Perhaps the officials who decided on the shutdown could have given a less symbolic date, but the public broadcaster’s website speaks clearly: as of September 11, 2022, medium waves will no longer be usable. In the country that invented radio, the last medium-wave broadcast towers will soon fall, without even waiting for the centennial: the first “circular” broadcast by URI (which became EIAR and finally RAI), dates back to October 1924. The news had been circulating since September 2021, when it was learned that the new service contract, the agreement RAI has with the state to guarantee public service, specified that decommissioning would take place within a year. This is the culmination of two decades of cuts: on May 15, 2004, the medium waves of Radio2 and Radio3 had been shut down and merged into the unified Radio 1 network. Then more cuts continued in 2013 and 2014. There were few facilities left. And in September there will be a denouement. Will Guglielmo Marconi turn in his grave?
An article written by a researcher from EuroScience (European Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology), traces the evolution of radio receivers. Debojit Acharjee, a software engineer and “geek,” as the author likes to call himself, starts from the prototypes invented by Guglielmo Marconi to digital ones. Novelties that have come since the 2000s: from the first pocket radio for listening to the DAB digital band (launched by Pure in 2003), to one for listening to broadcasters streaming on the Web (3com’s Kerbango, which debuted in the 2000s). To arrive at those without the tuning knob, there are the SDRs (Software Defined Radio): receivers that in their more advanced versions (but sold at a price comparable to that of the “transoceanic” radios of the 1970s, such as the Grundig Satellit) allow you to see the full spectrum of the FM band and record 24 MHz. The impetus to innovate? Behind every discovery is the improvement in listening quality, such as that which prompted General Electric in 1940 to invent frequency modulation, demonstrating that it was less susceptible to electromagnetic interference than amplitude modulation, used on medium waves.
It was February 12, 1931, when at 4:49 p.m. the first broadcast of the station was aired from Vatican City. On the notes of Christus Vincit, the “Statio Radiofonica Vaticana” thus emits its first wail. In the first message, “In Nomine Domini” (In the name of God), Pope Pius XI recited a prayer-appeal in Latin that called upon creation and the suffering, God and rulers, rich and poor, subjects and workers to gather before the “admirable Marconian invention”. The transmitter was designed by Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio, whom the Pope named a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Pius XI had already been thinking about providing the Church with a radio station since 1925, but this was made possible by the Lateran Pacts of 1929, which entrusted the Italian State with the commitment to provide the Church with radiotelegraphic, radiotelephone, telephone and postal services. The management was entrusted to the Jesuits and the direction to Father Giuseppe Gianfranceschi, rector of the Gregorian University and scientist.
More details in the service of La Voce e il Tempo.
In the history of radio there have been important female figures, even if the story almost always recalls the male protagonists. Umberto Alunni, a former manager of the banking sector (he has been director of important credit institutions, but has always cultivated the passion of a collector of antique radios and a divulger) has reconstructed in the book “Le donne della radio” the biographies of ten characters. From Annie Jameson, Marconi’s mother, to the anonymous steno-typist of the steamship Lusitania, to Lisa Glauber, the only living protagonist, daughter of the owner of the Unda Radio factory. Alunni thus gives back to the female gender the role of protagonist that it deserves.