Before the actual audio to that base signal/carrier

     Before I start,
let’s be clear. Edwin Armstrong (1890-1954) did not invent the radio. Alexander
Popov, Guglielmo Marconi, and Lee de Forest invented the radio. To put it
simply, Armstrong manipulated its technology to better amplify frequencies and
create an all around better experience. Armstrong used frequency modulation
(FM) as opposed to amplitude modulation (AM) in the early 1920’s to broadcast
radio signals.

Before Edwin Armstrong invented FM,
there was AM. AM radio will broadcast a signal at a constant frequency, but
will add the sound wave representing the actual audio to that base
signal/carrier wave. This causes the height in the amplitude of the wave to
change accordingly. It’s a completely analog process which made it possible to
stream music and shows to homes, decades before the internet or TV.

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FM broadcasting works some-what
similarly. With FM, it’s the frequency of the signal that gets changed, hence
the “F” in “FM”. FM radios have a special transformer inside them that basically
sits idle if exactly whatever frequency you’re tuned to, hits your antenna. Once
it detects a small change in that frequency, it outputs a voltage that makes
your speakers emit a certain sound. This sounds like it is more complicated to
engineer than AM, but you often get a much clearer higher-quality signal. FM is
also less susceptible to interference as well.

Interference often manifests as
amplitude spikes, and AM radio would see these spikes as actual sounds to
produce, and it would end up coming out of your speakers, while FM radio
focuses on these variations in frequency, rather than amplitude. FM radio can
just ignore that type of interference, and the death-metal you are listening to
will come out sounding just as clear, and angry, as ever. FM also has the
advantage of having much higher bandwidth than AM due to the mathematical
properties of frequency modulation. This allows for lots of wiggle room in the
signal to create more sounds, more accurately. This makes FM the clear choice
for music, while AM is often just fine for stuff where high fidelity isn’t a
big deal, such as talk radio. Of course, this may not seem impressive when the
internet allows you to listen to high-quality digital broadcasts from the other
side of the world no problem, but good ole’ analog radio still has the distinct
advantage of only requiring a $10 receiver with no subscription fees and very
high ease of use especially for people who might not be terribly tech-savvy,
and of course your radio will keep working even when your finicky internet
connection goes out. But back then, it was a big deal, because there was no
internet!

Edwin Armstrong lived a remarkable
life. Born in the very beginning of the 19th century, war had it out
for man, it was only a matter of time. In 1914, Armstrong shipped off to fight
World War I, but just before he left, he had patented his redesign of Lee de
Forest’s radio tube, which was used to take electrons from the radio signal and
redirect it through the tube over and over again, and licensed it to the
Marconi Company. He called this process “regeneration”. During the war, he
realized these American troops had no radio communication at all. He alone
designed, configured, and dispersed radios to his fellow troops to better their
communication skills.

Following his return from the war, big
manufacturers were out to get their hands on Armstrong’s “regeneration” patents
because of Westinghouse’s radio station. The world’s first radio station, out
of Pittsburgh: KDKA. Westinghouse had purchased Armstrong’s patent for his super
heterodyne receiver, which is how they started their KDKA radio station to
begin with. At this point, radio is blowing up. It’s the next big thing.
Everyone was talking about it. Everyone was using it. Once this all took off
and Armstrong’s name had gotten out there along with his invention, Lee de
Forest, the creator of the radio tube, acted and took it to the public.
“Regeneration was my idea!” he argued. de Forest took legal action, brought it
to the U.S. Patent Office, lost case after case against Armstrong for almost 20
years, then finally won his case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. It was a
mistake made by a Supreme Court judge due to misunderstanding the case and its
entirety. Behind the scenes, RCA (Radio Corporation of America) was backing de
Forest in his case against Armstrong because by de Forest winning the case, RCA
got to hold on to their patent for another 10 years. Although the lawyers for
the company knew this going forward and how wrong it was, no one said anything,
thus leading to big corporations like RCA, Motorola, and Crosley to go on
profiting billions off Armstrong’s inventions.

Following these string of events, Armstrong
continued his search for discovery. He began tweaking static problems found in radios.
This led to Armstrong discovering that frequency modulation could and will work
after so many scientists came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t.