Stroller with radio, clothesline antenna, and loudspeaker 1921
The first practical radio transmitters and receivers were developed around 1895–1896 by Italian Guglielmo Marconi, and radio began to be used commercially around 1900 (mainly baseball, news, and music).
In 1909, Marconi was awarded the Noble Prize for Physics and three years later would be credited with saving the 712 survivors of the Titanic disaster. By 1912, Marconi had aquired, through a lawsuit and merger, over 70 land stations and more than 500 ship-board installations. One of these stations was Station KPH, San Francisco’s first radio station.
In order to achieve a signal powerful enough to cross the Pacific Ocean, a new, more powerful station was built on the Marin Coast. This station was designed and constructed by J.G. White, a New York engineering firm. All of Marconi’s transoceanic stations were “duplex” stations, geographically separated complexes for transmitting and receiving. The geographic separation was necessary because the noise of transmission obstructed clear reception. By 1913-14, Marin had a new transmitting station in Bolinas on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a new receiving station in Marshall, on the hill overlooking Tomales Bay.
These sites formed the “KPH” Pacific Rim station and were the foundation for the most successful and powerful ship-to-shore communications. KPH would broadcast regular bulletins of news, weather and other general information to the shipping community, then relay business and personal messages to and from individual ships. Station operators also monitored the international distress frequencies for calls from ships in trouble.