When I was young, there was no Wi-Fi or Facebook or Twitter. Some had television, but for most young children, the best electronic entertainment option was radio.
I had followed the instructions and built myself a crystal set through which I was able to hear at least one radio station.
But my prized possession -- given to me when I turned 10 -- was a portable radio about the size of a man's wallet. It had an antenna to bring in many stations and it ran on batteries. Most importantly, it had an earphone jack so I could listen away through the night, opening up whole new worlds. I was enthralled.
Radio had been around for some time when I received my little portable. The early experiments of Guglielmo Marconi at the turn of the 20th century led to some military use in the years leading up to World War I.
The years after the war brought the rise of commercial radio. KDKA in Pittsburgh led the way with such programs as live broadcasts from the national political conventions of 1920.
Over the next generation, radio became part of the lives of millions of Americans, with whole families nestled around the radio to listen to their favorite programs and people.
There was a lot to listen to. Musical programs, news broadcasts and dramatic programs of varying quality filled the airwaves of the 1930s. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to communicate with America in the 1930s, he chose to do so with a radio "fireside chat."
By the time World War II came to the United States with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, most Americans were able to listen to Roosevelt ask Congress to declare "that a state of war exists between the United States and the empire of Japan."
During the war, most residents of central Ohio continued to listen to their radios for news and entertainment. Then, in 1943, a local newspaper reported that a new form of radio was increasingly popular.
It was called FM.
Most radios of the time operated in a format called Amplitude Modulation, or AM. FM was shorthand for a radio operating format called Frequency Modulation. FM was developed in the 1930s, but, as was the case with AM radio, the new format took some time to be adopted by the public.
FM had a more-limited range than AM, and in a country where most people did not live in big cities, the new programming simply was not available.
And to receive FM, one had to buy a new radio.
Many people did not understand why one needed a new radio when the old one worked just fine. A local columnist listed the following reasons why investment in FM made sense:
* Reduction of static to the vanishing point.
* Lack of fading in FM program reception.
* Total absence of interstation interference.
* Ability to transfer the entire musical range the ear can detect.
By mid-1943, there were more than 3,500 FM "radio sets" in Columbus, with a potential audience of about 10,000 people. WELD in Columbus was the only commercially licensed FM station in Ohio. Across the U.S., about 300,000 FM sets were in use, with the potential to sell 25 million more in the first five years after World War II.
But first the war had to be won. The local newspaper reported:
"FM is now at war. On the battlefield, a tank radios that it has run out of gas. A truck drives up and fills the tank. Pilots talk to their commanding officers on bombing missions over Europe and the South Pacific. Even infantry officers carry radio 'walkie-talkie' units into battle."
Noting that a reporter in Chicago had interviewed a movie star in Union Depot with a backpack radio that broadcasted the interview over the local radio station, our local reporter mused on what the future might bring:
"Some enthusiastic persons even describe our postwar world as a place where Billy will run out to play with a miniature 'walkie-talkie' in his hip pocket, ready to receive his mother's call to dinner.
"You never can tell. Some people said the inventions of the airplane and the steamboat were crazy."
Of course, now Billy's hip pocket contains a cellphone. Although the item itself is not all that crazy, the actions, reactions or inactions of some of its users might be a cause of concern.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.