D. Young. Resubmiting his plan, he added details. It now included "Wireless Age", the American Marconi periodical that RCA had taken over. « Every purchaser of a "Radio Music Box" would be encouraged to become a subscriber of the Wireless Age which would announce in its columns an advance monthly scedule of all lectures, recitals, etc., to be given in various cities of the country. With this arrangement the owner of the "Radio Music Box" can learn from the columns of the Wireless Age what is going on in the air at any given time and throw the "Radio Music Box" switch to the point (wave length) corresponding with the music or lecture desired to be heard. If this plan is carried out the volume of paid advertising that can be obtained for the Wireless Age on the basis of such proposed increased circulation would be in itself be a profitable venture. In other words, the Wireless Age would perform the same mission as is now being performed by the motion picture magazines which enjoy so wide a circulation.» (In : Tebbel, "David Sarnoff", pp. 99-106). In further paragraphs Sarnoff considered the plan from an investment point of view. He felt that manifacturing costs would allow sale of the radio music boxes at $75 each. If a million families responded, a revenue of $75,000,000 would result. (. (Erik Barnouw)
Original excerpt : « I have in mind a plan of development which would make radio a "household utility" in the same sense as the piano or phonograph ... The receiver can be designed in the form of a simple "Radio Music Box" and aranged for several different wave lengths, which would be changeable with the throwing of a single switch or pressing of a single button. The "Radio Music Box" can be supplied with amplifying tubes and a loudspeaking telephone, all of which can be neatly mounted in one box. The box can be placed in the parlor or living room, the switch set accordingly and the transmitted music received ... The same principle can be extended to numerous other fields.as for example.receiving lectures at home which can be made perfectly audible ... This proposition would be especially interesting to farmers and others living in outlying districts removed from cities. By the purchase of a "Radio Music Box" they could enjoy concerts, lectures, music, recitals, etc. which may be going on in the nearest city whithin their radius. » (Quoted from : Archer, "History of Radio", pp. 112-113). »
Source : Barnouw, Erik (1966), “A History of Broadcasting in the United States: Volume 1: A Tower in Babel”, Oxford University Press US, pp. 78-79.
Urls : http://earlyradiohistory.us/1916rmb.htm (last visited )

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