One of my favorite old-time radio personalities,
Paul Harvey, had a trademarked feature titled The Rest of the Story.
For those of you not familiar with the format, Mr. Harvey would begin his story talking about
particular life aspects of a person that, while remarkable, usually had no connection with
the person's eventual claim to fame. The listener's challenge was to guess who the person
was before it was revealed at the very end, followed by, "... and now you know --- the
rest [emphasis] of the story." As far as I know the story of FM radio inventor
Armstrong was never a subject, although it certainly met the criterion. I've already let
cat out of the bag, so you already know my subject. However, that probably
will not diminish the surprise at the end (for most people).
You likely are familiar with the epic struggle
that Nikola Tesla
had with Thomas Edison in the contest between adoption of alternating current (Tesla) versus
direct current (Edison) as the dominant electrical distribution
system in America. It was a take-no-prisoners battle that, as we know, had AC as the victor
of the Currents). In the process, even with (eventually) the powerful George Westinghouse
as an advocate, poor Mr. Tesla was roundly abused with character assassinations, lawsuits,
publicity stunts, and financial trickery. He spent the final years of his life in seclusion.
Edwin Armstrong's fate proved to be more tragic. Mr.
Armstrong's notoriety was gained in 1914 the as a result of his invention of the
circuit (patent 1,113,149). In 1922 he improved the basic function with a superregenerative
circuit design. Those two techniques allowed higher quality reception for listeners already
within reach of broadcast towers, and they allowed people who had never been able to receive
those signals to tune in for the first time. This sold radio sets and provided a larger base
of advertisers (who pay for everything we enjoy for 'free') willing to underwrite expenses.
Lee de Forest,
whose name you probably recognize as the inventor of the
Audion amplifier vacuum tube, was awarded a patent for his own version of
a regenerative circuit in 1916, two years after Armstrong's. de Forest sold his patent
rights to AT&T and Armstrong spent decades and a lot of money trying to regain control
over his patent. Undaunted, he attacked the annoying susceptibility of amplitude modulation (AM)
to static electrical noise (lightning, motor brush arcing, etc.) by developing frequency modulation
(FM), which was patented in 1933 (patent 1,941,068). RCA Corporation, having worked
with Armstrong on FM radio broadcasting and reception, ended up in a legal use rights fight
with Armstrong, who wanted to license the technology rather than sell his patents.
As with Nikola Tesla's predicament, a lifetime of legal battles and endless rounds of defamation,
deception, and other tactics finally broke the man. On January 31, 1954, Edwin Armstrong committed
suicide by climbing out the window of his Ney York City apartment and falling ten stories
to his death. He was as meticulously attired - suit, overcoat, scarf, gloves, and hat - for his death as he was known for being in his
life. "God keep you and the Lord have mercy on my
soul," closed out the note he left for his wife.
Now you know ...
Posted November 3, 2014
These original Kirt's Cogitations™ may be reproduced (no more than
5, please) provided proper credit is given to me, Kirt Blattenberger.
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Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted thought or
reflection; meditation; contemplation.
Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
These items are an archive of past Topical Smorgasbord items that have appeared on the RF Cafe homepage. In keeping with the "cafe"
genre, these tidbits of information are truly a smorgasbord of topics. They all pertain to topics that are related to the general engineering
and science theme of RF Cafe. Note: There is also a huge collection of my 'Factoids' (aka 'Kirt's Cogitations') that might interest you as well.
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