Alpine: Birthplace of FM radio
Conceived and cultivated in the mind of Major Edwin Howard Armstrong, Alpine’s six-armed, red and white radio tower became the birthplace of FM radio. Whether traveling through Alpine by way of the Palisades Parkway or even from across the Hudson River, Armstrong’s FM radio tower and Alpine’s quite notable landmark, is visible for miles!
Armstrong's experimental FM station, W2XMN, used various frequencies to broadcast from the Alpine tower, first on 42.8 MHz; later on 44.1 MHz; and finally on 93.1 MHz in the modern FM band. As the story goes, the saga of FM radio was the result of a challenge given to Edwin Howard Armstrong by David Sarnoff, head of RCA and founder of NBC. Sarnoff was looking for something to eliminate the static which seemed to plague AM broadcasts. And so, after many years of arduous work, FM, or scientifically noted as wide-band frequency modulation, radio came to fruition. In 1933, Armstrong received his patent for the invention of FM radio and then, shortly after, in 1934, Armstrong began conducting the first major field tests, broadcasting from a lab in the Empire State Building.
Unfortunately, Sarnoff and RCA passed on purchasing Armstrong’s patent, fearing that FM radio may pose a threat to the AM empire built by RCA.
Cut to Alpine, New Jersey. After buying a plot of land along 9W in Alpine, Armstrong set to construct the antenna tower which remains standing today. The reason for the Alpine tower's unique six-prong design was to accommodate for future expansion. The radio tower in Alpine sent out its first official broadcast in 1938 on 42.8 MHz and has been recorded to have been heard for 100 miles in every direction!
Today, the 400-foot (122-m) Alpine tower is home to many two-way radio users, one modern FM station (Fairleigh Dickinson University's WFDU), and backup transmitters for several of New York's television stations. The W2XMN building also serves as a small museum to Major Edwin Howard Armstrong and the birth of FM radio.