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History of RCA

The federal government’s takeover of the wireless industry during the war accomplished two things: it focused efforts and funds on further technological improvements and it sorted out the tangle of patent infringements that had crippled industry development. Wartime experience convinced Assistant Navy Secretary Franklin D. Roosevelt that radio patents should be kept under American control. General Electric, which was planning a major sale of broadcasting equipment to the British Marconi company, was asked instead to take the lead in organizing an American radio concern. GE agreed, and the Radio Corporation of America was formed in October 1919. RCA took over the assets of American Marconi and responsibility for marketing the radio equipment produced by GE and Westinghouse. Conceived as a “marriage of convenience” between private corporations and the government for the development of wireless communication, RCA soon grew in a different direction.

Just six years later, RCA’s revenues from “wireless” came to $4 million. Revenue from the sale of consumer Radiolas and related equipment had grown to $46 million and the gap was widening. Westinghouse, one of RCA’s manufacturers, received the first commercial broadcasting license in 1920. A few days later, station KDKA went on the air with the returns of the Harding-Cox presidential election. RCA was on the air with the world heavyweight boxing championship by the next summer, a marketing brainstorm of RCA General Manager David Sarnoff. © 2006 RCA

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