Saturday, August 13, 2016

Chapter Review: I Did not Kill Armstrong: The story of Edwin Howard Armstrong: Radio Pioneer

Dreamers and Deceivers: True Stories of the Heroes and Villains Who Made America, Glenn Beck with Kevin Balfe, Threshold Editions, Mercury Radio Arts, New York, 2014.

“I Did Not Kill Armstrong”: The War of Wills in the Early Days of Radio.
Edwin Howard Armstrong was a genius.  Radio was his passion, that and heights.  But it was radio where he made his mark.  He developed an oscillation system which advanced radio.  This used putting the sound through the radio many times to increase the sound.  It worked.  He was using however an Audion tube, Which was the invention of another party, Lee DeForest. 
Armstong shared his invention with David Sarnoff of the American Marconi Company.  This company would eventually evolve into RCA.  Armstrong helped solve many problems with reception and sound, which resulted in RCA being able to sell hundreds of thousands of radios.  However he also became embroiled in legal issues.  DeForest claimed he was the inventor of radio. 
When WWI started, Armstrong loaned his patents to the military, and volunteered himself.  He was a major and helped greatly with communications.  DeForest also helped the war effort, if he was paid. 
After the war the court case went through the courts all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled for DeForest. 

However by this time, Armstrong was developing the next thing, FM radio.  This was an attempt to make radio more clear, and less subject to environmental conditions.   He was successful.  He developed radio which was much clearer.  At this time he worked for  Sarnoff and RCA.  When the idea was introduced, which Sarnoff had requested several years earlier, it was an obvious success.  FM Radio was much clearer with less interference from the elements.  However, Sarnoff had gone the way of AM radio.  There were hundreds of thousands of people listening to, and networks producing to AM radio.  Sarnoff suggested putting FM aside.  This was not acceptable to Armstrong.  At this time they split company, Armstrong being kicked out of his office within a day. 
Now Armstrong plowed ahead on his own, with only the support of his wife, and developed a network of FM stations on the east coast.  In the meantime, Sarnoff tied Armstrong up in court in legal battle after legal battle, and claimed RCA was the legal owner of FM radio.  WWII was a reprieve, as both Sarnoff and Armstrong participated in the war effort.  However the legal battles continued after the war.  Sarnoff at one point offered $1,000,000 to buy Armstrong out, but this wouldn’t even pay for the equipment. Sarnoff, in court, later denied ever making such an offer. When Sarnoff could not win, he lobbied the FCC to change the frequency of the FM signal, and overnight all the FM radios were obsolete.   
Armstrong finally gave in, and began smashing his awards, as the tyrants would never let him be.  His wife was struck in this episode, and he never saw her again.  Two months later he jumped out of his apartment to his death.  Upon hearing this, Sarnoff instinctively said, “I did not kill Armstrong.”  (He must have felt guilty.)  Armstrong’s name is enshrined by the International Telecommunication Union. 

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