When you listen to the stories of those who were around for the Golden Age of Radio, it sounds like a very special time. The visual presented of a world before television is one made of closer knit families, due to among other things the quality time spent around the home radio. In comparison, many of us spend our down time in different rooms of a house watching multiple televisions. No need for compromise on a program, no sharing of common laughter or tears brought on by live productions only available in audio.
If you ask someone from that era to define what was so special about huddling around a piece of machinery that for a long time was riddled with intruding noises and low level volume, you might be surprised at the response. In my experience, I was not only led to understand that it was a matter of bringing the family together for a mutual interest. There is a deeper, different aspect I would not have come with on my own, even after listening by myself to some of the recording so fold radio classics.
It turns out that while the early radios, crackled, hissed and popped due to the intervening appliances and atmospherics, this had an interesting effect on listeners. This was studied by psychologists and advertising professionals and it was confirmed that because people had to actively pay attention to what was been broadcast they focused more intently. What they learned was that when sound is low or muffled, people pay more attention because they have no option if they want hear what is occurring in a program.
Then, once improvements were made in the design of the radio, and the transmissions another observation was made. When the need to focus on hearing was removed, the listeners were able to put their energy into using their imaginations.
So what is missing when we actually do sit down together to watch television, that the Golden Age of Radio had going for it? Well unless we intentionally turn down the sound we will not be as centered on the material being presented, and we certainly won’t be accessing our imaginations as the visual image is provided.
Thus, in the case of age of radio versus age of television, I personally would say radio was the better medium. At least if quality time is the objective being sought. As I mentioned, I have taken the time to listen to a couple of the old radio recordings and it took me a little bit of time to settle into it, just like my experience with silent pictures. Once I had acclimated to having no picture to access, while listening to a few of the drama shows, I was smitten.