David Sarnoff

David Sarnoff was born on 27th February 1891 and became a millionaire by founding NBC (the National Broadcasting Company) and by leading the Radio Corporation of American (RCA) from soon after it was founded up until when he retired in 1970. He also created Sarnoff’s law.

Sarnoff was born near Minsk in Russia. In 1900 he immigrated to New York City. He assisted his family with money through selling newspapers which he did before his classes started and after they had finished.  His father got tuberculosis in 1906 so when he was 15 Sarnoff had to start working full time to look after his family. He got a job working at the Commercial Cable Company as an office boy but on 30th September 1906 went to work at the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America. This was the beginning of his sixty year career in electronic communications.

After thirteen years he had been promoted to commercial manager of the company. During these thirteen years he learned on the job and by using books all about the business and technology of electronic communications. He installed wireless technology on a ship that was hunting seals near Newfoundland and Labrador in 1911. A year after this, he and two fellow operators attempted to validate what had happened to the Titanic at the Wanamaker station.

Over two years after this he got promoted to chief inspector and to the role of contracts manager for a high revenue company. He was the first person to display the application of radio on railroad which he did between Scranton in Pennsylvania and Binghamton in New York on the Lackawanna Railroad Company’s link. Through the First World War he continued working as Marconi’s Commercial Manager.

Marconi was bought by the General Electric Company and this helped Sarnoff to gain influence within the company. RCA bought its original radio station in 1926 in New York and established the NBC which was the original radio network of the United States.  After four years had passed Sarnoff became President of RCA in 1930. NBC was divided into two different networks which were called the Red network and the Blue network, the latter of which went on to become ABC Radio. Sarnoff was essential in setting up of the AM broadcasting radio business. He also formed Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) which was a film production company that also distributed films. He retired in 1970 at the age of 79 and died aged 80.

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