Category Archives: the prehistory

Cablecasting to the Victorians: in the prehistory of radio, part 2

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 09.30.16

What’s the physical reality of pre-radio cable broadcasting?  Here is a timeline.

1877:  The idea of worldwide telephone broadcasting exists, shown by the harried cartoon performer in ‘Terrors of the Telephone,’ in the New York magazine Daily Graphic.  A popular song out of St. Louis, ‘The Wondrous Telephone,’ alludes to the idea of broadcasting lectures and music into the home.3

1880:  Clément Ader creates the Compagnie générale des téléphones de Paris for the purpose of broadcasting by wire.

1881:  The International Electrical Exposition in Paris demonstrates Ader’s telephone system at the Palais d’Industrie, with live performances from the Opéra, the Opéra-Comique, and, with some technical difficulty, the Théàtre-Français.It is in stereo,and is sensitive enough for listeners to hear the prompter.French President Jules Grévy is so pleased with this system that he has the Théàtre-Français piped into the Elysée Palace, along with the Opéra and Odéon Theater. Victor Hugo is so delighted with the demonstration that he takes his children to see the system up close at the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs.He recalls it this way in his diary:

“Nous sommes allés avec Alice et les deux enfants à l’hôtel du Ministre des Postes. A la porte, nous avons rencontré [the chemist, Marcelin] Berthelot qui venait. Nous sommes entrés. C’est très curieux. On se met aux oreilles deux couvre-oreilles qui correspondent avec le mur, et l’on entend la representation de l’Opéra, on change de couvre-oreilles et l’on entend le Théàtre-Français, Coquelin, etc. On change encore et l’on entend l’Opéra-Comique.

Les enfants étaient charmés et moi aussi. Nous étions seuls avec Berthelot, le minister, son fils et sa fille qui est fort jolie.”

In Budapest there are experimental opera broadcasts, to 12 subscribers at a time, over a six-month-old system in trials.

1884:  Special transmission to the Ajuda Palace for the king and queen of Portugal, who wished to attend the premiere of ‘Laureana’ at the San Carlo Opera House, Lisbon, but were unable, being in mourning for the princess of Saxony. Edison director Gower Bell, who managed the feat, is awarded the Military Order of Christ. A Munich theater manager runs a telephone line to his villa on the Starnberger See to monitor the success of his shows. The Berlin Philharmonic is connected by phone to its own opera house. The opera in Antwerp is heard by ministers 30 miles away in Brussels.

1885:  The San Carlo Opera, Lisbon, offers subscriptions by wire to its 90 seasonal performances; the putative audience extends as far as Palhavã, Olivais, and Braça de Prata.

1889:  Ader’s system is first called the Théâtrophone.

1890:  First successful commercial telephone-based entertainment service, the Compagnie du Théâtrophone, set up by M.M. Marinovitch and Szaravady. It is a system of coin-operated boxes in waiting rooms and restaurants around Paris,and the listener can choose from 5 different city venues. Individual subscriptions are available too, but the cost is steep, at 180 francs a year, and 15 more each time the system was used. Across the Atlantic, at the electrical exhibition in the Lenox Lyceum, Americans hear bits of comic opera from New York theaters, and also instrumental music, speeches, and recitations from Boston and Philadelphia.No commercial service like the Théâtrophone exists in the United States, however.10

1891:  In London the Universal Telephone Company puts 50 microphones into the Royal Italian Opera House in Covent Garden, and 50 more into the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, all for the sole use of Sir Augustus Harris, at St John’s Wood, who even has a special extension to his stables.

1892:  Demonstration telephone performance of The Mountebanks, a comic opera, from London’s Lyric Theatre. The evening’s revenues pay for the launch of The London Electrophone Company.11 The Electrophone exchange is private, housed in a building adjoining the General Post Office Exchange in Gerrard Street; there is a listening salon there.12

1893:  The Telefon Hirmondò, or ‘Telephone Herald’ (the expression is Magyar), is launched in Budapest, as an audio newspaper, direct to several thousand ready subscribers.13 Home subscribers can listen through their municipal telephones if they have them,14 or special earphones can be strung into their houses.15

1896:  Private connections extend to a variety of London venues, but still only for the affluent: it costs £5 to install the equipment in one’s house, and £10 to keep the wire live for the year.

