Recently, walking through the grounds of HASYLAB at the German Synchrotron DESY (we are NOT a Daisy!) I was reminded of my favourite book on radio, namely The Science of Radio, by Paul J. Nahin (ISBN 1563963477).  Briefly, this book manages to combine Fourier theory and the origin of the term "soap opera" in a digestible whole.  People might be put off by the fact that he deals with vacuum tubes /valves rather than transistors, but valves are MUCH more transparent, not merely because they are encased in a glass bottle but because in their mode of operation it is MUCH clearer how the radio itself is actually working.  Transistors are based on quantum-semiconductory physics, such that it takes the magic of a storyteller from Baghdad, namely Jim Al-Khalili, to begin to explain how they actually work.

What brought this to mind was the sign
Funkenbildung vermeiden
on a cage full of gas cylinders.  Funken?  This made me think of the great German electronics company Telefunken, as well as all those stations with Rundfunk in their name.  Turning to my favourite online German<>English dictionary, I find that the sign means "avoid sparking".

When I was a lad, we used to call radio the "wireless", from the days when wireless transmission was something new compared to cable-based telegraphic and telephonic communication.  But now I realized that the "funk" in these German names referred to sparking, and that Rundfunk, meaning broadcast, referred back to the days of spark transmission at the start of the 20th century.  And this was amply covered in Paul Nahin's book, not simply as a historical vignette, but seriously introducing certain aspects of electronic science and technology in the context best suited for these.

This history is preserved in the Telefunken logo. (image: