“This is San Jose calling” - World’s First Radio station

While many people were experimenting with “wireless” point-to-point communications in 1909, the first radio broadcast was the brainstorm of Dr. Charles David Herrold, who ran a small engineering and wireless school in San Jose. In early 1909 Herrold and one of his students, 16-year-old Ray Newby, connected an antenna, battery, spark coil and microphone to broadcast some random comments from a 14-watt transmitter.

Local amateur radio operators, who at the time communicated only with the dots and dashes of Morse code, were surprised to hear voice coming over the air and contacted Herrold to let him know his transmission had worked.

Soon after, Herrold was broadcasting a short program every Wednesday night, often identifying himself as “This is San Jose calling”. By 1910 he was broadcasting both regular news reports read from the local newspaper and records played on a phonograph. His wife also invented a program, “The Little Ham Program” where she played “young peoples” music from records borrowed from the local music store. The “hams” – as amateur radio enthusiasts were called – would buy the record they had heard on the radio, making the radio “station” truly commercial.

When licenses were instituted for radio operators, Herrold was given the call sign KQW in 1912. The station remained KQW until it was purchased in 1942 by CBS, and was eventually moved to San Francisco to become what is today KCBS.


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