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Radio Celebrates 100 Years

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

January 4, 2007

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Reginald Fessenden RadioOnce upon a time, someone had a brilliant idea.

What's older than your Granny and more important than a Birch Bark Canoe? Click here to find out.

The date was Christmas Eve, 1906, the man was Reginald Fessenden, and his idea included transmitting his voice and the singing of a Christmas carol to ships in the Atlantic and as far as the Caribbean.

By doing so, he gave what is considered to be the first radio broadcast.

Although the glory often goes to the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, history tells us that it was Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian citizen who happened to be in the United States at the time of producing the first radio broadcast.

Truth be known, Reginald Fessenden transmitted history's first wireless voice transmission in 1900 while Reginald was under contract to the Weather Bureau. Later that year, he would go on his own, proving his theory on December 23rd from an island in the Potomac River.

Speaking to an associate who was a mile away with a receiving unit, Fessenden said:

"One - two - three - four, is it snowing where you are Mr. Thiessen? If it is, would you telegraph back to me?"

As was documented, Mr. Thiessen's reply was "yes".

On January 3rd, the CBC aired a program called The Greatest Canadian Invention, showcasing a top 20 list ranking Radio as #19, just in front of #20, a Birch Bark Canoe used by our native peoples, voyageurs and fur traders as far back as and even before the 1600s.

To quote Bob McDonald of the CBC, "While Marconi was merely sending beeps, Fessenden was sending words."

At the time of his death, Reginald Fessenden had over 500 patents to his credit.

Among the Top 10 (50 are listed at the CBC website) were the following Canadian inventions:

  • Insulin
  • Telephone
  • Light bulb
  • Five Pin Bowling
  • Wonderbra
  • Pacemaker
  • Robertson Screw
  • Zipper
  • Electric Wheelchair
  • Poutine

If you missed the show, are in Canada and would like to catch it again, an encore presentation will air on January 7th, 2007 on CBC Newsworld at 10:00pm PT/Monday Jan. 8 at 1:00am ET.



Photo of Reginald Fessenden courtesy of MentalFloss.com

Related Topics: Christmas, radio, United States


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