NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1917 __ World War I — development of German radio network
Dr Hans Bredow (1879-1959)
Comment : A world war, the first of its kind, had to break out in order to facilitate the switch from Poulsen's arc transmission to Lieben or de Forest's tube-type technology and mass-produce Fessenden's experimental procedure. It was not only in Germany, where the signal corps created in 1911 went to war with 550 officers and 5800 men but returned with 4831 officers and 185,000 men, that the development of amplifier tubes was given the highest priority. Fighter planes and submarines, the two new weapons systems, required wireless communication, just as military command required vacuum tube technology for the control of high and low frequencies. Tanks, however, which were equally in need of communication, kept losing their antennas in the barbed wire of the trenches and for the time being had to make do with carrier pigeons. But exponentially growing radio troops were also in need of entertainment, since apart from machine-gun skirmishes and drumfire offensives trench warfare is nothing but sensory depravation --or War as Inner Experience, as Jünger so succinctly put it. After three years of waste land between Flanders and the Ardennes the military staffs --the British ones in Flanders and a German one in Rethel in the Ardennes-- had pity on their troops. Though trench crews had no radios, they were in possession of "army radio equipment." Beginning in May 1917, Dr Hans Bredow, an AEG engineer before the war and afterwards the first undersecretary for the national German radio network, was able to "use a primitive tube transmitter to broadcast a radio program consisting of records and the reading of newspaper articles. The project, however, was cancelled when a superior command post got wind of it and prohibited the `abuse of army equipment' for any future broadcast of music or words!" [...] And what is true microcosmically is also true macrocosmically. In November 1918, the 190,000 radio operators of the imperial German army were demobilized but kept their equipment. Supported or supervised by the executive of the USPD (the Independent Socialist Party), the inspectorate of the technical division of the signal corps (Itenacht) founded a Central Broadcasting Bureau (ZFL), which on 25 November was granted a broadcasting license by the executive committee of the workers and soldiers council. A "radio spectre" which could have nipped the Weimar Republic in the technological bud triggered the immediate "counterattack" by Dr Bredow. For the simple purpose of avoiding the anarchistic abuse of military radio equipment, Germany received its entertainment radio network. Records that hitherto had been used to liven up military communication in the trenches of the Ardennes now came into their own. Otherwise people themselves rather than the government and the media industry could have made politics. (Friedrich Kittler)
Source : Kittler, Friedrich A. (1986), “Grammophon Film Typewriter”, Berlin: Brinkmann & Bose; and also, “Gramophone, Film, Typewriter”, translated by Geoff Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.
Urls : http://www.stanford.edu/class/history34q/readings/Kittler/GramFilmTypwriter/Kittler_Gramophone.html (last visited )

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