BBC Radio 4 Documentary: The World’s First Radio Station

The concert room of Telefon Hírmondó (1901) Source: Wikimedia Commons

The concert room of Telefon Hírmondó (1901) Source: Wikimedia Commons

We’ve mentioned this 19th century broadcasting technology before; the “telephone newspaper.” If, like me, you found the technology fascinating, you’ll certainly love this BBC Radio 4 documentary The World’s First Radio Station.

Here is the description from BBC Radio 4:

We often think of the scheduled broadcasting of news, information and entertainment as having begun in the 1920s. But we’re wrong. It was in 1893 in Budapest that Theodore Puskas opened his Telefon Hirmondo or ‘Telephone Newspaper’.

Subscribers to this telephone service could enjoy a daily timetable of foreign, national and local news, sport, weather, fashion, stock market reports, language lessons, music, theatre and much more. It was delivered by a team of journalists, copy-writers, editors, announcers and engineers which would be familiar to any radio station today. To our ears, Telefon Hirmondo would have sounded uncannily modern. For example, there would be live relays of church services, theatre productions, concerts and opera performances and reports direct from parliament and sports events.

Laurie Taylor travels to Budapest to uncover this extraordinary story of ‘radio before radio’. He visits a special exhibition at the city’s postal museum and takes a look inside Hungarian State Opera, whose performances were broadcast live via Telefon Hirmondo from the 1890s.

Laurie explores the lengths to which Telefon Hirmondo went to market its product, hooking in not just domestic subscribers but hotels, restaurants, clubs, dental surgeries and barber shops. He also delves into the telephone’s early history to explain the confusion on both sides of the Atlantic over what the device was best used for.

How did Hungary come to lead the world in broadcasting, rather than the USA, Britain or France? The genius of Theodore Puskas is a large part of the explanation. Among the contributors, we hear from his descendant, Barbara Fally-Puskas.

Producer: Andrew Green
An Andrew Green production for BBC Radio 4.

Note that the documentary, produced by Andrew Green, will only be available online until Friday November 15, 2013. Click here to listen on the Radio 4 website.

ETOW featured on PRI’s The World Technology Podcast

Shortwave radio charity, ETOW (Ears To Our World) has been featured in this week’s PRI’s The World Technology Podcast. If you’ve never heard of ETOW, check out our previous posts or simply visit ETOW’s website. Self-powered shortwave radios are an integral part of their mission to provide “appropriate” technologies to schools and children in the third world.

Click here to go to PRI’s webpage for The World Technology Podcast.

 

Victorian era “radio”

A stentor reading the day's news to 6200 subscribers - An image depicting the stentor of Telefon Hirmondó. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A stentor reading the day’s news to 6200 subscribers – An image depicting the stentor of Telefon Hirmondó. Source: Wikimedia Commons

This post is off topic from my typical posts about wireless technology. Nonetheless, I’m a sucker for documentaries regarding the history of technology.

BBC Radio 3 recently had a Sunday documentary about the “Pleasure Telephone”–a Victorian era technology that used telephone almost like we use radio today. As someone interested in broadcasting and technology, I found the story fascinating.

BBC no longer has the documentary available to stream from their site.

However, Clark Boyd, of PRI’s The World Technology Podcast, picked up the story and published the bulk of it at the end of his July 14th show. You can find it here.

It’s worth a listen–in fact, the PRI World Technology Podcast series in general is worth a subscription. I never miss an episode.

For more information on the pleasure telephone, check out this article in Early Radio History, or its Wikipedia entry.