Hugo Gernsback watching WRNY television as shown on the cover of the November 1928 issue of Radio News
Hugo Gernsback was born in Luxembourg and studied electrical engineering in Germany. In 1904 at age 20, Gernsback emigrated to America to sell his automotive battery design and to start a mail order radio and electrical components business. The Electro Importing Company catalog soon grew into a magazine, Modern Electrics. The Experimenter Publishing Company was started in 1915 and by the early 1920s was publishing Radio News, Science and Invention, and Practical Electrics magazines. Gernsback had always included fiction stories in his magazines and in 1926 launched the first magazine devoted to scientific fiction, Amazing Stories. Experimenter Publishing also published numerous technical and general interest books.
KDKA in Pittsburgh was the first commercial radio station in the United States, having made its first broadcast in November 1920. By 1925 there were over 500 broadcast stations in the United States. KDKA was operated by Westinghouse Electric to help sell radio receivers. In addition to radio equipment manufacturers, many publishers were starting stations. Experimenter Publishing applied for and was granted a radio station license to transmit at 1160 kHz with the call sign WRNY. Over the next three years they would use 800 kHz, 1070 kHz, 970 kHz, 920 kHz and finally 1010 kHz. Its state of the art studio was in a hotel room on the 18th floor of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City and the 500 watt transmitter located on the hotel roof. The first broadcast was on June 12, 1925, and was covered by The New York Times. The opening speaker was former Senator Chauncey Depew followed by the "father of radio", Lee De Forest. The evening concluded with two hours of live musical entertainment. Experimenter Publishing used the radio station and the magazines to promote each other. Radio interviews with scientists or other radio notables would be reprinted in the magazines. Projects or articles from Gernsback's magazines would be discussed on WRNY. The station call letters, WRNY, appeared on each magazine cover.
WRNY and 2XAL transmitter site
By 1927 there were over fifty radio stations and 1.5 million radio sets in the New York metropolitan area. There were so many stations it was common for stations to share the same frequency at different times during the day. Early radio receivers were not very selective and there were frequent disputes over interference between stations with adjacent frequencies. The Radio Act of 1912 did not mention broadcasting and it was not clear who controlled radio stations, the states or the federal government. In November 1926, WRNY (800 kHz) moved its transmitter from the Roosevelt Hotel to Coytesville, New Jersey (across the Hudson River from Manhattan). Radio station WHN (830 kHz) claimed this blocked their signal and alleged WRNY was a "pirate" broadcaster. In 1927 the Federal Radio Commission was established with the authority to regulate broadcast stations. The commission formulated new frequency allocations that went into effect on June 15, 1927; WRNY and WPCH had to share time on 920 kHz.
The AM band radio transmitters used around New York City at this time were typically 500 or 1000 watts. To serve a larger area, station would also have a shortwave transmitter. In 1927, WRNY started the shortwave station 2XAL (later W2XAL) at 9700 kHz. This 500 watt station could be heard for thousands of miles. In September 1928, Hugo Gernsback wrote about a listener in New South Wales, Australia.