When Radio Was America

A book on the Golden Era of Radio takes us back to “those thrilling days of yesteryear”

5 min read
Photo: McFarland
Photo: McFarland

Radio didn’t start in the United States, but it wasn’t long before it made the leap across the ocean from Europe. When that happened, at the dawn of the 20th century, the course of the medium split into two great paths. One way led to its growth throughout the world, splitting time and again as it entered new cultures and was fashioned to the purposes of those who controlled its use. The other way led radio to a rambunctious culture that was itself being fashioned by people from around the world—to America. And like the immigrants, radio would never be the same again.

This latter story is the subject of veteran journalist Alfred Balk’s new book, The Rise of Radio: From Marconi Through the Golden Age (McFarland & Co., 2006). In this lively, well-balanced account of radio’s ascent in America, from diverse scientific origins to astonishing media power, Balk carefully picks just the ripest moments for the reader’s enlightenment. This is ground that has been well traveled, after all. Volumes have been written about the halcyon days of radio. The most revered of these is the classic A History of Broadcasting in the United States, by Erik Barnouw, written in the 1960s. Balk in no way attempts to plumb the depths of that masterful project. Instead, he focuses on the human dimension to radio’s influence. Americans were surprised and delighted to recognize themselves in the medium, which shaped them even as they were shaping it. Together they created a wildly growing, symbiotic culture.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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