1922 __ A system for the transmission and distribution of background music — Muzak
‣ Comment : In 1922 the Muzak inventor, Major General George O. Squier, patented a system for the transmission and distribution of background music from phonograph records over electrical lines to workplaces. "Major-General George O. Squier, chief signal officer of the United States Army, apparently threw a monkey-wrench into the general machinery of radio broadcasting, a short time ago, when he gave a demonstration in Washington of his "wired wireless" system, as applied to music transmission. [...] One orchestra for many audiences. If the system proves practicable, it means that a city might support one really high class orchestra, and simultaneously deliver its music to any number of audiences in the open air. As a result of these discussions, it is probable that in the very near future New York City will put such a system through a series of tests. Wired municipal broadcasting of this kind, sided by voice amplifiers in the parks and public halls, would furnish music, entertainment, political debates, election returns, and interesting civic information to the entire population of the city." (Jack Binns, "How one orchestra may play to an entire city", In Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 101, n° 2, August 1922, pp. 74-76). In the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, he invented the Synchrograph, which used telegraphy to study the flight of projectiles. In 1905, concerned that radio equipment would be cumbersome on the battlefield, he patented a radio antenna that could be fashioned from “living vegetable organisms.” This device, called a floroscope, turned out to be simple enough: Two spikes. — one driven into the base of a tree, the other farther up. — tapped into the natural conductivity of the trunk. Whether Squier’s floroscope was ever used in combat remains unclear, though similar devices continue to appear in radio magazines to this day. Meanwhile the inventor Lee de Forest was predicting an “empire of the air” in which vast segments of the world population would communicate by radio. But until Squier came along, few gave serious consideration to linking wire and wireless into a single interchangeable system, combining the telephone’s range, resistance to interference, and low power requirement with radio’s ability to travel without wires, transmit multiple signals, and reach multiple recipients. In effect, it would be a new and highly flexible medium. Like so many twentieth-century inventions, the idea of wire-wireless was driven by military considerations. The Signal Corps recognized the benefits of radio, but no existing apparatus seemed suitable for battle conditions. Field radio sets suffered greatly from interference and could transmit scarcely farther than 20 miles. They also lacked secrecy. Squier suggested that these problems might be solved by sending radio signals over telephone lines. His scheme would also be more efficient for point-to-point communication: Instead of broadcasting in all directions, the signal would be confined to a single path. In addition, it would allow the use of uninsulated wire, unlike a regular telephone system, and would continue to work even if the wire broke. Squier was given $30,000 to explore the idea. He set up shop in 1909 at the Signal Corps laboratory in Washington, D.C. Soon he expanded into a new research facility at the Bureau of Standards, seven miles away, and leased a phone line between the two labs. At the time, voices traveled through phone lines as fluctuations in alternating current, and no line could carry more than one voice at a time. But as Squier pointed out, “if the frequency of the alternating current is within the radio frequency range, we have what amounts to radio transmission where the radiation is directed along a copper or metallic circuit. … such currents on a telephone line will in no way affect the ordinary telephone receiver.” In other words, he would put a radio signal on a phone line at high radio frequency and not even affect the phone call that might be going on at a low frequency. The increase in telephone traffic that this technology could permit was important, but more important still was the matrix of new possibilities that arose. With radio and telephony joined, phone calls could be sent through the air, radio signals sent long distance by phone, or even radio signals sent by air to receivers connected by telephone wires. The communications industry was quick to see the magnitude of the achievement. Telephony, Telegraphy, and Wireless magazine called wire-wireless “the greatest advance made in electrical communication since the introduction of the telephone itself.” World War I had created a kind of proto-Muzak, as department-store and factory managers took up the notion that music could make workers more productive. In 1915 Thomas Edison installed phonographs in a cigar factory. At Westinghouse workers discovered that they did better with music playing. At General Electric management installed pianos in its shops and had them played during business hours. In response to the growing demand for workplace music, Major General Squier, by now chief signal officer of the Army, had devised yet another method of transmitting radio signals. He unveiled it on March 24, 1922, as he was filing his suit against AT&T. It was an ingenious response to the wire-wireless monster he had done so much to create. Dispensing with telephone lines altogether, he transmitted radio waves over power lines to a radio set plugged into an ordinary wall outlet. No antenna was needed, and in keeping with his penchant for multiplex communications, three or more transmissions could be sent at once without drawing any power away from household appliances. This time he made no bold gestures to the public. In early 1923 he licensed his new patents to the North American Company, a Cleveland-based enterprise, for use via electric-power lines. Then he looked on with satisfaction as North American issued a stock circular announcing the dawn of a new industry and commenced service in Milwaukee. The arrangement resembled modern-day cable