Monday, January 28, 2013


Tuesday, January 29 (Knight Hall)
We'll be watching a documentary by Ken Burns, Empire of the Air (Part 1), based on the book of the same name. This gets us through a lot of early history every quickly.

I know it can be difficult to sit in a darkened room for 40 minutes and not feel sleepy, but please do your best. If you have a laptop or other device and you want to bring it, you can blog about the documentary here. In other semesters, students have also used their computers to look up some of the individuals named in the documentary online, Wikipedia or elsewhere. Couldn't hurt.

If you do blog while we're watching, you might note the aspects of the documentary that strike you as important. You might also critique the documentary itself. What do you thing of Burns efforts to bring still photographs and old documents to live? What about his use of old film footage or music? 

1 comment:

  1. While watching the documentary, a few things came to mind.

    The first part of this video highlighted the lives of three men in general; deForest, Armstrong and Sarnoff. The segment on deForest talked about how we gained his start by studying some of the inventions of Reginald Pheasant. It really reinforced the idea that all inventors build upon each other and the previous discovered inventions throughout history. While deForest might have been one of the first to broadcast over the radio, it was the help of everyone else’s input that made deForest successful. It’s rare that any inventor makes all of their discoveries exclusively on their own.

    One thing that stood out to me about Armstrong is that his former professors had said that Armstrong was “all too willing to question basic assumptions in front of his peers.” The comment came with a negative connotation, that students should not be questioning what they are told is true. On the contrary, this is what probably made Armstrong successful; he was willing to question modern science.

    In Sarnoff’s part, the narrator talked about how the ship Titanic was able to save some of its passengers during its ill-fated journey because of the radio airwaves. The ship was equipped with wireless and was able to send distress calls. This is so important because it set a precedent that all mega ships would need wireless. At this time, radio use was not just recreational, but essential.

    While watching, I thought to myself that the invention of radio was really the first time that communication was sent over the cables throughout the world. It was huge. While television was big too, it was more of an extension of the audio achievements that occurred decades earlier.