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Early in 1924, 34-year-old Edwin Armstrong returned to Columbia University, the scene 11 years earlier of his breakthrough invention of the regenerative circuit, while only a sophomore. His device had amplified radio waves a thousandfold and made radio practical. This time he had set his sights on eliminating static from radio, a problem most felt was insoluble. “Static, like the poor, will always be with us,” declared the chief engineer of AT&T.

THE INVENTOR’S WIFE STOOD WITH HER ARMS SPREAD across the filing cabinets, trying to cover the open drawers as three men struggled to remove the files they contained. She knew she couldn’t win, but she thought it might somehow help her husband legally if the men had to use force. The men pulled her away and started loading boxes. Then, with about a third of the files gone, they began to relax their guard. She seized a moment when they all were outside the office to slam the door and lock it.
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