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"The Commercial Development of Short Wave Radio in the United States, 1920-1926" by Steven P. Phipps (appearing in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television, Vol. 11, No. 3, 1991)

Reviewed by Jerry Berg, jberg@ontheshortwaves.com

The author of the reviewed article is with the Department of Communication, Indiana University--Purdue University at Fort Wayne.

This article is a concise description of shortwave broadcasting's earliest days in the U.S. It includes many of the fundamental building blocks of the story--the discovery of shortwave's long distance potential, David Sarnoff's early observations about shortwave's commercial potential, RCA's 1923 construction of an experimental shortwave facility in Belfast, Maine (designed for radiotelegraph rather than voice and music transmission, but used occasionally for the latter), the Westinghouse KDKA shortwave experiments by Frank Conrad, the establishment of relay station KFKX in Hastings, Nebraska, General Electric's shortwave experimentation in Schenectady via 2XI (WGY), etc. Also addressed are the brief experiments using shortwave to (it was hoped) replace telephone lines for network broadcasting, and the resulting failure of shortwave to meet the early expectations of some optimists. Phipps attributes--properly, I believe--to this early victory of wires over waves the essentially marginal role that shortwave played in domestic U.S. network broadcasting, and, by implication, broadcasting in general. In a sense, it was a solution looking for a problem.