1897:  The wired entertainment service grows in popularity in England. The Electrophone Company works in concert with the National Telephone Company, so that home subscribers must be connected with the telephone system in order to communicate with the Electrophone Company’s switch room. The electrophone receiver is fitted as an extension to the household telephone apparatus. There are also now sixpence-operated listening boxes in public venues like the Café Royal and the Piccadilly Restaurant: you put your coin in and wind up a clockwork timer that keeps the connection open for several minutes. It is popular music, for the most part, running during theatre hours; a remote-control pointer on the box indicates which venue is playing at the moment. Service is so popular that it originates even in popular churches, where the microphones are disguised as Bibles and hassocks. The Company invites public inspection at the Soho headquarters and at the Victorian Era Exhibition, Earl’s Court.16

1899:  The Queen at Windsor Castle hears the Electrophone for the first time, when cadets and schoolboys sing to her from Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. She and guests then listen to a concert at St. James’ hall.17

1901:  Hirmondòexperiments with coin-operated public listening posts.18 World’s Work observes in passing that there is still nothing like this system in the United States. The popularity of the Electrophone in England is still increasing, and rates are dropping, by more than 75%. Gone are installation charges, too. And the equipment is better. The Company offers a loudspeaker, able to fill an entire room with sound. They are proposing service to moving railway cars.19

1913:  In celebration of the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France, the Electrophone and Théâtrophone systems exchange attractions.

1922:  Théâtrophone-style feed from Stockholm Opoera House used for experimental radio broadcast.

1925:  Hirmondò begins radio simulcasting.


Says who:

  1. Reproduced in A Tower in Babel: A History of Broadcasting in the United States to 1933(New York: Oxford University Press, 1966).
  2. Marvin, 209-10. The hot updraft from the footlights at the Théàtre-Français interfered badly with the microphones. See “The Telephone at the Paris Opera,” Scientific American, December 31, 1881, 422-3.
  3. Illustrated in detail in “Souvenirs de l’exposition d’électricité,” Le Magasin pittoresque (1882): 91-4, and more broadly later in Théodose du Moncel, “Le telephone,” Bibliothèque des merveilles, 5thedition (Paris: Librarie Hachette, 1887), 117-27.
  4. Marvin, op. cit., for much of this overview.
  5. Victor Hugo, Choses vues. Souvenirs, journaux, cahiers, 1849-1885, ed. Hubert Juin (Paris: Gallimard, 1974), entry for November 11, 1881.
  6. “The Theatrephone,” [sic] Electrical Review, June 21, 1890, 1.
  7. “Wanted, a Théatrophone,” Elecrical Review, July 5, 1890.
  8. Unlike “the weighing machines and pull-testers that so overcrowd our waiting-rooms everywhere.” “The Theatrophone in Paris,” Electrical Review, August 29, 1891.
  9. Link expired.
  10. “Digital Futures MSc course from the University of Plymouth,” September 2004, at, 12. Link expired.
  11. “Telephonic News Distribution,” The Electrical World, March 18, 1893, 212.
  12. “Telephone newspaper,” The Electrical World, November 4, 1893, 362. There were technical tricks to keeping sound quality high along what amounted to a party line and for preventing subscribers from talking back into the system.
  13. “The Telephone Newspaper,” The Electrical Engineer (London), September 6, 1895, 257.
  14. J. Wright, “The Electrophone,” The Electrician (London), September 10, 1897, 343-44, discusses the technical points in detail.
  15. “The Queen and the Electrophone,” The Electrician (London), May 26, 1899, 144.
  16. Thomas S. Denison, “The Telephone Newspaper,” World’s Work, April, 1901, 640-3.
  17. “Electrophone in England,” Electrical Review, October 5, 1901, 414.

