Radio telegraphy was first tested in Hawai‘i on June 16, 1900, while an interisland system was under construction. The test linked ‘Iolani Palace with the Kaimuki relay station. “Hello! Is anybody out there?,” Mr. T. Bowden ticked out in Morse Code. The answer, also in code, came immediately: “Mr. Gear is here.”
Wireless messages by radio telegraphy soon became common. The first successful interisland transmission took place November 12, 1900. Commercial service to the Mainland commenced on July 27, 1912.
The broadcasting of music and speech did not occur until October 1920, when M. A. Mulrony and T. C. Hall transmitted nearly an hour of talk and records from the Electric Shop in downtown Honolulu to the Pacific Heights home of their only known listeners, Tong Phong and his family.
Commercial radio broadcasting arrived May 11, 1922, with two Honolulu stations, KGU and KDYX, racing to be first on the air. KGU’s first sounds—a few “hellos” uttered into the microphone—came at 10:57 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, KDYX inaugurated its programming with a greeting spoken by Governor Wallace Rider Farrington.
Other developments followed during the ensuing decades. In 1929, KGU began using electrical transcriptions (special recording for broadcasting use). Also in 1929, KGU retransmitted a short-wave broadcast of President Herbert Hoover’s inaugural ceremony directly from Washington.
In April 1930, automobile radio sets were first sold in Hawai‘i. Later that year, direct broadcasts of Mainland football games became regular Island weekend fare. KGU was named an NBC affiliate in November 1931, followed three months later by KGMB and CBS. The first frequency modulation (FM) stations were KVOK and KAIM-FM, both licensed in the autumn of 1953.
By 1993, Hawai‘i supported sixty radio stations, fifty-six commercial and four noncommercial.
By Robert C. Schmitt