On December 12, 1901, Italian scientist Guglielmo Marconi stood on a hill overlooking St. John's, Newfoundland, and received the first radio message ever to cross the Atlantic Ocean. That fateful message was just a few Morse pulses—the letter 'S', in fact—but it changed the face of the twentieth century. This month marks the 114th anniversary of Marconi's milestone, so we've asked Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings to get on the air and clear the air about some of the most appalling misconceptions from radio's first century.
The Debunker: Did Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" Cause a Mass Panic?The night before Halloween 1938, boy genius Orson Welles used his CBS Mercury Theatre on the Air program to broadcast a radio play of H. G. Wells's novel The War of the Worlds. The clever adaptation took the form of mock news bulletins from the tiny New Jersey village of Grover's Mill, where a Martian army was supposedly beginning its conquest of Earth. Banner headlines in front pages across America the next day recorded that the faux-news conceit was even more convincing than Welles had expected. "Radio Listeners in Panic," reported The New York Times. "Radio Play Terrifies Nation," said The Boston Globe.