The Watering Hole: June 11 – Edwin Armstrong

On June 11th in 1935, Edwin Armstrong first publicly demonstrated FM radio.

This man invented virtually all of the technologies used to transmit and receive radio frequency signals used today. From kids walkie talkies to cell phones and everything in between. He did not make any contributions to digital transmission, but he could be excused as he died in 1954.

He was pursued by false claimants and corporations that saw their cash cows in peril. A Supreme Court, totally unenlightened in the nuances of electronics and Maxwell’s Equations ruled against him in cases involving  AM transmission and reception with AT&T.

His invention of FM was challenged by RCA. On losing in court, RCA described the system as inferior to AM. RCA managed to have the FM spectrum moved from the 48-54 MHz band to the present 88-108 MHz. The excuse for doing this was to make room for the newly developed TV frequencies. All of Armstrong’s prior sets became useless artifacts. The 48-54 MHz band was assigned to channel 1 of the TV band. There is no channel 1 on today’s TV sets as the band taken from FM has a broadcast range that is too long to be useful. Channel 1 frequencies were later assigned to an amateur radio band. Armstrong was already a broken man.

AT&T and RCA were his most determined tormentors and their efforts drove him to suicide on January 31, 1954. This was perhaps the worst travesty of justice in the history of patent law. His widow persevered in court and collected damages from this ruthless gang.

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