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MEMORY AND (TELE)COMMUNICATION
EARS UPON THE WORLD
SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE RADIOLISTENER
AND THE INTERNET'S USER IN ITALY
edited by Francesco Borgia
translated by Rodolfo Droghini
The prodiguous event that the protagonist acquires an exceptional hearing has been described in a roman of 1992 (Le voci del mondo by Robert Schneider) as follows: "Then, his hearing developed again, like an enormous ear on the soil where he was laying... A fantastic scene of shouts and chats opened to his ear, full of whispering, sings, moans, volgar shouts, cries amd hics-up, sighs and breaths, gulped spits and snaps of lips: until the last sound of the vocal cords on the door of silence and until the metaphisic whiz of thoughts" .
We can imagine that this description should correspond to the disposition of somebody, who, approaching his ear to the headphone of a crystal set, listens to the first radio trasmissions.
We will try to imagine the fisionomy of the radio listener and its development during the time in Italy. According to the following words of F. Monteleone (History of radio and television in Italy, 1992) "An history seen only as << history from the listeners' point of view >> is an hypothesis that overvalues available sources", we will try to give only some short paints of this imaginary identikit of the radio listener, trying to emphasize its possible analogies with the user of Internet.
You have to consider, first, that the radio listener should be identified as somebody keen of radio-electrics, a person that is able to succeed in the builing of a crystal set, through high expenditure and personal work. We speak of "students, young engeneers, young electricians", which, lonely, as crystal sets are listened only by headphones, tuned their radios on the programms that started in Italy on 6th October 1924. The socalled sansfilists (from the French expression sans fil: without thread) organized themselves in voluntary forms of discussion about the radio media and, later, in domestic leagues grown up between 1924 and 1927), such FIR (Federazione italiana radiocultori), RAI (Radio associazione italiana), Radio club nazionale italiano, Associazione nazionale radio dilettanti. All these were expressions of antymonopolistic ideas or of interests bounded with industry. Some specialized magazines developed too, like Radiofonia, that introduced itself to the readers in this way: "Do you want to know who we are? We are a pathologic product! Perhaps, there is still somebody who ignores the modern desease that has spilt its bacteria everywhere. It is the "radio feber", shrewd strange disease that comes from the organism under the form of vibrations on the wing of ether." Analogously, you have to ask yourself, in which point of its history you will find the user to the former period of Internet. This one tries to pick up in front of the lonely video of its "personal" computer, through the hiss of his modem, "the metaphisical buzz of thoughts", as Scnheider has described in his roman. You have to consider that the user, at the beginning, consisted of sector experts: programmers, EDP engeneers, EDP students who knew the "secrets" of hardware and software necessary to communicate.
With the advent of tubes, radio proposed itself to italian people as a piece of forniture of rilevat dimensions, that received its own place in the living-room or in the kitchen, causing the passage from an individual listening to a more or less large audience of radio listeners. You have to specify that the price of these devices was high in the 20es, between 2.500 and 10.000 lira. A good radio with four tubes costed 3.000 lira and you had to add license taxation , "stamp tax" [a tax on the use of radio devices, always existing nowadays] and subscription fee, while pro-capite average annual income was 3.498 lira. Two different typologies of listeners pointed out in this period: on one side the radio lovers, who wanted to listen to domestic transmissions and also to foreign transmissions setting up radio kits. On the other side common people who wanted to listen to music and news in the easiest way.A questionnaire proposed by the magazine Radiofonia revealed a surprising fact in 1924: the most favourite programm among italian people was the radio signal. Radio seemeded to acquire the meaning of group watch: kind of instrument able to tune, to give time to listeners. The reference to the mother's heartbeat for the foetus, to the multiple natural biological watches is inevitale. Radio added itself to the rotation of planets, to the following one another of tides, to the blossom of trees and to the falling of leaves, like a group instrument that shows the passing of time. Its programms radiated themselves as the solar watches at first only during the day, then, they became slowly companions and sentries of the night. This function is present in Internet in the conference, forum, electronic post: a group of people find itself speaking together, communicating from different parts of the Heart and proposing the simultaneos exchange of messages, wishes, advertisements, through the electronic umbilical cord, through the beat of the BPS of their modems. What will this misteriuos be, that assumes the shape of a spider of Internet's net, correspond to in the user's mind? Why do you need that its heart beats 24 hours a day proposing a new idea of time that zeroed time fuses and that proposes an unique time?