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory

Cablecasting to the Victorians: in the prehistory of radio, part 1


Before there was radio, there were phones. Before there was broadcast radio, there was broadcasting by wire. Both of these things originated in a certain amount of nerdy improvisation, and a certain amount of business opportunism, and the success of both these things was impeded by a surprising level of resistance from their potential audiences. Astonishingly to us, contemporaries were not widely receptive to piped-in news and entertainment. How these two things germinated, and how they interrelated, is complex, and not really understood.  But it’s worth pointing out to the historian of early wireless, at the very least, that by the coming of radio the public did have about a generation’s-worth of experience with the idea of mass communication by electricity. People knew it could be done, and many of them had clear expectations about what it ought to be like. The systems were actually quite good, too. Why they worked, and spread the way they did (or didn’t), is a matter of cultural history as much as technical history. That’s kind of my thing. So here I offer some work I did ten years ago for the Antenna (vol. 20, no. 2), the newsletter of the Mercurians, who are the communications interest group within the Society for the History of Technology.  I’ll serialize it and update it a bit.  And I’ll try to make the writing better.

Think of cable broadcasting as a French invention from the 1880’s, that in its first few decades existed in varying forms in France, Portugal, Britain, the United States, and Hungary. The reasonable observer would expect such a thing in these places, there being an affluent and consuming public in all of them and also a maturing telephone system, through whose wires these enterprises could transmit. Telephones were good enough technically that Londoners, for example, could hear the French system if they chose to. And interest in entertainment by wire was well in place in all these places too. Late-night line operators improvised concerts for each other on quiet phone and telegraph networks routinely, as the Boston Herald reported in 1891, for example. So, there were numerous commercial trials, some big and some small. The Home Telephone Company of Painesville, Ohio, broadcast a live recital to a thousand customers in 1905, for example, and the New York Magnaphone and Music Company broadcast a recorded one in 1912.1

Scholarship that describes and explains all this is spotty, focusing generally on the regional technical variations, and concluding that the whole undertaking was doomed by the arrival of broadcast radio,2 though exactly what happened at the end of the wired service is not actually clear. The scholarship ignores, in any case, the very basic and very interesting question of why some systems did well and others did not. For they were not all the same, and the populations that used them weren’t either. The Portuguese system died early; the American experiments never reached commercial sustainability; and though the French and British Théâtrophone and Electrophone appear to have lasted through the Great War, their coverage was never as close to universal as their designers had hoped. The mighty Telefon Hirmondó in Budapest, by contrast, was instantly and enduringly successful, eventually simulcasting with radio, and staying popular with listeners until its destruction in the Second World War.

Why? What made Hungarian broadcasting so hearty, and its analogues in the west so sickly? The answer has nothing to do with broadcasting technicalities. It is a story of legal and cultural differences instead.


Tune in next … for an Overview of the Systems


Says who:

  1. Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking about Electric Communications in the Late Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 212. There was also Thaddeus Cahill’s strange and gigantic Telharmonium project that offered an early form of Muzak to restaurants along Broadway. See Thomas Martin, “The Telharmonium: Electricity’s Alliance with Music,” Review of Reviews, April 1906, 420-3.
  2. Robert Hawes, Radio Art (London: The Green Wood Publishing Co., 1991), 24.

Picture:  Théâtrophone, Jules Chéret (1890) © 2018 Jules Chéret / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory

Victorian online conferencing

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 10.36.18

There was a Morse code teleconference in mid-century, of 33 American Telegraph offices between Boston and Calais, Maine, a circuit of 700 miles.  The idea was to act on the resignation of one of the company officers.  Speeches were made, remarks received, and the meeting adjourned with kindly feelings after an hour very efficiently spent.   

Punch magazine, delighted by this, perseverated on the need for a streamlined electric Parliament.   


Says who:

George B. Prescott, History, Theory and Practice of the Electric Telegraph, 1860, p. 350.

Picture:  World telegraph map, 1855.  Computer History Museum:   

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory

What telephone service was like in 1890

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 12.20.58

It’s no bad thing for radio scholars to consider what the public expected of communications generally at various stages. At the end of the 1880s, in America, telephone calls several states away were practical; some of the lines were now buried (said to be impossible 10 years before) or under water (submarine telephony had been made to work to about 10 miles). Loudspeakers brought sermons to the living room, and plans were underway to bring music on tap into homes by subscription, pending improvements to acoustic fidelity. The Europeans were already doing this quite a bit. I’ll post separately on that.  Exactly 11 years from now, Marconi will say he heard his famous letter S from Poldhu.  Small wonder that many Americans were ready to hear about it by then.  

Says who:

Remark by E.J. Hall, Jr., vice-president of the American Telegraph and Telephone Company at a telephone convention in Detroit, in “Extension and Improvement of Telephone Service,” The Electrical World, September 20, 1890, p. 197.   

