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1917 - Why 1917?

In early 1917, a small group of Wisconsinites gathered at the Madison home of University of Wisconsin – Madison Physics Professor Earle Terry (pictured) to witness the launch of public broadcasting in the state. Although he had been successfully experimenting with telegraphic and telephonic broadcasts for some time, Terry wanted to give a public demonstration of telephonic broadcasts – using music and voice instead of Morse Code.

According to historian Randall Davidson, in his book 9XM Talking, “One person at the gathering recalled years later that the first piece of music played was Narcissus, which was a popular piano tune at the time by American composer Ethelbert Nevin.

There was no fanfare; there were no crowds, just a few guests and a small group of scientists and students who were committed to using new technologies to enhance life across the state — a commitment that remains at the heart of everything Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television do to this day.

Hear pianist Harry Volker play “Narcissus.”
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