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WEEK 4 (Apr 23 & 26) Electrifying Communication: The Rise of Telecomm Networks

Paul Starr. 2004. Part II: The Rise of Technological Networks, 1840-1930 (Ch 5: The First Wire, pp. 153-189; and Ch 6:

New Connections: Telephone, Cable, and Wireless, pp. 191-212). In The Creation of the Media. Basic Books, pp. 153-232.

Ch 5: The First Wire, pp. 153-189

• Paul Starr argues that the new technologies of telegraphy and telephony had “divergent possibilities.”

What does he suggest is most important to understanding the path of development that these new

technologies took? [Intro to Ch 5]

• What was Western Union, and why was it important to the formation of modern communication systems? [Western Union’s story begins roughly bottom of p. 172, “The trend toward consolidation began slowly at first…” An important point on bottom of p. 175 re: “the first national monopoly of any kind to emerge out of a previously competitive industry; no federal antitrust law existed.” WU story picks up again pp. 180-183. Starr emphasizing that it was the U.S. legal environment rather than the technology itself that permitted WU to create a national telegraph monopoly (pp. 182-183).]

• Who were the primary users of the telegraph? [Intro ¶ to “Wiring the News,” p 177]

• What 3 private interlocking networks emerged in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century?

Ch 6: New Connections: Telephone, Cable, and Wireless, pp. 191-212

• How did Western Union seal its doom?

• How did AT&T get started? What was its first, primary business?

• What happened after Bell’s patents expired in 1894?

• What did Theodore Vail do when he became president of AT&T? How did he address public opinion about the company?

WEEK 5 (May 1 & 3) Radio and the Origins of Broadcasting

(1) Paul Starr, Ch 6: New Connections: Telephone, Cable, and Wireless, pp. 212-230.

Ch 6: New Connections: Telephone, Cable, and Wireless, pp. 191-212

• What was Britain’s chief interest in extending its telegraph network?

• What led to the Radio Act of 1912, the first major piece of radio legislation?

• What were the provisions of the Radio Act of 1912?

• Who were the parties involved in the post-WWI “radio trust” in the U.S., and what did they fail to anticipate?

(2) Daniel Czitrom. 1982. Ch 3: The Ethereal Hearth: American Radio from Wireless through Broadcasting, 1892-1940. In Media and the American Mind from Morse to McLuhan. pp. 60-88.

• What was the immediate need for wireless technology driving its early development?

• Why is Marconi the name most closely associated with wireless technology in the popular

imagination? What was his real contribution, according to Czitrom?

• What application of wireless technology did the GE, RCA, and AT&T not foresee during and

immediately after WWI?

• What 2 questions dominated discussions about the future of broadcasting in the early 1920s?

• What were the 2 sources of financing for radio broadcasting before these 2 questions were settled (the sources of financing that everyone agreed would eventually dry up)?

• Why was WEAF, AT&T’s New York City broadcasting station, the most important radio station of the early period of radio broadcasting?

• How did AT&T exert control over early radio broadcasting? What happened to broadcast stations that were not affiliated with its network? What happened to broadcasters who had not purchased their equipment from its subsidiary, Western Electric?

• Why did the Great Depression accelerate rather than hamper the expansion of radio broadcasting?

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