If we come back to 1929's Italy, we will understand that the "Musagete", a radio receiver made by Marelli costed less than 3.000 lira, while the popular "Balilla" car was on the market at the price of more then 10.000 lira: the disproportion is evident. Like the german "Volksempfaenger", a series of cheap devices between 1.300 and 600 lira of price had been introduced at the national radio Fair in Milan in 1933. These devices were still far away from the price of 400 lira required for the building of a popular radio: the "Radio rurale". In the years after 1934, Italy had the 30th position in the world placing of the ratio subscribers/inhabitants with 9.1/1000. Only in 1937 the "Radiobalilla", whose name had been chosen by Mussolini himself , had been sold at the price of 430 lira. In this period, the radio diffused itself in two versions among the italian listeners: house-radios related to a family kind of listening and devices situated in public places , schools, cinemas, bars related to a mass kind of listening. In the family listening, the radio proposed a dimension of "centripetal" attention rivolta to an "electric home and hearth", that draws again the space disposition of the family group through the warmeness of voice. From 1925 up, the programming, first limited to the "Notizie Stefani" to the government communication and to music, enriched itself of other "radio events". The SIPRA (Società italiana pubblicità radiofonica autonoma) started its short spots in the intervals among programms. In the same year, the "enthusiastic letters" appeared on the Radioorario after the trasmission of the speech pronounced by Mussolini in the occasion of the "wheat battle". The first live sport radio commentary was transmitted in 1927: the Gran premio di galoppo from San Siro. The Tosca, performed by Beniamino Gigli, went on the air live from the Dal Verme theater in Milan. The first soccer radio commentary had been transmitted in 1928: the match Italy versus Hungary. The following year went on the air "L'anello di Teodosio", the first genuine radio-play, the birth of a new art trend. The 1929 "Giornale parlato", in three daily issues, had been changed with the "Giornale radio" in 1930 and the "Radioorario" became "Radiocorriere". The Vatican Radio was inaugurated in 1931. Radio step by step acquired the role of entertainment, information, authoriativeness for the family. "Radio's said that" has been the motto that slowly and progressivamente determined a rielaboration of the individual familiar social memory. The exclusively sound message has characterized the diffusion of news, information, facts with the suggestive power of spoken words and it has maden free immagination, like tales told by the mother's voice. Italy listened to radio, communicated through radio, remembered with the radio, fell asleep with radio music, dreamt through the radio. Despite, the use of Internet presents a different impact on the user due to its present prevalent character of written message: it remains an individual instrument separeted, untill today, from the telly's video and from the contemporary use of the family-group, missing, besides, in most cases, of the audio support, and even today easy to to be used. The suggestive power does not seem us to be of a minor impact really through the metaphore of speaking together, communicating, selling or buing, working, studing, dreaming together. There are other two radios in this little village: only one owned by the surgeon and one owned by the book-keeper, which almost all of us had listened form the street without seeing them. Now we have our own radio, all ours, nice, elegant, with the Littorio axes in which we represent the Dux and Italy. We have had care of the lesson and we have drawn Pinocchio. What a nice thing, what a great thing and we couldn't restrain and we have screamed with all our breath: Long live the Dux! Long live Marconi!
