The Chronology of New Media: Early 20th Century

By | January 7, 2000


  • Nickelodeons become popular in the United States.


  • Guglielmo Marconi perfects a wireless radio system that transmits Morse code over the Atlantic Ocean.


  • German scientist Arthur Korn invents the fax machine.
  • The Great Train Robbery becomes the first feature film.


  • David Sarnoff, a Marconi wireless operator in New York, receives the SOS from the sinking H.M.S. Titanic. (Sarnoff later goes on to create RCA and its spinoff, NBC.)


  • Teletype is introduced; journalism no longer requires knowledge of Morse Code.


  • Transcontinental telephone service is established between New York and San Francisco.


  • KDKA-AM radio signs on the air in Pittsburgh to becomes the world’s first commercial radio station.


  • Time becomes the first weekly news magazine.


  • J.L. Baird demonstrates the first practical television system based on designs created in 1884 by German scientist Paul Nipkow. Baird debuts the first color TV two years later.
  • NBC becomes the first radio network.


  • Philo Farnsworth transmits the first electronic TV picture. Bell Telephone Laboratories tests wireless TV broadcasts.


  • WGY in Schenectady, New York, becomes the first experimental television station.


  • Germany begins airing regular public TV broadcasts.


  • German aircraft engineer Konrad Zuse creates the first binary computer, the Z1 mechanical calculator.
  • Life becomes the first American magazine using photographs.


  • At Iowa State University, professor John Atanasoff and graduate student Clifford Berry develop the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, or ABC, the first electronic digital computer.


  • While the Hindenburg explodes in flames above Lakehurst, New Jersey, Herbert Morrison delivers the first U.S. coast-to-coast radio broadcast (“Oh, the humanity”).


  • Edward R. Murrow, later dubbed “the father of broadcast journalism,” begins making war reports from Europe for CBS.


  • Konrad Zuse completes the Z2, the first fully-functioning electro-mechanical computer.


  • NBC and CBS launch commercial television stations in New York City.


  • Vannevar Bush writes “As We May Think,” an article in August’s The Atlantic Monthly, describing a photo-electrical-mechanical device called Memex (from memory extension). Bush’s device in theory could make and follow links between documents called microfiche.
  • On Dec. 5, Konrad Zuse completes the Z3, the first electronic, fully programmable computer. A year later Zuse writes Plankalkul, the first algorithmic programming language, which Zuse later uses to create a chess-playing program.


  • John Mauchly and John Presper Eckert develop ENIAC I (Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator), a massive computer using vacuum tubes to perform calculations for the U.S. military.


  • AT&T proposes idea of cellular phones to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC responds by limiting frequencies for only 23 possible phone conversations, so AT&T drops research for decades.


  • The transistor is invented at Bell Telephone Laboratories.


  • Computer technology is used in flight simulators, arguable the first application of computer interactivity.


  • The first U.S. coast-to-coast television broadcast takes place as President Harry S Truman addresses the opening of the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco.


  • In order to raise funds, Stanford University in California starts leasing nearby land to high-tech companies. Varian Associates puts up the first building in Palo Alto’s new Stanford Industrial Park, part of the area soon to become known as “Silicon Valley.”


  • Willy Higinbotham builds a computer-generated tennis-like game which almost becomes the first video game, but the idea fails to gain popular support.


  • Debut of the integrated circuit.