Picture credit: Chicago Public Library:

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory

Good Victorian science

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 09.36.51

Signalling beyond a third of a mile or so was a daring idea in 1892. The demonstrated range so far was only a few hundred yards. But contemporaries suspected that much could be done yet with wireless electricity. Their inferential models of current in the air were growing in sophistication. William Crookes, the physicist, aware of the work of Heinrich Hertz and Oliver Lodge, and having himself worked a bit with David Hughes, imagined electrical intelligence vibrating in the ether in all directions, or refracted in directional ‘sheafs of rays’ through pitch lenses, in wavelengths of thousands of miles down to a few feet. Received signals ought to be made louder by reflection, he thought. Signals fade, he observed, ‘according to the law of inverse squares.’ He was aware that receivers could be made to ‘respond to wavelengths between certain defined limits and be silent to all others,’ by ‘turning a screw or altering the length of a wire.’ In this he was ahead of where Marconi was ten years later. Signals restricted to as little band space as possible, added, would be difficult to find, and therefore tantamount to private.   

Says who:   

William Crookes, “Some Possibilities of Electricity,” Fortnightly Review, February 1, 1892, pp. 174-6.

Picture:  Assembling cathode-ray ‘Crookes Tubes’, in H. Snowden Ward, “Marvels of the New Light: Notes on the Röntgen Rays. The Windsor Magazine, vol. 3 (Jan 1896):372-84.

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory

The Ether in 1897

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 23.37.15

1897 was a fascinating year.  (Ignore the book jacket above for a minute.)  Dracula came out in May.  Ever read it?  Not seen the movie — but read the novel?  The original story was nothing like the Hollywood iteration, with bloody-mouthed babes in nightgowns and all that.  The original one is about science.  More accurately, it’s about inferential logic and epidemiology.  Read it, and you’ll see what I mean.  Dracula was published within a year or two of when (a) microbes were first seen under microscopes and (b) their relation to operating room infections was posited.

So 1897 is an age of modelling invisible systems that drive visible ones.

The ether.  Here I come to my point.  In case you wondered, the ether, in 1897, was understood to have a density expressible on the order of 10 to the minus-27th power, calculated somehow ‘from the energy with which the light from the sun strikes the earth.’  It is a substance so fine that atoms sit like marinated cherries within it.  It perfuses all matter in the universe, so that all physical things are in continuity with all other physical things.  Yet things are not continuous with the ether.  Vibrate the ether, and the vibration will pass through distant objects – but the objects themselves will not vibrate.  The earth does not push through the ether, like a boat; the ether allows the earth to pass, as water allows a moving sieve to pass.  Rays, of light or electricity or Röntgen beams, move as vibrations of the ether.  For reasons not yet understood, the ether will conduct every kind of ray through every kind of substance.  Nor does it conduct rays at the same speed through every substance.  The ether in glass carries light at about 120,000 miles per second; through the air, closer to 192,000.  Glass alone, with no ether inside it, allows light to pass at a pokey 3 miles per second.

Oliver Lodge posited that ether functioned in the physics of spiritual life in the afterworld.  That’s another post, probably not on this site.  He was still writing about ‘The Effect of Light on Long Ether Waves’ in 1919 (Nature volume 102, page 464).  ‘The Ether’ was still slang for radio at least into the ’20s.  That too is a whole ‘nother post.  (Now you can look at the illustration above.)

Marconi at Poldhu is only 5 years away now.  It’s amazing, what we can do with the wrong model sometimes.


Says who (except for the Dracula or Oliver Lodge parts):

H.J.W. Dam, “Telegraphing without Wires. A Possibility of Electrical Science,” McClure’s Magazine, March, 1897, pp. 383-92.

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory

Poldhu-Newfoundland 1901: actually a shortwave achievement?


It’s well-trammelled ground, over whether Marconi really got a low-frequency signal across the Atlantic in 1901, like he’s famous for doing.  More precisely, the issue is whether he could have.  We don’t know what frequency he was using (Marconi didn’t either), and there are gaps in our knowledge about his equipment.  So we don’t know for sure that it was possible.  But David Sumner, G3PVH, in a superb piece of reconstructive detective work, has shown that the big jump may well have happened – but not at low frequency.  If it happened, it very likely occurred by spurious emission in the 30 meter shortwave band.

