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.
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)