On Might 20, 1920, a big group of Canada’s most outstanding students gathered within the ballroom of Ottawa’s Château Laurier Resort for a stay live performance.
The twist was that the efficiency was happening in Montreal.
200 kilometres away, in experimental radio station XWA on William St. in Griffintown, soprano Dorothy Lutton sang two ballads that have been “fairly distinctly heard in all components of the corridor” in Ottawa, the Montreal Gazette reported the subsequent morning.
Canada’s radio age was underway.
A century later, an affiliation of vintage radio aficionados and the Musée des ondes Emile Berliner are presenting a collection of actions to mark the 100th anniversary of radio broadcasting in Canada.
In 1919, XWA — for experimental wi-fi equipment — started transmitting from a studio within the Marconi Wi-fi Telegraph Co. manufacturing facility in Griffintown, in accordance with media historian Mary Vipond in Listening In: The First Decade of Canadian Broadcasting, 1922-1932 (McGill-Queen’s College Press, 1992).
That makes the station — which grew to become CFCF in 1922 — the primary in Canada, and presumably the primary on the earth, says Alain Dufour, a member of the Société québécoise des collectionneurs de radios anciens.
“The People will say they’d the primary,” stated Dufour, a retired economist who grew to become fascinated by early radio after falling in love with art-deco consoles.
Pittsburgh, Detroit and San Jose are amongst cities which have laid declare to the title.
KDKA in Pittsburgh went on the air on Nov. 2, 1920, transmitting outcomes of the landslide victory by President Warren Harding. It advanced from an experimental station based by Frank Conrad, engineer at Westinghouse, within the storage of his dwelling in 1919.
Nevertheless, some say the radio period began earlier, on Christmas Eve 1906, when Reginald Fessenden, a local of East Bolton, Que., broadcast carols and Bible verses from the Massachusetts coast to ships at sea. (The date has been disputed.)
Others date the primary broadcast to January 1910, when inventor Lee de Forest transmitted the Metropolitan Opera to varied places in New York Metropolis.
However Vipond and others observe that the May 20, 1920 demonstration was the primary usually scheduled broadcast, making XWA presumably the world’s first broadcasting station.
In 1919, Montreal ragtime pianist Willie Eckstein — also called the Boy Paderewski and Mr. Fingers — made historical past by giving the first live radio performance in North America on XWA.
The groundwork for the radio period was laid by the invention of the telegraph within the 1830s, phone within the 1870s and wi-fi telegraph within the 1890s. Within the early 1900s, Guglielmo Marconi despatched the primary radio message throughout the Atlantic and constructed coastal stations for ship-to-shore communication by Morse code.
In the identical approach that few folks realized 30 years in the past how cellphones and the web would remodel each day life, nearly nobody within the experimental radio period foresaw its future as mass media, Dufour stated.
“They didn’t know they have been writing a web page of historical past,” he stated in an interview on the Musée des ondes Emile Berliner, devoted to the historical past of sound recording and transmission.
“They knew they’d this new expertise, however they didn’t know what it was going for use for.”
Radio was conceived for two-way communication, the place each events might transmit and obtain messages, Dufour famous.
The truth that anyone with a receiver might hear in was initially seen as a legal responsibility, reasonably than the chance to achieve thousands and thousands of listeners it turned out to be, he added.
“At first, the idea of broadcasting didn’t exist,” Dufour stated. “It was extra just like the cellphone you’ve gotten right now.”
Other than the service provider marine and navy, the general public speaking on the airwaves within the early days have been ham radio operators — many of their teenagers — who constructed their wi-fi units from kits.
Experimental stations like XWA allowed producers to display wi-fi units to potential prospects. Initially, broadcasters recited the alphabet or counted to 100. To interrupt the monotony, announcers at XWA began borrowing gramophone data from the Layton Brothers music retailer on Ste-Catherine St., which then acquired free publicity on the air.
In 1920, Marconi opened a store on McGill Faculty Ave. to promote radio units. By the winter of 1921-22, the radio craze was in full swing. Newspapers — together with La Presse, which based CKAC in 1922 — and department shops acquired in on the act, organising radio stations of their buildings.
As a result of U.S. stations took up a lot bandwidth, early Montreal stations needed to share the identical frequency, by occupying totally different time slots, Dufour stated.
In April 1922, the federal authorities issued 21 licences to stations for “personal industrial broadcasting” — a quantity that grew to 58 by yr’s finish (not all of which truly went into operation). By 1932, Canada had 77 industrial stations.
By 1928, 400,000 receiving units have been in operation throughout the nation. Gross sales of radios jumped from 52,500 that yr to 173,200 in 1931.
The primary radios have been utilitarian objects that seemed a bit like a protected, Dufour stated.
“It was a darkish, rectangular field with three dials. You needed to alter all three dials on the similar time to tune in to a frequency.”
Marconi’s Mannequin C, issued in 1921, retailed for $195 — about $three,000 in right now’s foreign money, he stated.
CFCF — “Canada’s first, Canada’s best,” as one in all its slogans went — was among the many hottest locations on Montreal’s radio dial for many years. It moved to the Canada Cement constructing in Phillips Sq. in 1922, to the penthouse of the Mount Royal Resort in 1927, and lots of different places, together with its longtime dwelling at 405 Ogilvy Ave., the place it was primarily based from 1963 to 1989. It switched to 600 AM in 1933, and stayed there till 2000. CFCF-TV was licensed in 1960.
CFCF Radio featured high skills like Gord Sinclair, Ted Blackman and Dave Boxer, who launched Prime 40 radio to Montreal within the 1960s. It additionally broadcast video games by the Expos and Canadiens. Nevertheless, it declined within the 1990s, turning into CIQC in 1991, then CINW in 1999, and attempting out nation music, speak radio, all-news and oldies codecs. Proprietor Corus Leisure closed the station in 2010.
Whereas some say radio is a dying medium, Dufour says it’s simply present process a metamorphosis. “Radio made right now’s smartphones attainable,” he stated.
It additionally led to radar, tv, air visitors management, microwaves and Wi-Fi.
Radio reveals have been the mannequin for podcasts, which make it attainable to hear everytime you need, Dufour famous.
“Montrealers ought to be proud, as a result of the town was the primary in Canada (to have a radio station) and in addition as a result of radio modified the way in which we stay and the way in which we get data,” he stated.
“It democratized data. It democratized the humanities.”
AT A GLANCE
The Musée des ondes Emile Berliner’s exhibition The Magic of the Waves: Vinyl, Wi-fi and the Digital is open now. The museum launches the exhibition 100 Years of Radio Broadcasting in Montreal on Feb. 27.
The museum is within the RCA Constructing at 1001 Lenoir St., Room E-206. Hours are 10 a.m. to four p.m. Monday to Friday, 2 to five p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission prices $5 ($three for college kids, $10 for households).
Future occasions embody an exhibition on the Palais des congrès on the beginning of radio in Montreal from April 27 to Might eight; a recreation of the primary broadcast from Montreal to Ottawa on the École de technologie supérieure in late Might; and a heritage strolling tour of radio broadcasting in Montreal from Might to October.