The story of WOSU begins with early wireless code research in the Electrical Engineering department at The Ohio State University dating back to 1900.
The first sign of music and voices over the air through what came to be called “radio” in Columbus happened in early 1920. Ohio State’s new license application was accepted and the calls 8XI were assigned. 8XI meant Ohio State was considered an ”experimental station for the development of radio communications.”
Shortly before the license cleared federal approval though, OSU faculty had assisted a genius of a freshman named Bob Higgy with the creation of a transmitter to air phonographic records from OSU’s Robinson Lab. The headline in the March 8, 1920 Ohio State Lantern simply stated: “Latest New York Jazz Records Are Heard Over Frosh’s Wireless.”
It would actually be the first documented radio transmission of music in Columbus. Every Wednesday night, Higgy played his favorite 78-rpm jazz records to some 200 wireless receivers in the community. Instead of hearing the usual shrill dots and dashes of Morse code, local wireless operators heard Paul Whiteman concerts and Dixieland Jazz favorites. The transmitter Higgy developed from spare parts may have had a limited range, but it was a start. The Lantern branded him “the first wireless telephone maker in Columbus.”
From that start nearly a century ago and through decades of achievement and public service, WOSU Public Media today serves over two million citizens with radio, television and digital distribution of a variety of noncommercial programming along with educational learning services from pre-school to senior citizens.