It was John Belrose, VE2CV, who gave us the canonical 500 kHz, or 560 meters, at which we suppose the transmission occurred, and he it was who also pointed out the difficulty of a long-distance leap at that frequency, particularly during daylight.  There sits the problem.  But Sumner’s argument goes like this.  A spark transmitter can generate secondary signals with high peak power.  The ‘jigger’ coil Marconi was using may have a self-resonance at about 10 mHz.  The transmitting antenna, from what we know of it, could have been resonant at that frequency, as could the receiving antenna (which, incidentally, was wind-borne on its kite in the right direction for great-circle propagation).  The feed-point impedance at 10 mHz would suit Marconi’s particular coherer better than one at 500 kHz.  This coherer and the earphones he used form a sensitive enough detector to receive HF broadcasting.  Normal propagation on 30 meters at the time of Marconi’s documented reception is transatlantic.  (I myself have crossed the Atlantic on 10 mHz lots of times, and at 100 watts peak, not his 10 megawatts.)

The technical details of Sumner’s sleuthing are a gripping read.  He made his own jigger, after Ambrose Fleming’s Poldhu design, and tested it with an antenna.  He sourced a Collier-Marr ‘phone at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science.  He takes us through previous work on coherer curves, too, a fascinating trip all by itself.    It’s a magnificent article, and its bibliography is full of treasures for the scholar, as you’d expect.


Says who:

John S. Belrose, ‘A radioscientist’s reaction to Marconi’s first transatlantic wireless experiment,’ Conference Digest, 2001 IEEE Antennas & Propagation Society International Symposium, July 8-13, vol. 1, 22-5.

David Sumner, ‘UK to Newfoundland, 1901 Style – the possibility of HF communication,’ RadCom, July 2018, 44-54.

Picture:  Wikimedia Commons (

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory, to 1912

The fund of knowledge in 1898


The professional community was surprised, and skeptical, when Marconi began achieving reliable communication over long distances. Here is what they deemed knowable at the time they began paying attention.

They wondered what it was that activated the coherer. Magnetism? That doesn’t work, they found. So it was something else. Whatever it is, it even works in vacuums. ‘Making and breaking’ current in an electromagnet, with a ‘vibrator’ or an ‘interrupter’, is how you made a transformer create whatever it was; or you could use alternating current. Artificial daylight apparatus activated coherers, they saw. So did trolley lines. Both of these generated small amounts of spark. So maybe it had to do with spark. But not everyone thought spark was strictly necessary.   W.J. Clark told the New York American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1898 that he was able to transmit short distances with no gap discharge at all. Marconi, he said, was surprised by this.

As for what these emanating currents did, Heaviside’s model was the gold standard for modelling them.  (Institute president in 1898, Arthur Kennelly (pictured), was so fascinated by this that propagation experts three years later came to speak of a Heaviside-Kennelly layer in the atmosphere.)  The emanating currents go in waves, they could tell for sure. Wave shape seemed to them like donuts. This seemed justified by J.J. Thomson following Maxwell. ‘Hertz waves’ and ‘Lodge waves’ looked like different things, however. Also, waves on the ground didn’t move like waves in the air, they could see as well. They reasoned that the surface of the earth ‘must be a conductor’. They could even tell that waves polarize, depending on whether antennas are vertical or horizontal. Transmitter builders were noticing that finer secondary coil wire worked better, too, though no one could say why.

Transmitting powers matter, they understood. Range goes up as power goes up. They reckoned that something like 95% of a spark coil’s power is used up in heat. They wondered if one could abate this simply with air-cooling, and make a better transmitter. Marconi’s school of thought in 1899 had it that you could also increase the length of your spark to increase your range. Longer spark length ought to mean stronger signals, owing to more EMF. But efficiency was a problem here. Each spark ‘is followed by a series of oscillations’, opined one Dr. Pupin (who also suspected that the number of sparks per second has something to do with the frequency of the signal). He imagined that the sparks dampened each other, depending on how rapidly they came. This attenuates signal strength (and it also generates spurious emissions on unknown and unknowable frequencies). He wished it were possible to generate oscillations without sparks. Hertz too had shown the importance at very high frequencies of finding some way to dampen rapidly decaying waves, for efficiency’s sake. People were talking about ‘decrement’, a special term for the decay rate of oscillations. Overcoming this problem was the rationale behind the ‘quenched gap’ a few years hence.