television. A central station received and rebroadcast a variety of programs, with a bill of fare that included news and dance music. Thus did Muzak, then known as Wired Radio, make its appearance in the world. Since the turn of the century, control of radio had been shifting from amateurs to corporations, which increasingly worried about the lack of financial return. Until 1922 advertising was not considered a proper solution because it carried a moral stigma. Companies like Westinghouse, G.E., and RCA planned to broadcast commercial-free as a way to sell radio sets. Until the advent of satellite and advanced submarine-cable technologies, after World War II, long-distance radio signals had to be sent by telephone lines from a central station to stations in hub cities, where the signals were converted into radio waves for local broadcast. The experiment, known as a toll station, was inaugurated on August 28, 1922, when a spokesman for the Queensborough Corporation delivered a homily about Nathaniel Hawthorne on air and added a brief mention of its latest housing development, which bore the writer’s name. Toll broadcasts followed at other radio stations, and soon companies were rushing to have their employee-based musical groups play on the air. — the Remington Typewriter Company Band, the Lucky Strike Orchestra. Music in the workplace suddenly had a new outlet, as product placement. AT&T had turned wire-wireless, and by extension the whole of radio, into a solid money earner. Indeed, the toll-broadcast concept was so successful that by the early 1930s radio stations had dropped all pretense and were broadcasting straight advertisements complete with pitches, prices, and jingles. — the same as today. By 1930 Wired Radio was sending three channels to listeners in the Lakeland district of Cleveland, Ohio, at a cost of $1.50 a month, using electric-power lines. And on Squier’s recommendation, programmed music began to flow into the dining rooms of hotels and restaurants. The company’s good fortunes didn’t last, however. Wired Radio was eventually forced to abandon the power lines, which suffered from excessive interference, in favor of phone lines leased from AT&T. By the early 1930s AT&T had emerged as the undisputed victor in the wire-wireless war. (David Lindsay, “The MUZAK MAN”)
‣ Original excerpt : « Can Wired Wireless Change Radio Broadcasting ?. — How One Orchestra May Play to an Entire City ∞. — Another Young Radio Wizard - Big Problems that Need Solving. — Major-General George O. Squier, chief signal officer of the United States Army, apparently threw a monkey-wrench into the general machinery of radio broadcasting, a short time ago, when he gave a demonstration in Washington of his “wired wireless” system, as applied to music transmission. His success immediately threw the electric light people into paroxysms of joy, and correspondingly caused the new radio fans a lot of perplexity and wonderment. - The Romance Would Be Lost. — The feeling of the electric light people was well illustrated by the tenor of the articles in their trade publications. They did not hesitate to declare that the system would put the entire broadcasting situation into their hands, and solve the problem of paying for broadcasting by permitting them to establish a toll system. Will it ? That is the questions that has perplexed the radio fan, especially the one who has invested in an elaborate receiving set. I have discussed it pretty generally with some of the most famous men identified with the development of radio. They all seem to agree with me in the belief that the reomance of feeling about through the ether, picking up Pittsburgh, or Chicago, or some other station, as your fancy and skill dictate, is one of the prime attraction of the present broadcasting system. Wired wireless broadcasting would kill the chief pleasure of radio. I have yet to meet a radio fan who is content to sit back and just enjoy the music scheduled by one particular broadcasting station. He wants to monkey around with the controls, and get a sample of everything that is going in the ether that night. He wants to try for the far-distant stations. When he gets one, he is tickled pink. Wired wireless, because it would restrict us to the program from some one local station -- an electric light generating station at that! -- would take half the joy out our evenings of radio adventure. And that’s not all. How are you going to apply wired wireless to the rural communities ? Half the people in this country live in rural districts. Tadio’s great destiny is to bring news, music, lectures, and every variety of entertainment and instruction to these rural communities, breaking down one of the last barriers that have kept the advantages of city life away from the country dweller. Wireless broadcasting will do this cheaply, and in fascinating fashion. “Wired broadcasting” could only do ti at great expense. - How Wired Radio Works. — But what is this “wired wireless” system, anyway ? How does ti work ? The answer is simple enough in its way, even if the invention is so marvelous as to deserve all the recent talk it has created. The system was developed by General Squier, chiefly to meet vertain conditions that developed during the war. It gets its name because of the fact that instruments usually connected solely with wireless work are applied to wire circuits running between two points. By its use it is possible to simultaneously send upward of 40 different telegraph messages on one wire between two cities. No one of these messages interferes with the others. Nor is this all. In addition, several ordinary two-way telephone conversations can also be carried on at the same wire without interference, while those 40 telegraph messages are being sent ! Think of its commercial possibilities ! - Vacuum Tubes Act as Filters. — For an explanation, we must turn again to the remarkable vacuum tube so familiar to all radio fans. As is well known now, the vacuum tube can be turned into an electrical oscillator, if it is connected with a circuit composed of an inductance and capacity. Such a circuit will generate electric waves of tremendously high frequency. Now, all