Such dimension of the big group suggested again by the radio listening in mass semeeded to refer to a use of the radio as a group instrument in order to find its own leader: a dimension always hidden but also present nowadays.Internet suggested this dimension in 1995, when Bill Gates bought the Hammer (Leicester) code of Leonardo and diffused its images in preview through the net in a site that has resulted to be among the most attended in the still short history of the telematic net.However, radio's hypnotic power among the mass revealed itself with its power when Orson Welles pretended the invasion of UFO on the Hearth in 1938. He quite exploited the imaginative power, that makes the radio media an interface between the internal familiar dimension and the external one of the stranger, of the invader. The radio testimonied and in the meantime realized the invasion of the aliens in Wales' programm, suggesting the panic of the psycothic's hallucination, through the voice that came into everybody's house. The radio listener, who was endowed with the "sixth sense", had been hardly proved in its emotions when, from 1940 and above, a never known before event presented itself at the microphones: war, invaders and allied became reality. The fact that the radio presented various modalities in this period appears extremely interesting. On one side, the Radiocorriere published all Europe's programms with care, when it was just forbidden to listens foreign radios in public, and it dimostrated it wanted to put itself above the parts. On the other side, radio transformed itself in a battle field. The subversive trasmissions arrived more or less disturbated in the Italians' houses from London, from Moscow and form America: they came from the specific plants, that starting from 1937, were specially built for Italy and the Colonies. The domestic radio, that from 1940 transmetted in unificated nets, set itself the aim that stands out form the word of the Minister of popular culture, Pavolini:"... the radio is your daily newspaper; it gives you the Bullettin that is the most important thing of the day; it dictates it to you, slowly, so that you will be alble to write it; it is your post, bringing your wife your news and giving you hers, and, if you dont't have a wife, the radio marries you ... the radio sings for you, if you are tired and it teaches your far away children your songs; it puts you via via in contact with the people of your respective towns ... ".
Radio linked again the bond that the war had dispersed, fought against loneless, exorcized the death, suggesting that extension of the battle field that involved the civil population during Worl War II. Internet, as we know, was born as military instrument and we can only remember that it should contain in it the power of suggesting the aggressive defensive dimension of the group, quite like the web.Regarding the social usage of the instrument we have to remember that initiatives of social utilization of the instrument are multipliing in the last period. The instrument is still present in entertainment places, pubs, discoteques, cinemas and you locate, day by day, in parallel to the radio, its educational power, related to ist use in schools and in universities. As a result a mass approach to the media with the use of videotapes develops, also through the development of the multimedial technology.
Though, a charatheristic of radio is not to use links between trasmitter and receiver: to be without threads. In the first years of its diffusion, this element received a particular enphasis through live links with fliing airplanes or runnig trains, proprosing this psycological combination between radio and modernity, radio and technological discoveries, radio and adventure. The"auto-brought radios" (autoradios) developed in parallel with the development of new technology; "autoradioraduni" or "autoradioavioraduni" have been organized, in parallel with the launch of new cars such the "Balilla" or the "Topolino", in collaboration with the Royal Automobile Club and with the Aero club. The concept of radio as Ariadne's thread developed and permitted to the sailer, to the aviator, the the lonely explorer to maintain the contact with the bais, to adventure himself in the sky, among the sea and the ice, orientating through this compass that is able to speak. In the meantime, the lonely listener could receive the radio signals from the most different point of the globe thorugh the development of the short wave-tchnology; he could listen unknown languages and dialects in his house; he could explore unknown skies seas and lands, identifieng himself in his radios's waves. This phenomena should be similar to the panic that picks up the Internet's user who is afraid of missing the sense of space and time perhaps of finding new unknown time-space dimensions, when he finds himself "sailing" from a point to another of the web.
