One day premature, but it's worth it for those who
read their email every other day!
On December 12, at 12:00 noon, it is officially
the 100 year anniversary of the existence of radio!
DJ's, please mention this on the air, as you'll never
again be able to wish "radio" a happy 100th year old
birthday again. Think of all the RECYCLING that has
been done on the air over the past 100 years by DJ's
who didn't even realize they were doing it, like when
they immitated personalities they so admired but
curtailed them to their liking?
Sounds a little familiar, oddly....
It was Dec. 12, 1901 - 100 years ago this month. The 27-year-old Italian
inventor reported hearing a series of three faint clicks - the letter S in
The electromagnetic signal, picked up by a copper wire suspended from the
kite, came from about 3,500 kilometres away in Poldhu, England.
"Electric waves. . . had traversed the Atlantic, serenely ignoring the
curvature of the Earth," Marconi later wrote.
It was an incredible technological feat.
The headline in St. John's Evening Herald was typical of worldwide
reaction: The Wireless Wizard! Marconi Spans the Ocean.
For his efforts, Marconi was awarded the Nobel prize. More importantly, he
became widely known as the father of radio, not to mention every other
wireless gizmo invented since the turn of the last century.
To mark the 100th anniversary of Marconi's experiment, Gov. Gen. Adrienne
Clarkson will travel to St. John's next week to take part in a re-enactment
that will be beamed worldwide via satellite.
It will be a proud moment for Newfoundland and Labrador.
But a closer look at the history books reveals a little-known story few
Newfoundlanders would be proud to share.
On the same day the world learned of Marconi's accomplishment, a lawyer
showed up at the inventor's hotel, according to D. R. Tarrant's new book,
The lawyer handed Marconi a letter threatening a lawsuit and demanding
immediate removal of all experimental "appliances" from the colony.
The man behind the letter was the local superintendent of the
Anglo-American Telegraph Co. The company's executives, who held a monopoly
on all transatlantic telegraph cables, knew killer competition when they
"It was a business decision," says Judith Tulloch, a historian with Parks
Canada in Halifax. "The cable company had made a lot of money from
The impact of the letter was immediate.
Marconi had planned to repeat his experiment the following day on Signal
Hill. But he instead offered a lecture to local dignitaries.
The legal threat also forced Marconi to scuttle plans to build permanent
wireless stations at either Signal Hill or nearby Cape Spear, the most
easterly point in North America.
Within days, Marconi had his equipment packed up and sent back to England.
He left for Ottawa where he struck a deal with the Canadian government to
build a wireless station in Nova Scotia, near Glace Bay.
Still, Newfoundland can always boast about being to be the birthplace of
radio, even though its father didn't stick around very long.
To capitalize on that theme, CBC Radio in Newfoundland created a
promotional campaign this year featuring ads that proclaim: "Radio was born
here. It lives here."
But again, history tells a much different story.
Newfoundland's claim as radio's birthplace "is a bit of hyperbole," says
Tulloch, an expert on Marconi. "(Radio waves) had been used quite
extensively in Britain. There were lots of experiments to show it worked. .
. Marconi was one of a number of researchers."
While theories about radio waves date back to the early 1800s, it wasn't
until 1888 that German physicist Heinrich Hertz verified those theories by
transmitting and receiving electromagnetic signals across a room.
To this day, the frequency of radio waves is measured in units called hertz.
It was a journal article by Hertz that inspired a young Marconi to make his
own radio equipment. By 1895, six years before his triumph on Signal Hill,
Marconi had built a device that could ring a bell without wires.
That's why the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union believes
radio was born on the Marconi estate near Bologna, Italy - not
Newfoundland. The organization celebrated radio's 100th birthday on Oct. 7,
To confuse matters, there was another 100th birthday in March 1999 in
England, complete with a re-enactment.
A century earlier, Marconi succeeded in sending wireless messages across
the English Channel - a 50-kilometre span from Wimereux, France to South
Foreland in England.
It was the first time two countries had been linked by a radio signal.
By 1899, Marconi had already proven his wireless transmitter could overcome
great distances. But there was one more physical obstacle to overcome: the
Scientists at the time said it couldn't be done. They were convinced radio
waves would simply sail into space once they hit curvature of the Earth.
Marconi would prove them wrong. But not in Newfoundland.
Soon after his company completed work on the wireless station at Poldhu in
1901, Marconi succeeded in sending signals to a station in Crookhaven on
the Irish coast - a beyond-the-horizon distance of 350-kilometres.
With the horizon bridged, the Atlantic was the next great challenge.
While the experiment on Signal Hill was hardly a pioneering effort, its
symbolic appeal was undeniable, Tulloch says. Marconi captured imaginations
around the world by bridging such a great distance.
"It was the linking the continents that mattered," she says. "Crossing the
ocean - it's the incredible distance."
Every Man every.manATpressthebutton.com
Press The Button, Midnight - 3 am Sundays
WRUW, 91.1 FM, Cleveland, OH
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