Milestone-Proposal:RCA Radio Central

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Docket #:

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on "Actions" in the toolbar above, then "Edit with form". At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.


To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes


Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

1921-1977

Title of the proposed milestone:

RCA Radio Central, 1921-1977

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

RCA Radio Central: November 5, 1921, – December 13, 1977 On November 5th, 1921, President Harding’s telegraphic transoceanic message inaugurated the world’s most powerful transoceanic radio facility, RCA Radio Central on more than 7000 acres at Rocky Point and Riverhead, NY. Its Alexanderson 220KW, 18.3KHz transmitters and Beverage long-wire receiving antennas provided reliable worldwide radio communications and its research laboratory developed diversity radio reception, rhombic and folded-wave antennas, the first transoceanic SSB channels and the first color TV receiver.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Long Island Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Long Island Section
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Long Island Section
Senior Officer Name: Senior officer name masked to public

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Long Island Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Section chair name masked to public

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Proposer's name masked to public
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

In a Rocky Point Union School District building that is on the grounds of the former RCA Rocky Point facilities. Rocky Point Union School District 90 Rocky Point - Yaphank Road Rocky Point, NY 11778 Coordinates to follow.

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

The intended site, a building in the Rocky Point Union School District, that is on the grounds of the former RCA Radio Central facility.

Are the original buildings extant?

Only remnants of the original antenna transmission towers at the Rocky Point and receiving antenna towers at the Riverhead sites remain. The former sites of key buildings at both locations are shown on the maps that are included as part of this proposal.

Details of the plaque mounting:

To be provided.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

To be provided.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

The Rocky Point Union Free School District, 90 Rocky Point - Yaphank Road, Rocky Point, NY 11778.

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

To be provided.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

The origin of the RCA Radio Central facility was the culmination of United States political interest at the end of World War I to maintain dominance in international communications and the Navy Department’s goal of ensuring reliable communications with its worldwide fleet operations.

Up to the beginning of World War I, the primary wireless company in the United States was the  Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America.  Its primary source of business was the marine message service that provided both commercial and marine safety services for ships and had achieved international significance.  Although incorporated in New Jersey and known as American Marconi, the company could not demonstrate that it was not under British foreign control.   Consequently, its operations were taken over by the Navy.  By the end of the war, the company was producing equipment for the Navy and the Navy had to relinquish all of the Marconi facilities or the government had to change the law so that it could remain in the commercial message business.

The proposed solution was to have the British interests in Marconi purchased by an American company. At the time (1919), General Electric was negotiating with Marconi for the supply of very high power (212KW) very low frequency (17.2 KHz) Alexanderson inverters. The question of what to do with the GE inverters was a major problem since GE had already spent $1 million in their development. At a Navy Department meeting, it was suggested that GE establish an international communication system based on the long distance capability of the high power, very low frequency alternators. It was arranged for GE to start a new company that would take over the assets of the British controlled Marconi Company, which included the wireless stations held by the Navy. The new company was incorporated in 1919 as the Radio Corporation of America.

The new company received the American Marconi patents, its high-powered stations and its contract with the U.S. Shipping Board for the maintenance on 400 of its ships. Of particular interest to the United States were three of the articles of incorporation. One prohibited the election of directors who were not U.S. citizens. A second article restricted to 20% the amount of stock that could be owned by a foreigner. And a third article, permitted participation by the United States government in the administration of the corporation’s business. Edward Nally, who had been President of American Marconi was elected Chairman of the Board and David Sarnoff who succeeded him, became Managing Director.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

To be provided.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

To be provided.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to ieee-history@ieee.org. Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

To be provided.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to ieee-history@ieee.org with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).