The Network (Hardcover)
The Battle for the Airwaves and the Birth of the Communications Age
Ecco, 9780062242754, 288pp.
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
The astonishing story of America’s airwaves, the two friends—one a media mogul, the other a famous inventor—who made them available to us, and the government which figured out how to put a price on air.
This is the origin story of the airwaves—the foundational technology of the communications age—as told through the forty-year friendship of an entrepreneurial industrialist and a brilliant inventor.
David Sarnoff, the head of RCA and equal parts Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, and William Randolph Hearst, was the greatest supporter of his friend Edwin Armstrong, developer of the first amplifier, the modern radio transmitter, and FM radio. Sarnoff was convinced that Armstrong’s inventions had the power to change the way societies communicated with each other forever. He would become a visionary captain of the media industry, even predicting the advent of the Internet.
In the mid-1930s, however, when Armstrong suspected Sarnoff of orchestrating a cadre of government officials to seize control of the FM airwaves, he committed suicide. Sarnoff had a very different view of who his friend’s enemies were.
Many corrupt politicians and corporations saw in Armstrong’s inventions the opportunity to commodify our most ubiquitous natural resource—the air. This early alliance between high tech and business set the precedent for countless legal and industrial battles over broadband and licensing bandwidth, many of which continue to influence policy and debate today.
About the Author
Scott Woolley is a technology and business writer. Formerly a Forbes Telecom correspondent and the magazine’s West Coast Bureau Chief, he has written about technology and business affairs for the MIT Technology Review, Fortune, and Slate, among other publications. He studied economics and public policy at Claremont McKenna College and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Praise For The Network: The Battle for the Airwaves and the Birth of the Communications Age…
— Wall Street Journal
“A compelling look at the relationship - and eventual betrayal - between two American communications giants: Edwin Armstrong, an inventor who developed FM radio; and David Sarnoff, the ruthless techie turned business titan who built RCA into a powerhouse.”
— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Woolley packs a lot into this slim book. The author’s portraits of Sarnoff and Armstrong are precise and multidimensional. . . . A fluidly written and well-reported story.”
“Woolley interweaves an engrossing tale of the evolution of the American communcations industry with colorufl details about the individuals who built the tech, and the regulatory challenges that threatened it.”
— Jonathan Zittrain, author of The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop It and Professor of Law and Professor of Computer Science, Harvard University
“Scott Woolley’s presents a lively and informative account of the stunningly successful collaborations and final bitter fight of David Sarnoff and Edwin Armstrong, two visionary leaders who played key roles in the evolution of the wireless industry.”
— Andrew Odlyzko, Bell Labs and University of Minnesota communications expert