Actually, the fisionomy of the radio-listener changed aspect only after the Big War, after the arrival of transistors. The advent of plastic and of the solid semiconductor together, determined the advent of always lighter, always more selective, small transportable radio sets. In the 60es, the radio, whome the telly had lost its central place, returned to be listened in a more individual way through the earphones; the small transistor radios are regularly endowed with them and these are similar to the headphones of the cystal sets. With one ear you remain connected with the world, with the other you can take part to the fan of a foot-ball match or you can sing "Grazie dei Fior", with which Nilla Pizzi won the Festival di San Remo in 1951, trasmitted live by Nunzio Filogamo. With the diffusion of autoradios, the radio became a discreet inseparable friend for who remains alone during long trips, but never abandoned by radio, until the diffusion of the autoradio you can pull in the 70es, due to the diffusion of the robberies. This inseparability (according to the Doxa the most favourite amusement for the Italinas was listening to the radio in 1954) become every day more evident. From 1958 the Sip [the italian Telecom ] developed the filodiffusione: through the telephone thread the radio came into all the rooms of your house: it was only necessary to push a button and listen to "Chiamate Roma 3131" [popular radio programm] with Gianni Boncompagni while having a shower.The parallel with Internet is interesting. The year 1996 signs the edition of the Festival di San Remo that can be followed through Internet, the new thread that links the houses of the Italians together: maybe the preferences of the songs will be expressed thorugh modem in a few years!At the end of the 60es the development of the FM caused the explosive development of the italian radiophony: the socalled "private radios". In 1992, the inquiries for concession received by the Ministero per le Poste e telecomunicazioni [Ministy of post] were 15 for domestic radios and 3.983 for the local stations, that made of Italy the country with the highest ratio between broadcasting and inhabitants. You have also to consider the fact that according to Audioradio the people over 11 years of age that listened to the radio were 29.800.000 in 1990. The quality level of the radio has become better from the entering of the FM and it has become stereo. The listener has become even more demanding and he can fruire of it through sets of an higher qualitative level. On one side, the little headphones of the walkmans can reproduce the sound of the radio with a ten-year before unthoughble quality in the ears of the cityman who isolates himself from the World on the bus or wandering in the city. On the other side anybody keen of Hi Fi received, often turning up the nose, radio waves thorough an object which, in order not to make confusion, is necessary to give a new name: the tuner. It is nothing else a not ampified radio, that signs another way to find a more faithful to the orignal listening in the isolated space of every house.The advent of chips signed a further way in radio's life and in its listener's life, too. From the '80es the RDS signs on liquid crystal have been displaying the name of the radio, the telephone number and other short messages. It lets an immediate identification of the broadcaster, the immediate tuning of the best available frequency and even the authomatic listening of traffic news in the cars also when you are listening something different or the radio is off. Intelligent radio is reality and it has got the technology necessary to choose among the programms on the waves the one the listeners best prefers. Another step, not yet realized, but technologically speaking imminent is the DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting). This is a technic that obtains a reprodution of the audio signal very close to the original through the technic of analogical/digital conversion, like other supports in the diffusion of music (CD, Dat, Mini Disc, Dcc). It is also endowed with a series of accessory information, very close to the digital techniques with which the multimedial Pcs receives audio signals thorugh Internet.It is difficult for us to imagine if, in the future, the user will still be a radiolistener a telly watcher an Internet user o something else that will integrate the languages born from this systems or, viceversa, that will furtherly differentiate them. We should think that human be should have into itself such complex perceptive communicative levels that communication amplifies and separates the perceptive level from the emotional affective one. It is also difficult for us to think that emotions thoughts should be transmitted far away without a mediator body.
By the end, we can imagine a myth of radio's ones: the opportunity of crossing the space losing the body but maintaining the chance of "listening to the other", like Elias the protagonist of the Roman by Schneider : "However, there's a last sound, which we have to refer to. Such a thin sound that it should remain imperceivable in the unlimited clamour of the universe. But, it didn't happen, it came from Eschberg. It was the weak heart-beat of a not yet born baby: a female foetus. Elias forgot what he had heard and seen, but he couldn't forget the sound of that not born heart, becuase it belonged to the person who was destined to him from ever. It was the heart of his beloved."
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