The Network

The Network

The Battle for the Airwaves and the Birth of the Communications Age

Book - 2016
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The astonishing story of America's airwaves, the two friends--one a media mogul, the other a famous inventor--who made them available to us, and the government which figured out how to put a price on air.This is the origin story of the airwaves--the foundational technology of the communications age--as told through the forty-year friendship of an entrepreneurial industrialist and a brilliant inventor.David Sarnoff, the head of RCA and equal parts Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, and William Randolph Hearst, was the greatest supporter of his friend Edwin Armstrong, developer of the first amplifier, the modern radio transmitter, and FM radio. Sarnoff was convinced that Armstrong's inventions had the power to change the way societies communicated with each other forever. He would become a visionary captain of the media industry, even predicting the advent of the Internet.In the mid-1930s, however, when Armstrong suspected Sarnoff of orchestrating a cadre of government officials to seize control of the FM airwaves, he committed suicide. Sarnoff had a very different view of who his friend's enemies were.Many corrupt politicians and corporations saw in Armstrong's inventions the opportunity to commodify our most ubiquitous natural resource--the air. This early alliance between high tech and business set the precedent for countless legal and industrial battles over broadband and licensing bandwidth, many of which continue to influence policy and debate today.
Publisher: New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780062242754
Branch Call Number: 621.384 WOOLLEY
Characteristics: viii, 280 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm


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May 07, 2016

A very interesting and short read, not on the level of epochal books like the one by Tom Lewis [Empire of the Air -- an incredible achievement which covered everyone in great depth] or Jill Jonnes' extraordinary book on Tesla, Westinghouse and Edison [Empire of Light] but still worth the time to peruse it! The ending was somewhat disjointed, though, and I disagreed with the author's assessment of MCI and their impact: had not AT&T pulled their Long Lines from MCI's usage, and a lawsuit resulted which awarded MCI a much needed infusion of capital, MCI would have most likely gone out of business. AT&T, typical poor business strategist, once again screwed up! But AT&T is back together again, stronger and bigger than ever!
[DISCLAIMER: This book is a subtle exercise in revisionism, though - - slanting favorably for the corporate head, David Sarnoff, while inferring the instability of inventor Edwin Armstrong. The great inventors spent much time in solitary study, experimentation, tinkering and thinking, et cetera, they didn't build public relations empires! {Hence the character assassinations of Tesla, Armstrong and Farnsworth!} Had the author included Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the basic TV, and his interactions with Sarnoff, Sarnoff would have appeared dramatically different, and not an honest player, but the author clearly restricted the story to just Sarnoff and Armstrong, allowing for his skewing of history! {The norm for the past two centuries has been for an inventor to create something of value then have to waste time in litigation against all the pirates - - see Isaac Singer, et al. - - Armstrong's legal actions were in no way abnormal!} Would have been interesting to see a forensic investigation of later ties between Arnold & Porter and RCA and Sarnoff!]


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