Once upon a time: Radio times, back in 1923
Young people have always been a catalyst for change. Think of the first personal computer, the first laptop, and more recently how Facebook changed the face of our world.
Now think back 100 years or even less ago. The main form of communications was newspapers. Then something happened that revolutionised mass communication. The wireless technology developed far enough for the first radio services to be launched.
At first, the new technology came to Egypt hesitantly. Some people bought radio sets in Europe and used them to listen to foreign stations.
Then the locals ventured into the scene. Their efforts, tentative and timid at first, picked up momentum as time went by.
Somewhere between 1923 till 1935, radio technology spread in Egypt like wildfire. The first station may have been put together by Ahmed El-Gawahergi, a wireless enthusiast who in 1923 acquired a radio broadcasting station. It was a gift from a German friend also specialised in wireless services. According to Zakirat Masr Al-Moasra (Memory of Contemporary Egypt), a publication by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, El-Gawahergi's radio station couldn't begin operating his station immediately, but had to wait until enough locals had acquired radio receivers. The broadcast service he launched was called "Radio Al-Qahera".
A year later, another radio enthusiast, Habashi Girgis, who had studied wireless engineering in London, wanted to try his luck in the radio broadcasting business. He found some equipment, formerly belonging to the army, in a scrap yard in Wekalet Al-Balah and knew he could fix it. The equipment was too expensive for him, so he made a deal with the owner. The two would become partners in a radio station. Girgis fixed the equipment in his house in Shubra, but before launching the station, he had a fall out with his partner. Their differences came to the notice of other radio enthusiasts, including Ahmed El-Refaai, a publication executive, and Ismail Wahba, a lawyer. Eager to see the project go through, the two compensated El-Refaai's partner and had the equipment moved to a room in El-Refaai's house in Hadayeq Al-Qobba. It was from there that the Mahattet Radio Masr Al-Malakiya (the Royal Egypt Radio Station) began transmission.
At around the same time, Radio Magazine Egyptienne came into the scene. This radio station was started by a young Greek man intent on impressing his Italian fiancée by broadcasting love songs from his home on Champollion Street.
Another Italian, called Castenelli, launched a broadcast service from Suleiman Pasha Square. The station, operating between 9pm and midnight, specialised in music and songs. Its inauguration, on 1 August 1925, was noted by Al-Ahram.
On 10 May 1926, a royal decree was issued, allowing individuals to operate wireless reception and broadcasting sets upon the permission of the Ministry of Transport.
What was only a dream a century ago, became a reality within a decade or two. Now, as we tune in to satellite television, Internet broadcasts, and as we communicate instantly with friends all over the world, we need to look back and imagine the thrill of the first radio owners when, somewhere in the mid-1920s they were able to hear music piped into their rooms from bulky sets that were more fashionable than flat-screen, high-definition televisions are today.