David Sarnoff

David Sarnoff Photo

David Sarnoff was a giant of telecommunication and father of broadcasting. The pioneer of American television and radio, David Sarnoff became the ruler of the consumer electronics and telecommunications industry.

Sarnoff was born on 27th February 1891 in Minsk (present day Belarus), Russia. His family emigrated to the U.S and most of his childhood was spent studying in cheders and learning the Torah by heart. In 1900 he moved to New York City where he helped his family financially by selling newspapers before and after school. His initial plan was to go into the newspaper business but he got a job as office boy at the Commercial Cable Company by pure chance. After some time he left this job and started working for Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. This was the beginning of his 60 years long career in communications.

In the next decade Sarnoff rose up the ranks from office boy to the commercial manager and along the way gained experience and knowledge of electronic communications. After Marconi Wireless he joined John Wannamaker as an operator. On 14th April 1912 Sarnoff picked up the message of the sinking of Titanic. One can say he was at the right place at the right time. He stayed at the telegraph for 72 hours getting and sending out names of those who had survived. For this feat Sarnoff got rewarded and promoted to instructor and inspector at the institute.

Another one of Sarnoff’s big ideas was to bring music into homes without having to use wires. He wanted the radio to be something more than a device used in shipping and turn it into something the public could use to listen to music and other entertaining programs. For that he established his own broadcasting company called the National Broadcasting Co. by joining several hundred stations. Soon after Sarnoff became in charge of RCA (Radio Corporation of America) he realized the scope of television. He wanted to be the first to use the medium and for that he met with Vladimir Zworykin. Sarnoff offered to sponsor Zworykin’s research.

The final cost of this whole project was almost 50 million dollars. However a dispute rose between the actual inventor of the television Philo T. Farnsworth who had patented his solution to broadcasting moving pictures. Even though Sarnoff tried his best to prove that he was in fact the one who had invented the television he had to give royalties up to million dollars to settle the dispute. It was under the leadership of Sarnoff that NBC had the first ever videotape telecast.

Today television is the most influential medium and where many people criticize some of  the broadcasted content but no one can deny its power. This is what Sarnoff knew even at that time and this is what he worked for. He first gave the world sound through radio and then gave it sight. Sarnoff died in 1971 at the age of 80. He got several honors for his massive contribution to the world. He recognized the power of communication and then worked to achieve this power.