Marconi’s receiving apparatus was considered insensitive in 1899, a generally troublesome device worthy of abandonment as soon as possible. Coherers limited Morse code speed, to about 20 words per minute. No one had yet made exact measurements of what a coherer could do, partly because better techniques were already in sight. The super-sensitive receiver idea in 1898, the coherer being recognised as a blunt instrument, was a galvanometer. Whatever the receiver, they were inclined to think that signal strength that dissipated over distance requires a longer antenna to receive, because more wire accrues more volts.

Changing wire length brought its own problems. Engineers were aware of frequency changes, in a rudimentary way, and conceived of the possibility of tuning signals. 8-500 ‘breaks’ per second was the norm in 1898 spark transformers, and they could hear the corresponding variations in the musical pitch of the spark. This might be a way of tuning, they thought. Or maybe tuning was going to be a matter of condensers at the antenna feed-point, that control ‘damping’. They weren’t sure. C.O. Mailloux was adamant that transmitted waves resonate (and he used that word) at the receiving end only if the two sets were ‘synchronized’ with each other, so that the waves followed ‘in phase’. What this meant mathematically he wasn’t sure yet. Marconi himself was not even clear what the relationship was supposed to be between the height of sending and receiving wires. But broadly speaking, professionals knew that the electrical properties of transmitting and receiving wires ought to be as congruent as possible. They also knew that antenna size related to wavelength, and logically, that frequency is a function of wavelength. Fessenden declared that wave-length ‘is about four times the length of the wire’ used for transmitting. Thus it is that late Victorians were probably using quarter-wave verticals worked against the ground. (They could also tell that antenna ground connections were better on wet days.)


Says who: ‘The Possibilities of Wireless Telegraphy.’ Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. 1899. 607-628. This is the transcript of a New York meeting, held on the same night as a parallel Institute meeting, in Chicago, to discuss Marconi, his assumptions, and his methods.


Photo:  IEEE Global History Network, link here.

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory

before commercial radio, commercial telegraph

Here are the telegraph men waiting on President Lincoln, played (superbly) by Daniel Day Lewis.  I wondered as I watched this how busy the lines really were.

Turns out, all-night press traffic by telegraph was big business by 1860.  Almost every US daily had signed up to the Associated Press news feed, now 10 years old.  The appetite for political news even before the Civil War was so voracious that by special arrangement the New York Herald got the transcript of a speech by Henry Clay hours after he spoke it in Kentucky, clear back in 1847.  It cost $500, which they were happy to pay.*  I notice that Augustus Melmotte, Trollope’s villain financier in the early ‘seventies, stayed in touch with San Francisco and Salt Lake City as though they were suburbs of London.**


Says who:

*George B. Prescott, History, Theory and Practice of the Electric Telegraph, 1860, p. 385 ff.

**The Way We Live Now, Chapter 10, first paragraph.  This is page 47 in the 1875 Harper edition.

Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory

Jurassic radio: Mahlon Loomis

loomis library of congress

Mahlon Loomis applied for letters patent in July of 1872 for a kind of wireless telegraphy between towers on two mountaintops.  His idea was to allow a voltage gradient to build in each tower, passively, a system of static electricity drawn from the atmosphere, that could be discharged by an operator down the hill sitting at his key.  The signal itself he conceived as travelling from one tower to the other underground.  He claimed to have managed the feat, too, with kites instead of towers, between two mountains in West Virginia, 14 miles apart.  He asked Congress for research money, which was denied.  It is a truism of wireless telegraphy schemas all the way to and including Preece that signals were expected to move through ground (or water), not air.  It was for Marconi to render practical Hertzian waves.  Loomis’s is unusual among the old designs for conceiving no process of induction, between long parallel wires.  On paper this one looks the most like radio.  Maybe it was.

Who says:  The picture above, diagramming the West Virginia triumph, resides in the Library of Congress.  The narrative, in its pre-Preece context, comes from John Joseph Fahie, A History of Wireless Telegraphy, 1838-1899 (Blackwood, 1899), pp. 73-8.


Leave a comment

Filed under the prehistory