With the internet and our non-stop access to information, we tend to forget about older technologies. Let’s talk about radios, we still utilize this technology today, but did you know what station has the widest range?
The most powerful commercial radio station was the WLW. Back in the 1930s, they broadcasted 500kW radiated power. By nightfall, they were able to cover half of the globe. Neighbors within their area could hear the audio through their pots and pans.
What is the History of the WLW?
Powel Crosley Jr., an American inventor, and entrepreneur who was a pioneer in radio broadcasting. He is also the brains behind the WLW radio station. In fact, he was also known as the Henry Ford of Radio.
There was not much to say about the time Crosley was working on the radio. But what is for sure is that he introduced the station on February 22, 1921. While others say that he began his dabbling in a radio project using a 20-watt set in his billiard room in July 1921. During this experiment of his, he repeatedly played the record of Song of India. He would then ask radio hobbyists within his area if they heard his signals.
By March 2, 1922, the Crosley Manufacturing Company applied for new licenses to operate a 360-meter entertainment wavelength. The licensing committee also assigned the letters WLW to them. (Source: The Radio Museum)
When Was WLW’s First Broadcast?
WLW made its debut on March 23, 1922, at 7:15 pm. The transmitter was located at the Blue Rock Street Building.
The equipment of the Crosley Manufacturing Company is of such great power that the concert emanating from Cincinnati will be heard as far as a distant point in Canada; as far east as the Atlantic Ocean; west as far as the Rocky Mountains, and south to the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, and possibly to ships in the Gulf of Mexico. This inaugural concert will put Cincinnati ‘on the map’ of the radio world.Cincinnati’s Great Radio Broadcasting Station
How Did the 500kW Superpower Operation Start?
Crosley was about to acquire a construction permit from the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) for the additional 500-kilowatt transmitter amplifier. He spent about $500,000 on the construction, equipment, and facilities. Today that would be valued at $10 million.
By January 1934, WLW was broadcasting at 500kW after midnight. At the time, they were using the experimental call sign W8XO. In April 1934, the station was authorized to operate with 500kW during regular hours using the WLW letters. (Source: Broadcasting: The News Magazine of the Fifth Estate)
Which Public Figure First Used the Most Powerful Radio Station?
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the sitting US president at the time, first used the facilities on May 2, 1934, officially launching WLW’s operations as a 500kW station.
As the first station in the whole world to have broadcasting such strength, WLW received several complaints from other stations in the US and Canada. Apparently, the radio station’s waves were interfering with smaller stations. (Source: Federal Communications Commission)