Radio Days: Dead Voices in the Air
If you’ve been following Oxenfree, you’ve likely noticed some strangeness with the radio that Alex brought to the island. (If you aren’t up to speed, now’s a great time to watch the trailer, or the gameplay demo, featuring some helpful commentary). We want you to to discover the mysteries of the radio yourself when you get your hands on the game, but until then, we are spending part of July talking about the surreal history of real radios, and how that history relates to the events on Edwards Island.
Dead Voices in the Air: Marconi
We don’t really get to know inventors anymore. Old men in powdered wigs have more juice in the name recognition game then the army of engineers that made the iPhone. It’s great when you can look at a piece of innovation, of history, and name its creator.
The father of the radio is Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian with Irish roots. While other scientists and engineers had explored the nascent realm of radio waves, it was Marconi, with assistance of Mignani, his butler (very Batman), who was the first to the patent office in 1896. In less than a decade he was unwiring Europe, as dots and dashes traveled over the ether.
A World War I hero, Nobel Prize winner, and millionaire who sparred with Tesla (the scientist, not the car), Marconi also sported an excellent not-drowning-in-a-luxury-ship skillset. He passed on the Titanic’s fateful voyage, and showing shrewd acumen, he booked a one-way trip on the Lusitania, skipping out on the return trek where it was sunk by German torpedoes. As an aside, this was one of the biggest catalysts getting the USA into WWI.
It was Marconi’s close call with the Titanic that also turned him into a bit of a kook. You see, the Titanic was equipped with one of his radios, run by his men. After the iceberg delivered its devastation the maydays and SOSs were shot into the sky. For a lot reasons, too technical and too long to list here, some transmissions weren’t heard for hours, delayed as they bounced around the atmosphere. Other messages were not received at all.
So, even with a massive 5,000 watt transmitter, radio had not saved the day, but those delayed messages had convinced Marconi that sound lives on forever. All the sounds. Ever. He wanted to know what was the orchestra playing as the ship sank? With the power of radio the past could be preserved, plucked from the air, amplified and hummed into human ears.
All sound, from all time. It’s all there. Around us.
Of course, Marconi could never prove it, and modern science says sound waves die over time. Marconi died, too, in 1937. Radio stations observed two minutes of silence the next day. Not entirely sure silence is what he would have wanted.
What better way to get learn more about the radio then with its digital offspring, the podcast?
These Words Forever – The Memory Palace. Marconi’s senior moments are reflected in the brilliant prose and vivid imagery of the Memory Palace.
The Extractor – The Truth. Remember those old-timey radio dramas our great-grandparents listened to? The Truth isn’t like that. The Extractor features an inventor who can pull ancient sound from solid objects. It can get a little freaky.
Conrad’s Garage – Radio Diaries. Learn the story of the first radio station that started – as you might expect – in a garage.