Radio Inventor Silicon Valley

Early American Radio Inventor in Silicon Valley Location next to Art Museum

Early American Radio Inventor in Silicon Valley

It was in the Silicon Valley 100 years ago which the inventor, Charles “Doc” Herrold, started his regularly scheduled live radio broadcasts to listeners.

San Jose, California, the capital of Silicon Valley, and south of San Francisco, which once provided crops and livestock for the Presidios of San Francisco and Monterey in the 1700’s, is a thriving technology world and home to early radio inventors.

Doc Herrold, Early Radio Broadcasting Inventor

Yes, even with controversy whether the first radio broadcast was made before 1920, this is still one of the forthcoming events that changed the world.

In 1912, Charles “Doc” Herrold, considered the Father of Radio Broadcasting, made the first planned broadcast of his radio program from San Jose. And Herrold’s wife, Sybil, was known to be one of the first woman commentators on radio. It was the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake which changed Herrold’s life to make this event happen in radio history.

Califtornia Registered Historical Landmark

Site of First Broadcast CA plaque

Early Years of Herrold’s Life

Doc Herrold was living in San Francisco at the time of the 1906 earthquake. Herrold, raised in San Jose as a farmer’s son, went to Stanford University during a distinctive time at the turn of the century when inventions were coming almost daily in the revolution of communications. Herrold left Stanford without graduating and moved to San Francisco where he started his own company, then later worked at a San Francisco wireless company as a Chief Engineer.

During the earthquake, Herrold lost everything he had. He fled San Francisco after the earthquake as many people did and stayed in Stockton, CA for short time. He returned to San Jose in 1909 to open his own school, the Herrold College of Wireless and Engineering, as an excellent teacher. His spare time was spent inventing ways to make his wireless radio inventions talk.

Planned Radio Broadcasts

Herrold’s dream was sending entertainment into the homes of people by wireless tools. The term “broadcast” is originally an agriculture term that means spreading of seeds. It was in 1912, Herrold made the first planned “radio broadcast” spreading his radio programs to listeners from San Jose to Palo Alto.

People were able to tune in with their homemade radios throughout the region every week on Wednesday nights. In a later achievement, Herrold was asked to step in at the last minute to broadcast daily entertainment at the receiving stations of the World’s Fair in 1915 in San Francisco.

Radio Broadcasting Station

World’s First Radio Broadcasting Station

This is just one story of the lives that were changed because of the 1906 earthquake and is important to remember these stories of the early radio inventors in Silicon Valley.

There are two plaques displayed in downtown San Jose amidst the modern skyscrapers noting this achievement of the first planned radio broadcast of Charles “Doc” Herrold, on the corner of First and San Fernando Streets. Silicon Valley residents celebrate this 100 year anniversary of this radio broadcast inventor.

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Editor’s Note:  Thank you to the following online articles and pictures are used with permission from Donna West. Please contact for permission to use.


Gordon Greb and Mike Adams, Charles Herrold Story, Inventor of Radio Broadcasting McFarland & Company, Aug. 15, 2003

Copy of the Charles Herrold Story Book [Ad]

Charles Herrold Story, VHS and DVD sponsored by Perham Foundation and KTEH

© Donna West Apr 26, 2009  The copyright of the article Charles Herrold Father of Radio Broadcasting in Inventors is owned by Donna West. Permission to republish Charles Herrold Father of Radio Broadcasting in print or online has been granted by the author in writing for this reprint.

Charles Herrold Story Radio Broadcast

Downtown San Jose, CA Charles Herrold Story