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How Radio Works (or) The Wizardry of Wireless (1922)

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I spent a good deal of early 2016 planning for the Orphan Film Symposium, reviewing proposals with my co-programmer Dan Streible. Since we already knew that the theme would be Sound, I also started spelunking our collection for films about sound in all its many aspects that could either be screened at Orphans, blogged about, or both. I found quite a few, and one I never got to use was a film made by General Electric in 1922 called The Wizardry of Wireless. It uses animation to succinctly explain the principles of radio broadcasting, which was at that time a rather new technology barely understood by the public.

Educational Screen (June 1924)

General Electric had long been interested in radio, conducting a lot of experiments in what was alternately known as “wireless telegraphy” in the early teens. In 1919, GE joined with American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T), Westinghouse, and United Fruit to form the Radio Corporation of America, and in August 1922—the same year The Wizardry of Wireless was released—they launched radio station WGY in the company’s corporate hometown of Schenectady, New York. WGY is still broadcasting today and you’ll notice the film ends with a title card saying “WGY Signing Off.”

Like The Immortal Voice (1923), which used animation to explain how phonograph records were recorded, The Wizardry of Wireless was scored by Ben Model. Our copy was preserved from a 35mm nitrate master positive by the Packard Campus Film Laboratory in 2015.




The Wizardry of Wireless (General Electric, 1922)

Comments (3)

  1. Delightful and insightful, not least for recently reading “The Last Days of Night.” The 2006 documentary film “The Phantom of the Operator” by Caroline Martel makes an excellent pairing with this film, musically, visually, and technologically.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed this latest GE “Wireless Film” blog.

    It has an interesting link with the Library’s earlier major Durborough 1915 WWI film project in an earlier blog. It was the same Oswald Schuette, Chicago Daily News war correspondent, credited by Durborough as “valuable to me in my task of getting real war pictures” who organized the Radio Protective Association in 1927. It was composed of a few subscribing independent radio manufacturers to fight the RCA patent pool trust. Schuette and his mimeograph brought about the GE, Westinghouse, AT&T, etc. antitrust consent decree in 1930 resulting in RCA being spun off as an independent company in 1932.


    American Cinematographers in the Great War 1914-1918, pp. 194-195

    Chapter VIII “David and Goliath” pp. 168-212 in HIGH LOW WASHINGTON by “30–32”, J. P. Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1932. Available online at Hathi Trust:;view=1up;seq=172

  3. So cool found this at the library of congress

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