When KDKA transmitted the first commercial radio broadcast (the election results of the Harding-Cox race) on November 2, 1920, that sound could travel magically through the air to a location many miles away must have seemed magical to the people of that era. Unfortunately, few people heard the broadcast because there were not many radio receivers around at the time. Regardless, the novelty of the radio caught the public’s imagination and soon, manufacturers could not keep up with the demand for radio receivers. Between 1923 and 1930, a whopping sixty percent of American families purchased radios and a custom where families gathered around a glowing box for night-time entertainment took root, forever changing American culture.
In 1880, Emile Berliner invented the flat phonograph record and recording/playback device called the Gramophone, the direct forerunner to Victor Talking Machine Company’s Victrola phonograph. Three years earlier, in 1877, Thomas Edison had invented the cylinder phonograph. Two problems kept the cylinder phonograph from succeeding though – the wax recording media wore out quickly and you could not mass produce the cylinders. Berliner’s Gramophone on the other hand, used a flat rubber and plastic disc design that allowed copies of the records to be manufactured via a printing press type machine.