that will be necessary is to have a sufficient number of vacuum tubes, all generating waves of different frequencies, and then to surimpose these frequencies upon the single wire running between the two cities that we wish to put into multiplex communication. The high frequency currents are guided along the surface of this wire without interfering with each other, in just the same manner as waves of different sizes on the ocean will travel over each other and yet maintain their individuality. At the receiving end there are other vacuum tubes, connected with circuits of different values in such manner that each will respond to certain frequencies and no others. In other words, each tube acts as a filter, straining out the different frequencies, and permitting only the one fitting itself to pass through to the recording device. An elaborately complex wave, guided along the wire, is thus resolved into its component waves by vacuum tubes at the receiving end, each message, when separated from the combined jumble, being separately recorded. In this connection, a very interesting possibility cropped up the other day. I was at an dinner with Philip Berolzheimer, Ciy Chamberlain of New York. During the evening, he asked me if it would be possible to broadcast orchestral or band music, and reproduce it in all of the city’s 40 parks, so that in each park, in the open air, 10,000 people could hear it clearly and distinctly. I promptly discussed the project with E.B. Craft, Chief Engineer of the Western Electric Company. Without any hesitation, he declared the scheme would be possible, but suggested that the broadcasting be done over a telephone wire instead of by radio. - One Orchestra for Many Audiences. — If the system proves practicable, it means that a city might support one really high class orchestra, and simultaneously deliver its music to any number of audiences in the open air. As a result of these discussions, it is probable that in the very near future New York City will put such a system through a series of tests. Wired municipal broadcasting of this kind, aided by voice amplifiers in the parks and public halls, would furnish music, entertainment, political debates, election returns, and interesting civic information to the entire population of the city. [...] - Watch Armstrong !. — Everybody is wondering, these days, what is coming next in radio. “Wired wireless” is only one of many marvels that are turning up every month. With the known facts at the present time, we can predict certain developments sure of realization in the near future. Among them is regular transatlantic radio-telephony, and transatlantic wireless telegraphy, at a speed of 600 words a minute. Moreover, there isn’t the slightest doubt that the disastrous effects of static will be completely eliminated at receiving stations. This, of course, is going to be a tremendous boon to the owner of a home radio set. But to my mind the greatest possibility of the future lies in the development of receiving equipment that will throw the outdoor aerial into the discard. Radio frequency amplification will accomplish this, but radio frequency amplification on short wave lengths seems to be a long way off. Besides, it is costly at the present price of vacuum tubes. The ideal set must be one that does not employ more than three tubes. I am able to announce, however, that such a set is already here. How soon it wille be ready for the market, I do not know. It is the invention of E.H. Armstrong -- who, as creator of the regenerative circuit, made possible broadcasting as we know it. The latests Armstrong achievement, I believe, consists of a super-regenerative circuit employing three tubes. This circuit is so good that wuth a tree-foot indoor loop aerial in New York City, the set will reproduce concerts from Pittsburgh on a loudspeaker ! It is a strange coincidence that radio is entirely a development of youth. Marconi was under 20 when he produced wireless telegraphy. Many leaders in its development have been young men. E.H. Armstrong, the latest in the series of young radio wizards, is still in his early thirties. [...] - Inventions Needed. — Nobody can read about the success of such men as Armstrong without wondering whether fame and fortune can still be won in the radio field. Are there other big problems that wa can specifically enumerate today, but must wait for the future inventor to solve ? Yes, there are. There is increasing opportunity, right now, for the young inventor to achieve fame. As I said before, radio frequency amplification would eliminate the need of outdoor aerials. It will be sucessful only if we have a perfect high frequency transformer. There’s one opportunity. Another opportunity is bound up in the development of a filter system that will successfully retard all extraneous currents, and permit only the signals from the station we desire to hear to pass through the receivers. Still another is a successful choke that will hold back oscillations from the receiving set, and prevent them from being radiated from the receiving aerial, thus interrupting other near-by recieving sets. We can do with electromagnetic waves just what we can do with light waves -- reflect them and refract them. Now, one of the most urgent needs in these days of congested ether is a perfect system of reflection, that will send out a train of waves straight to the receiving station. Just think what such a system would mean in the way of secret communication ! Moreover, it would reduce the amount of power needed in transmission. This will be the prize invention of all. Who is going to be the genius to produce it ?. » (Jack Binns, In Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 101, n° 2, August 1922, pp. 74-76)
‣ Source : Lindsay, David (1998), “The Muzak Man”, In “Invention & Technology”, Volume 14, Issue 2, 1998, pp. 52-57.
‣ Source : Binns, Jack (1922), "How one orchestra may play to an entire city", In Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 101, n° 2, August 1922, pp. 74-76.
‣ Urls : http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/1998/2/1998_2_52.shtml (last visited )
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