Industrial Revolution: Radio

A crucial achievement in communication technology – wireless communication!   Radio brings us long distance transmission without the wires (you know, like your magic band!).

The rfspectrum and types of devices along the range of different frequencies

The technology was around in the early 1900’s and was a useful tool for Naval communications where putting up wires between ships wasn’t feasible.  In 1920 the first commercial radio station in the US started and by 1925, 1 in 6 homes had a radio.  The radio became so popular that interference of the signals became an issue – the Radio Act of 1927 resolved this by assigning specific frequencies to broadcast stations (1).

Radio Electronics

The studio equipment on display looks to be authentic replications or actual old pieces.   There is SO MUCH electronic equipment associated with radio – resistors, condensers, inductors, frequency measures, oscillators, amplifiers, signal generators, meters etc (3). This is a good wide shot of the recent version that shows the ming green color of the studio.

Spaceship Earth Scene of radio broadcast shows a radio studio and operator wtih the view of radio towers outside

Looks like a transmitter station to the right of the broadcast engineer.  Above is a cathedral radio receiver next to the “on the air” sign.  The engineer is sitting at a mixer and the announcer is using a “type A microphone”  and the engineer is using a “type B microphone“. To the left of the engineer is a teletype machine for incoming news delivered to the station.  There are also a pair of turntables for either playing music or transcribing the show.

Radio for Entertainment

The image below is from the pre-2008 refurb.   In this scene, a man and a woman are acting out a radio show inside of a sound booth.  The sound engineer has a gong on his desk indicating this was more a playful/entertainment scene.  The microphone flag used was “WDP” (Walt Disney Productions).

Previous Spaceship Earth scene featuring one man and one woman animatronics in radio studio

Radio for News

With the development of radio, extras became obsolete in the early 1930s, replaced with breaking news bulletins that would interrupt regular programming.

Things change in the latest version of this scene.   The radio actress is no longer in the scene due to a future promotion a few scenes ahead.  While I hate to lose a woman from a scene, the subject matter makes up for it.  Instead of providing entertainment, our scene now focused on delivering news.  The gong is replaced with the teletype and the radio announcer has the following news bulletin:

And today, we received word that Amelia Earhart* has landed safe and sound in Wales. Today, July 19th, 1928, will forever be known as the day that she flew across the Atlantic and into the hearts of people around the world. Amelia Earhart has gone where no other woman has gone before! (4)

Spaceship Earth scene shows one male radio announcer in the studio and one male engineer

*Fun fact!   Amelia Earhart was friends with Buckminster Fuller who popularized the term “Spaceship Earth”.


Broadcast Networks

Another change in the latest version – the announcers microphone flag has been changed from “WDP” (Walt Disney Productions) to “WDI” (Walt Disney Imagineering).  Stations eventually became part of larger networks like NBC or CBS and stations installed more antennas as the networks grew.

Spaceship Earth Scene - close up of radio announcers microphone that says WDI

To send audio messages over electromagnetic waves we use transmitters  and receivers. Transmitters are antennas that turns electrical signals into radio waves so they can travel and receivers have antennas that catches radio waves and turns them into electrical signals that feed into the radio (2).

To the right of that is a radio studio is a tower with a red light blinking on top and an animation illustrates the radio waves emanating from the tip. On the wall behind it is a painting of another radio tower in the distance indicating radio’s expansion.



Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – the Sound Engineer is said to also be the Mathew Brady in American Adventure OR our telegraph operator from a few years ago (5).  Since we can’t see his face we will just have to rely on his stature from the previous scene!

brady operator head

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

We invented the Telegraph, the Telephone – the Wireless – The Radio!   We criss-crossed the world with wire, first.  Then filled the air with sound.  In remote and distant lands we linked each “Campfire” with rapid talks and chats – with information – with entertainment.

  1. Hillstrom, K. & L.C. (2007).  The Industrial Revolution in America: Communications  Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO