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100 Years Since The First Transatlantic Broadcast 182

Diarmaid O'Loughlin writes "It's the 100th year since the first comunications over the pond The Marconi Radio Club and The Falmouth Amateur Radio Association Amateur Radio operators are making plans to celebrate a Marconi world historical event. December 12, 2001 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first Trans-Atlantic radio transmission." The BBC is also carrying the story as well. Embedded Geek adds a link to coverage on, pointing out that "there will be events in the ham community to commemorate it, including a reenactment broadcast (look here under 'Marconi's Celebrations' for others)." This would be a nice day to swing by the Cape Cod station, too.
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100 Years Since The First Transatlantic Broadcast

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  • Too bad for CBC (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rackemup ( 160230 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:09PM (#2693471) Homepage
    Since the techs at CBC are on strike, the tribute to Marconi special that had been planned for this week was cancelled.

    I would have liked to have watched that. TV and learning, who'd have thought?

  • by bmongar ( 230600 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:10PM (#2693476)
    I thought Marconi was denied patents on the radio because they were already covered by patents from Tesla. Sorry, don't have time to look for links now.
    • Fact is there are several people who claim to have invented radio, and all of some creditability, though there may have been some revision of the history involved. (THe russians in particular claim to have done so first, but there have been accuzations that they re-wrote history to call those who were close inventers - due to the Soviet rule we will probably never know for sure)

      In any case, Marconni was important in radio even if he invented nothing - he popularized it, and was responsiable for making this transmission possibal. How much invented he did is open for debate.

      • THe russians in particular claim to have done so first

        My memory isn't very good for things which happened long before I was born, but IIRC the russian "inventor" publicly recognized that Marconi came first.
    • No, neither of them did. All good southerners know that Nathan Stubblefield [] invented radio in 1892.

      • Tesla is credited for inventing radio by the USPTO, because his 1881 Tesla coil was able to transmit power over large distances, using high frequency electromagnetic waves (radio). His original device was not used for voice communication, but power transmission. A true pioneer, he was working on the last mile power delivery problem before we even had a power grid in the US.

        In truth, Marconi received the patent originally, but the USPTO overturned Marconi's patent in 1943, three months after Tesla's death. This patent dispute lasted for nearly half a decade! Marconi was lauded, while Tesla died pennyless.

        Tesla was the prototypical geek, the antithesis of Edison and Marconi. Both were showmen, not scientific inventors, which greatly irritated Tesla. Also, because English was not his native language (Serbo-Croat), he avoided any public speaking, as such "demonstrations" by slavic immigrants at the time warranted visits from the KKK. Tesla was poorly treated in a time when no equal opportunity existed for eastern european immigrants.

        -- Len
        • The overturning of Marconi's patent was due to the fact that Marconi's company had sued the US Government for patent infringement during World War I. The quickest way of solving the problem was overturning the patent, and so they did.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You are correct, but for Europe only.

      Basically Marconi patented his radio circuit but actually built and sold devices using Tesla's. (Yup, lawyers today would have torn Marconi to bits.) Marconi's circuit simply didn't work. Tesla had to go each country proving this, and every single time the country revoked Marconi's patent and awarded it to Tesla. Unfortunately, the 1st world war kicked in before Tesla could do the same in the US. The US government said "hey, all your patents are belong to us", or something like that, thus preventing Tesla from setting the record straight.

      It's pretty pathetic that US schools still preach the bullshit Marconi story.
      • Unfortunately, the 1st world war kicked in before Tesla could do the same in the US. The US government said "hey, all your patents are belong to us", or something like that, thus preventing Tesla from setting the record straight.

        While you are correct up to this point, the story does not end there. In 1943, just a few months after Tesla died, the US Supreme Court upheld Tesla's patent. A good explanation is here [].

        To the nay-sayers who point out that this is simply a celebration of the first transatlantic radio transmission, and thus Marconi should be credited, you should remember that Marconi was claiming that he did indeed invent the radio even though he completely stole Tesla's design. Furthermore it enforces the common myth that Marconi invented the radio when Tesla was the real genius. Tesla simply couldn't muster the funds to demonstrate it first. He was never good at raising money and was being duped by rich robber-barons like JP Morgan who had an interest in putting down his world changing ideas which would reallocate money out of their pockets.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Actually Tesla invented something that could have been used as a radio, radio waves were actually a side effect of it, he also demonstrated a "remote control" boat that used this techinique before marconi's patents, Tesla sued and marconi won, it dragged on until after tesla's death where his (tesla's) patents won out, a little late however since all the patent rights expire wayyyy before.

      If I remeber correctly and all , maybe not....

      I know there are some die hard Tesla fans that will contest Marconi's invention whilst frothing at the mouth so ...

      Lets hear it ...
    • You are exactly right. Here [] is an article which explains the case in detail.

      One of the links [] in the Slashdot article has this quote:

      By trial and error, relying on his own intuition and audacity, Marconi conducted a series of experiments indicating that long-distance wireless communication was possible.

      As you can see in the Tesla link I provided above, this statement is patently false. Marconi used the patents, research, and technical drawings of Tesla and faithfully duplicated Tesla's ideas. About the only thing Marconi stumbled into was the radio-reflecting layer in the atmosphere. This was not something he had planned, but instead discovered quite by accident. Marconi should not be credited at all in connection with radio, other than the fact that he managed to popularize it through his sensationalism.

      This is similar to the case of the Wright Brothers. Their "first flight ever" was completed several years after another inventor, Gustav Whitehead, flew in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1901. There is a web page here [] with information on Whitehead and his flights. Basically, the Wright brothers managed to get better press and grabbed the title of first to fly from Gustav Whitehead, even though Whitehead was documented by several sources as having done it first.

      • I don't know about that other guy you mentioned, but the French had been flying for years when the Wright brothers first flew. This difference is when the wright brothers were in their cradle french were making uncontrolled hops of 150 feet (meters?), while the wright brothers were able to make fully controled flights lasting several hours.

        Of course fully controlled is relative, by todays standard the control was primative, but they were able to safely stay in the air for hours, and come down where they wanted to. Compare that to those who were unable to control their flights.

    • Several folks will claim the title, but consider the claim of "The Father of Radio Broadcasting", Reginald Fessenden.

      see for example: this link []

      Of course, since marconi claimed to have used a base in Newfoundland, and Fessenden was a Canadian, I guess we can just say that the Canadians did it again.

  • While ham and shortwave radios have fulfilled a necessary nitch for years, decades even, it's time to reallocate those wasted bandwidths for more prosaic uses. With the widepsread use of portable satellite phones and uplinks, even the dubious claim of disaster aid practiced in tedious field days seems redundant. Would you prefer to call for help over a high quality digital uplink through a million dollar sattelite connection, or the hope that your 50 watt call through the ether gets picked up by some obsessive compulsive who's more interested in your equipment and your location (for another pushpin in their world map/log book) than your emergency need.

    I think I speak for most geeks here when I'd rather have wireless broadband anywhere I travel for my laptop, rather than a huge amount of radiowave real estate being squatted one by ham-nerds who are being rendered superflous by modern digital technology. Our interstates are no longer designed for Model T's, why should our airwaves?

    • Thank you Mr. Troll.

      There is no shortage of bandwidth, and the frequencies that ham radio operators use aren't even suitable for digital communications.

      • Not to mention the fact that the 'widespread use of portable satelite phones' isn't quite as widespread as he'd like to think, in some aprts of the world, you're more likely to get someone close by with a nice radio transmission than with a digital uplink.

        Now for the final question, what happens if those satelites get knocked out somehow? And don't say it can't happen...
    • I'm sure the counter argument would be that the new digital devices require the million dollar satellite while with just a few dollars worth of components would be able to get your message out for help.

      I myself think HAM radio is a thing of the past, just like 'kit' computers and other cool things that helped us learn.

      However, I'm sure Radio Shack would be ticked for loosing their key demographic ;)
    • allocate the bandwidth for what? you do realise that HAM radio only has a small amount of the radio spectrum and most of it is already allocated to commercial, government and military traffic?

      as for your troll about a typical radio amateur, well thats just so pathetic and wrong. HAM radio users are as varied as any interest group, all kinds of men and women of all ages, creeds and so on.
    • I totally disagree with your comments. Amateur radio still provides a usefull service in more ways than one.

      First of all, the amateur radio operators compose a network of communications that the most completely decentralized form of communication available. While cell phones, satalites, and internet connections are all very hi-tech, they all have central points for failure. It is virtually impossible to knock out amateur communications without killing almost every operator! One or two switching stations or a satallite and cell phones are dead.

      Secondly, many of the 'ham-nerds' you speak of are some of the most brilliant electircal engineering type people I have ever met. Many technologies that we use today can be attributed to amateur radio, including the roots for wireless connectivity such as 802.11 (ever heard of packet radio?). You can also find the roots of cell phones in amateur radio.

      Thirdly, amateur radio operators provide many valuable services to the community including community service [], education [], and Disaster Relief (WTC) [].

      • "It is virtually impossible to knock out amateur communications without killing almost every operator!"
        Damn... well, so be it, I mean, whatever it takes ;)
      • look at a spectrum allocation chart sometime... see what percentage is devoted to amateur radio compared to other things.. As has been pointed out in other posts, it is a minute fraction, and various bands are under constant siege by commercial interests as is. Out of the entire EM spectrum, who wants to do a tally of exactly how many MHz are devoted to amateur operators?

        It's proper, IMHO, that a small section of the spectrum be devoted to true public usage.

        i got into amateur radio in late 2000/early 2001. i've learned all about the EM spectrum and radio waves; some basic electrical engineering(which i will have to get into a lot more to upgrade my license..), digital communications modes... history of radio... about cars, from learning to install an antenna and radio... met some great people and learned an awful lot of new stuff from them, as well...

        it's not such a bad hobby. sadly, most people had either never heard of it, or only heard of it in passing, when i got my license. now at least most everyone i know knows what it is to some extent or another. most of my geekily friends also can't help but salivate over my gear, even though it's not much in the amateur world.

        you feel kinda good when you're a mobile communications station, though, and you can do it without minute-by-minute charges. I can put my 2m handheld in one front pocket of my army jacket and clip an external mic to my collar, drop a portable UHF/VHF scanner in the other with an earbud, and stay informed as to what's going on locally.

        that's something that i enjoy about UHF/VHF communications with amateur radio... The ability to stay connected locally. Great, I can check the web at home and find out the latest news about the rest of the world; but try to find out real-time what's going on in my own community? I'm not gonna wait for the newspaper tomorrow or the 5pm news(which i don't see, since i'm at work on second shift). I can hop on my 2m and ask for the latest, or hear what's being discussed; or grab my scanner and hear it as it comes in.

        it's a good thing.
    • Sure. Lets start with 160 meters. I can't wait to get my wireless access point with 120 foot rubber coated antenna. Where will I put it.

      I think more geeks should get their ham licenses. I'm bored with talking to all the old farts and would probably get on the air more if I could talk to someone who actually knows what Linux is.
      • I for one would love to give it a go, but every site I've looked at described hundreds of hours of studying and tests and tens of thousands of dollars in equipment.

        Is there any way to build a cheap but effective setup? Maybe in the $1000 range? I just get flamed when I asked this question on a ham usenet group.

        ( And yes, I did RTFFAQ first. :) )

        • I for one would love to give it a go, but every site I've looked at described hundreds of hours of studying and tests and tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. Is there any way to build a cheap but effective setup? Maybe in the $1000 range?

          The tests are not that hard. If you know basic electronics, you can pass the Tech and General exams with a few hours of study. Here are practice tests [] It takes about 30 Hours to learn the Morse Code for Tech+ and General tickets, but you only need that for the HF bands.

          You can pick up a Icom-706MKIIg rig [] for about $800 used and it should be all the radio you will ever need.
        • Hmm, only HF radio I can think of that costs tens of thousands of dollars, is the Collins KW-1 that my radio club has sitting in it's club house, slowly being repaired.
        • It is unfortunate you got flamed! Most hams welcome folks who would like to get into the hobby.

          Most ham radio today requires no morse code testing. The technical tests are relatively easy to master and don't require hundreds of hours of studying. There are classes in most areas for prospective hams, or you can buy test study books and cram for them.

          Very few hams have tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. You can get on VHF/UHF radio for a few hundred dollars (less if you buy surplus at a hamfest swapmeet). Add to that a $100 packet controller and you have digital modes. HF gear (where you operate by either ground-wave or ionospheric propagation) is more expensive, but you can definitely get a complete station for under $1000.

          Or you could really get into the spirit of ham radio and build your own - although I would not recommend building a receiver unless you have a lot of time and expertise. But transmitters (except for SSB) are easy to build. I built my first transmitter.

        • You have a good point...the tests and equipment costs can be intimidating. However, the cool thing about amatuer radio is that is has been designed for everyone. The tests are actually simple enought that young kids can pass them with the appropriate amount of studying...alls it takes is a good memory, and a keen ear (for the code part). As everyone does...start with the Technician Exam (Element 1) and go from there. It is 35 questions (I think) of FCC rules, operating courtesy, and basic electronics knowledge...cake! That will get you started with priveleges on all frequencies 6 meters and up, with all modes available. If you have fun with that, take the time and go for general and extra, the morse code is really interesting to learn.

          As for equipment, start out with the used stuff. There is plenty out there, check the obvious sources such as e-bay. If you get a technicians license you will probably want to start our on 2 meter FM, so look around for a little mobile transciever and put it in your car, or get a power supply and put it in your house. A magnetic mount antenna can be purchased new for about $20, and you're on the air. Surf around the local repeaters and talk to other hams and start getting involved with a local club. It can really be a lot of fun and a good learning experience.
      • I'm not old...and I know about Linux. But you do have a good point about the lack of young people in the hobby. However, think of the older guys as mentors...the know A LOT. Join a club, if your not already in one, pick out an older person that knows about the hobby, and get every last tidbit of information out of them...that's why they are there. KB3GBA/AE
    • Would you prefer to call for help over a high quality digital uplink through a million dollar sattelite connection...

      Assumes you have access to a satellite. Suppose it was a war, and the satellite had gone or been jammed. Suppose you're on the side that doesn't own the satellite.

      Radio for me, please.


    • by mesocyclone ( 80188 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @01:02PM (#2693722) Homepage Journal
      Before you go after the small amount of exclusive ham radio bandwidth, why don't you go after the vast amounts of bandwidth wasted by broadcast television. Each television station today wastes about 30 MHz (counting empty channels required for interference protection)! That is the equivalent of the ENTIRE shortwave spectrum, of which ham radio occupies little.

      The ham bands above the shortwave spectrum are perhaps a more interesting target, until you consider that many of them are shared (900 MHZ, parts of the 75cm band) and others are tiny (The most popular 2 meter band is only 4 MHz wide).

      The ham radio bands are scattered through the spectrum (to allow for experimentation at different wavelengths) and thus do not represent any contiguous chunk of bandwidth.

      Finally, ham radio has a number of justifications - often more important than the desire for bandwidth by internet nerds to be first to reply to a /. post! These include education, research and disaster assistance.

      You may think that the latter is superfluous, but it is still very useful. For example, the Hurricane Watch Net ( provides valuable assistance to the National Hurricane Center and has been given awards by them and other organizations. Why? Because we communicate with people who do not have sat-phones and whose cell-phones (if they have any) have been disabled by the hurricane. We provide a central communications frequency for those who need to coordinate information on a hurricane - we have had rescue helicopters, warships, hurricane hunter aircraft, ships-in-distress, government research organizations and state department entities contact us in emergencies (contact with non-ham entities is only legal in an emergency). They wouldn't do that if they had the sort of communications you envision.

      Likewise, the Skywarn organizations provides invaluable life-saving data to the NWS through ham radio. Why ham radio and not cell phone? Ham radio provides trained operators that filter information for NWS. It also provides a controlled shared frequency for coordinating communications among the many spotters. NWS invests significant resources to train and operate the spotter networks.

      Hams help with many other disasters - partly because we can deploy equipment in unplanned for situations, partly because we have redundant and highly varied communications assets, and partly because we often become an inter-organizational communications mechanism for organizations that don't have interoperability.

      Ham radio also provides a last-ditch communications method. When your phones are overloaded, or your other methods are out, the *simplest* transmitter to construct or own (if you are poor in the third world) is a CW (morse code) transmitter. All it requires is an oscillator that can be turned on and off, and an easily made antenna.

      Ham radio also helps young people learn useful technical and organizational skills.

      My father started his electronics interest with ham radio, went on to invent the VLF submarine antenna (his doctoral thesis) and is a respected scientist.

      I started with an interest in ham radio. It led me to jobs (while in high school and college) as a broadcast engineer. When I joined the Navy, I was already a trained radio operator, and thus was able to become an airborne radio operator without going to a one year school for it. I got into engineering in college because of ham radio, and that let me into computers, and hence 35 years of computer geekdom. A person met through ham radio led me to group of computer geeks whom I have worked with for the last 30 years. Through ham radio contacts, I have met people in many interesting positions, making friends and also getting personal tours of such places as the Stanford Linear Accelerator and the Multiple Mirror Telescope. Ham radio led me to start my current company, which originally made embedded controller based ham radio repeater controllers. Ham radio has led to adventures including a NASA research expedition, disaster relief in Mexico City after the earthquake, and various other things.

      Ham radio operators have developed new technology for use in ham radio, and even in this age of electronic engineering continue to do so. For example, extremely high altitude remote sensing balloons are currently a favorite hobby of some ham nerds.

    • And lets just kindly forget than the majority of the radio-based technology that is in commercial use was pioneered by Amatuer radio operators and that the bands we are given, yes, look at my nickname, were given to us because they were deemed unusable for any real purpose, until we got them. Now every amatuer band is busy with activity.

      You may think Amatuer radio is a thing of the past, but I ask you to find a few local hams and visit them. You will find that in most areas, it's not just using the same old technology, but rather we are inventing new ways of using our bandwidth. I mean, we don't have the experimental section of our bands for nothing.
    • It's nice to have a hobby and all, but sometimes people just can't get over the fact that technology has changed so much that their hobby deserves to be obsolete. I don't mean to flame the Amish [] or others who have a religious objection to technology []. But why can't people just let go of outmoded toys? Are they afraid to learn how to use today's innovations? Are they too stingy to pay for new avenues of recreation?

      For instance, in this era of G4 cubes and Titanium Powerbooks, some Apple loyalists still participate in Apple ][ users groups []. What's the point? Working on a machine that has 128k of memory and uses an NTSC monitor is pointless; most wristwatches have more processing power than that nowadays.

      Some people need to just grow up and change with the times. Nostalgia is good but living in the past will get you nowhere. Get a grip.

      Just my 2c.


      • Working on a machine that has 128k of memory and uses an NTSC monitor is pointless; most wristwatches have more processing power than that nowadays.

        I understand the point your trying to make, but you're clearly ignorant of present technology if you think most wristwatches have a CPU more powerful than an Apple ][ or more than 128k of memory. Most wristwatches I see today are still analog, and most of the remaining digital ones have far poorer specs than an Apple ][. Care to change your definition of "most" or "processing power"? ;-)

        Some people need to just grow up and change with the times. Nostalgia is good but living in the past will get you nowhere. Get a grip.

        People who UNDERSTAND the technology they use commonly have a VERY good grip. Of course, they LOOK like they're standing still compared to those who chase the bleeding edge of tech and never quite get a grip on any of it.

        Your watch analogy reminded me of a quote from James Gleick's book Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything []:
        "A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with 2 watches is never sure".

        That book will really ruffle the feathers of anyone who thinks the only way to make progress is to develop more and newer and faster technologies. Very good book. /. review here [] and more info here [] and here [].
  • DAB (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Aztech ( 240868 )
    And to celebrate they've just started selling DAB (Digital) Radio's for under £100 [], you can get one for your PC [] for £49, great for recording stuff in native MP2 (MPEG audio was originally created for this).

    The stuff is still too expensive for mainstream though.
    • yeah but only 300 for the whole country i think (i was only half listening to the radio this morning)... and they sold out quick i am sure ;)

      i think sony or someone will be bringing out 100 quid digital radios next year too
    • 49 quid... where??? It's £99 everywhere I've seen it. If it really is £49 I've finally solved the problem of what to get my Dad for Christmas :)
  • Yahoo has a simplified article [] on it as only they can. Who want's to bet the government was already listening on the line? "Sir, it's morse code. They are saying 'ssssssssssssss'?"
  • if the inventors only knew what they had started :)
  • US or Canada? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Myriad ( 89793 ) <myriad.thebsod@com> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:20PM (#2693523) Homepage
    This is interesting... according to the Cape Cod link [] this U.S. site was the location of the first successful transatlantic radio communication.

    Then it goes on to say: "the Marconi operation at this location was initiated by the young inventor in 1901. However, in December of that year, due to a number of setbacks, he had to use temporary facilities on St. John's, Newfoundland to prove his theory--wireless could cross the Atlantic!"

    Doesn't that present a complete turn around from their previous statement?

    In any event, the reenactment [] link has it correct with: "December 12, 2001 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first Trans-Atlantic radio transmission. That signal was transmitted across the Atlantic from Poldhu, Cornwall England to St John's, Newfoundland."

    That would be St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

    • Instead, they're real big islands off the coast of North America, check out a map. In fact, in Newfoundland, you are closer to Ireland than you are to Chicago.
      • Since I live in Newfoundland and Labrador I think I know what I'm talking about.

        The maritime provinces are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The only islands are PEI and Newfoundland. PEI is quite close to NB. It is, in fact, connected to the mainland by a pretty [] spectacular [] bridge [].

        Newfoundland is really the only bit of the maritimes substantially separated from the mainland. The location is something we're quite proud []of actually. St. John's [], Newfoundland bills itself as the oldest and most easterly city in North America. Yes, it is quicker and easier for me to fly direct to London than to most major cities in North America (which makes me wonder why I don't do it more often!)

        Some maps: Newfoundland and Labrador [] - my home province. All of Canada []. Nova Scotia is the peninsula above New England. New Brunswick is the mainland area directly above Maine. PEI is the little island next to NB and NS. Newfoundland and Labrador should be obvious. For context here's all of North America [].

      • So by your logic Manhattan Island isn't part of Mainland North America either. And Mexico isn't part of North America because it is closer to Ecuador than Chicago. Who care if Newfoundland is an island, it is part of North America, as are Cuba, Jamaica ans Panama. In case you feel like debating this CENTRAL America is a political term, not geographical.

    • Whoops, looks like I overlooked the part where it says it was the first communication between the U.S. and England in 1903 .

      Since it mentions the first broadcast happened in 1901 they are talking about different firsts... first ever VS first US.

      My mistake, sorry!

    • Doesn't that present a complete turn around from their previous statement?

      Yes, but don't let things like the facts get in the way of nationalistic jingoism...

      Next thing you know, the USians will be telling us that the telephone was invented in the US and the first long-distance call took place in the US too!
    • That would be St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

      Just to be a pedant, Newfoundland joined confederation in 1949. Thus, in 1901 Newfoundland was still a colony of Great Britain.

    • Typical. Yanks trying to claim braggarts rights as usual. The first TransAtlantic broadcast was indeed from Newfoundland, which, BTW, was then NOT a part of Canada but rather just another British colony. Newfoundland (say it fast, almost no stress on the syllables, not NewFOUNDland) became a Canadian province in 1949.

      Whether or not it was on the North American mainland doesn't really bloody matter either, NF is a part of North American, the first broadcast was from NF to england 100 years ago, therefore the first transtlantic broadcast happened 100 years ago between NF and England. QED.

  • First Tesla (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by PsiPsiStar ( 95676 )
    Hey, lets all celebrate 100 years of intellecutal property theft or at least the questionable appropriation by Marconi of technology that many consider Tesla's.
    • Re:First Tesla (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GreenHell ( 209242 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:44PM (#2693652)
      Sigh.... what's being celebrated here has nothing to do with who invented the radio (take a look at the articles, there's nothing mentioned about Marconi having invented it)

      What's being celebrated here is quite simple: It's the first ever wireless trans-Atlantic communication, which is quite clearly Marconi's. Even the site you link to admits that Marconi was the one who performed this feat. Sure, Marconi may not have been the first to invent the radio (he may not, as you point out, even have invented a version of it at all) But without him performing this experiment, it's unlikely we would be in the same place we are today. After all, the radio station in New York that Tesla was building to transmit electric signals and electricity to the entire planet didn't start construction until 1901, the same year Marconi made his transmission. From the sounds of it, I'm not sure if Tesla's project would have worked, even if he hadn't run out of funding.

      Summary: Tesla beat Marconi to the radio, but that's not what is being discussed here. Marconi made the first trans-Atlantic broadcast, that IS being discussed, and is most definately a fact.
      • Actually, there's good evidence suggesting that what's being celebrated here is a media event, not a technological breakthrough. The Marconi transatlantic signal was unsubstantiated and unverifiable, and was not reproduced until several years later with better equipment. No one outside the company heard the signal. The scientific community at the time didn't accept the accomplishment, but the press ignored them. Marconi just knew how to play the press like a violin. Douglas' _Inventing American Broadcasting_ (1987) has a good discussion of all this on pp. 57-58.
        • Now that is a distinct possibility that I will admit is quite likely. The guy knew what was supposed to be coming in, and may or may not have made it up. My guess is that it's one of those things that no one will really know.
      • Sigh.... what's being celebrated here has nothing to do with who invented the radio (take a look at the articles, there's nothing mentioned about Marconi having invented it)

        Yes, true. But just the other day I heard some putz on the radio say Marconi invented radio (forgot exactly what the discussion was about) and you can bet the local news drones will be using the same phrase if they mention this story in their newscasts. People tend to get credit when it's not due them simply because they popularize it commercially. I correct people on this because it's the prevalent view of the history of radio. And ... I correct people when they credit Edison with the power distribution system. That was Tesla's too!!!

        Her banner yet waves ... []

    • Moderation Totals: Flamebait=1, Troll=1, Insightful=1, Interesting=1, Informative=1, Overrated=1, Total=6.

      Seems I struck a nerve
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:21PM (#2693533)
    Isn't it amazing that eventhough it is known that Tesla was the pioneer of radio, that Marconi gets all the credit?

    I think it's just as horrible as making Buzz Aldrin the first man on the moon, eventhough we know Neil Armstrong was first.

    It's clear, even today, that ambition and skill is not related to fame whatsoever. The guy with the best contacts and/or money is the winner, not the clever guy.
  • by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:22PM (#2693537)
    The first transatlantic communications were telegraph, starting on August 16 1858, with the message "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to men."

    Unfortunatly this cable failed after only 3 weeks. A cable laid in 1866 by the Great Eastern remained in operation until 1872, but since there were other cables in operation by then, there has been continous transatlantic communication since 1866.

  • excerpt from the 'heritage' ad:

    Some guy: 'Isn't that right Mr. Marconi?'

    Mr. Marconi: 'Yes...Over the ocean...Through the Air...For the first time...Ever.'

    It's almost as amazing as the people trapped in the mines who drank their know.
  • by yoink! ( 196362 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:31PM (#2693581) Homepage Journal
    Actually I woke up this morning to CBC Radio One's hour long special on Marconi, the man and the mission. I was quite nice. In fact I gave up a little study time for it.

    It really has been a long time relatively. Considering that transatlantic communication, especially transatlantic routing of IP packets, is more than commonplace now, its hard to imagine people still struggling to get a signal to each other over the atlantic. Stories like this really help to remind us that it wasn't always this easy.

    It is nonetheless an appropriate day to celebrate though I do wonder how quickly they started getting spam on their lines?

  • by digitalamish ( 449285 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:31PM (#2693583)
    and I still can't get over the air radio in my cubical. Oh, what dark times we live in. :)
    You can spell team without an I, but not without me!
  • When we visited some years ago, it consisted of some rusted stumps of antenna legs, lotsa sand, and a well-written poster of why this is an interesting spot. We (well, I anyway :-) enjoyed the visit for its historical ambiance, but you're not going to see Marconi's power supply or anything...

    On a separate note, an attempt to reach the Marconi site's website [], resulted in a repeated `` could not be found'' error. I guess they know too much about the Dept. of Interior's Indian Trust Fund []. The link to the Cape Cod site [] in the story takes you to Google's cache.

    • Actually, the original site is not in Cape Cod.
      Its in a villiage called "Brant Rock", or better known as Marshfield for people looking on the map.

      I know because I lived about 200 yards from the cement base. This thing is a ruins now.
      As kids, we used to use that sucker as a meeting point to hang out, drink beer and get stoned (like 77-79'). I have (somewhat) vivid memories of my friends 8-track of ZOZO playing "Going to California" while we laid on that thing and looked up into the stars -- obviously with a good buzz on...

      Its exact location is in a camp ground called "Blackman's Point Trailer Camp", I'm not sure why people are saying the Cape Cod site was the original. That one wasn't used, the one in Brant Rock was the actual site (from what I rememeber reading and learning). I could be wrong, but something tells me that I'm not.

      If I remember correctly, there was a plauque but I think it was vandalized and removed by some local knucklehead. This thing was nothing but a big block of cement layers with these glass or porcelain bells (all of which were fun to smash I guess, because they were all broken!).
      • Interesting---is there a town called ``Cape Cod''? I've always used it to refer to that whole chunk sticking out of the left side of Massachusetts. Or is the site not on the Cape at all, and my memory is fading faster than I fear?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    IIRC, there was some discussion on the gnuradion list of having their first release today, in honor of the occasion.

    Check out: []

  • You can experience the distinctly other-worldy feeling of the last-century long-distance radio transmission business on the Point Reyes peninsula, a couple of miles north of San Francisco. On the peninsula, near Abbot's Lagoon, there is a big radio transmission installation with several antenna masts. Looking at the masts in fog and mist brings pictures from another time to mind of ships at sea, men in wireless offices and cabins, hunched over morse keys, tapping out important business telegrams to receivers overseas and life-saving messages to ships at sea.

    The station started as a Marconi installation, and ceased operation [] as an MCI maritime radio site in 1997. On the other side of the peninsula, AT&T operates another shore-to-ship station. There is not too much to see at the stations themselves, but visiting Point Reyes is interesting enought in its own right -- so go and marvel at the radio masts if the weather is bad, which is just too likely most of the time.

  • It's a shame that, as we now come to the 100th anniversary of the first transmittion, the company Marconi founded, now GEC-Marconi, is in dire financial straits and may well go under.
    So it goes......
    • Actually, the convoluted history of Marconi companies is pretty much impossible to track down. The Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company (established in 1897) changed it's name to Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company in 1900. It merged with the Eastern Telegraph Company in 1929 to become Imperial and International Communications. However, the manufacturing assets were not part of this merger. From this point it gets hazy; we now have 2 companies, one carrying on the Marconi name (manufacturing); the other (incorporating the original Marconi company) without a mention of Marconi in it's corporate title, despite the fact Marconi himself was part of it. Over the years, each company became part of literally dozens of corporations; some merged with others, some went broke, some had "Marconi" in the corporate title and others did not, etc. Don't read too much into the GEC-Marconi name.
      • You can read the detailed history of the transformation from GEC to Marconi here [].

        I was part of Reltec when they were bought by (then) Marconi Communications. The link to Marconi was tenuous at best but his face would still appear on many internal materials. During the past few years, GEC Marconi have been radically consolidating under the Marconi name to give more of a cohesive sound to the name.

        Also, what is interesting is that Marconi is actively participating [] in centenary activities.
    • Apparently the company that became Imperial and International Communications in 1929 (the radio arm of Marconi's first company) evolved through merger to be Britain's Cable & Wireless PLC, a viable firm today.
  • Marconi: Faking the Waves,4273,4 317198,00.htm []

    I live a couple kilometres from Signal Hill in St. John's Newfoundland (that's where Marconi is said to have received the transmission).

    Interesting aside: Marconi was for all intents and purposes kicked out (asked to leave and threatened with lawsuits if he didn't) of Newfoundland, which was then not part of Canada. The Anglo-American Telegraph Company had a Government-mandated monopoly on telecommunications. Much of the transatlantic telegraph cable traffic was at the time routed through Newfoundland, it being the closest point in North America to Europe. Marconi subsequently relocated to Glace Bay Nova Scotia at the invitation of the Canadian Government.

  • by rmpotter ( 177221 )
    Hey! What about Reginald Aubrey Fessenden []. He actually demonstrated voice transmission before Marconi did the trans-atlantic Morse code test.

    Of course, they all built on the work of people like Tesla. Fessenden knew the physics better than Marconi, but Marconi knew how to sell it. Sound familiar?

    • Its a miracle! Someone actually mentioned the great, but unknown, Canadian who showed what *really* could be done in practical terms with radio. Thank you for that. Here's another Fessenden site []. Canadians are not known for blowing our own horns, which means that we have an awful tendency to allow our brightest and best innovators to be ignored into obscurity over the years, as in the case of the 1940s-50s designers of the Avro Arrow [], an aircraft decades ahead of its time. I've been listening to see if Fessenden will be acknowledged during the CBC's Marconi-related broadcasts, but still nothing.
    • Marconi sent radio messages from his home to a reciever 2 miles away in 1894, and recieved a patent in 1898. Fesseden sent a voice message via wireless in 1900. Both were building on the work of Hertz, Maxwell, and many others (including Tesla).
      Like most inventions, they often had parallel and independant discoveries typically without knowing the work of others; they also built upon the ideas of others. It's not a linear process, this inventing thing.
      Remember the name of the guy who showed up at the Patent Office 2 hours after Alexander Bell did? Neither does anybody else.
      They both came upon the discovery without knowlege of the other's work.
  • by Christopher Whitt ( 74084 ) <cwhitt&ieee,org> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @01:05PM (#2693736) Homepage
    I live in St. John's, Newfoundland, and the commemoration of Dec 12 1901 is an annual event here.

    The provincial government has an official site [] for the 100th celebrations. The local section [] of the IEEE [] is also involved in organizing the celebrations.

    Here are some more websites relating to the celebrations:

    By the way, despite being way out in the Atlantic ocean, Newfoundland is a beautiful province and a wonderful place to get away if you like the outdoors, hiking, game hunting, sport fishing, whale-watching, and lots of other things.
  • by pmancini ( 20121 ) <pmancini@yaho o . com> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @01:06PM (#2693740) Homepage
    I think we should also remember and see the amazing coincidence that on 12/12/1991 the first web page was served by TBL. The web has now become more important than radio or tv for delivering information and communicating - as witnessed by the very existance of

    I love the way history has such interesting coincidences!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    All those aliens that are running their own SETI programs will be send a reply which should arrive a hundred years from now. Either that or they will send a fleet to destroy us.
  • Marconi links (Score:2, Informative)

    Here's the official site for the Signal Hill National Historic Site [] in Newfoundland. It has lots of information and pictures.

    Here's an article [] about the first transatlantic radio transmission from a member of a Newfoundland amateur radio club.

  • It's really amazing how far we've come in worldwide communications since Marconi's first transatlantic broadcast... I wonder what people will be saying when /. runs a story titled "100 years since first computer network."
  • Technical Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @01:41PM (#2693998)
    Does anyone know how these early long distance radios worked? IIRC, vacuum tubes were not invented until a later date. Was there any kind of amplification used? Did they use oscillators, or was it still just a 'spark gap' kind of thing?
    • With stuff that wouldn't be recognised today, and was poorly understood then. Signals were unamplified (therefore no vacum tube required) and relied on huge antennae towers for signal strength. Luckily, not much signal is required (as is clear from the fact that your computer is a huge Radio Frequency (RF) generator).
      An excerpt from an early description:
      "... The responder is an extremely sensitive instrument with a closed circuit. That is, when there are no wireless impulses, the local current is passing through a conducting solution between two electrodes. But with a wireless impulse there is at once a greater resistance in the solution. The reason for the increased resistance is not yet known. This effect of the wireless impulse causes a clicking sound in the telephone receiver. Hence one believes that one hears the very sparks of the far-away sender. ..."

      The Advance of "Wireless"
      World's Work
      February 1905, pages 5843-5848
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What has been lost to history were Marconi's REAL first words. These were:

    First Post!

  • For a lot more historical info on Marconi, see []
  • One hates to see the end of morse code. When Satcomms, SSB, etc., didn't work, MW would get through, even if the only communication was via a radio station thousands of miles away.

    (This was USCG in the '70s.)

    Have you heard the story about ....

    Best wishes,
  • Seems I recall learning a long time ago that Marconi, didn't really "invent" radio, but expanded [] on other peoples works (specically Hertz) I shutter to think of the results (or lack of) if he had to work under current US Copyright and Patent Law. Under US copyright law, Heinrich Hertz, could have obtained a copyright for life plus 75 years. He passed away in 1894 making his Hertzian waves availble for public domain in 1969. Just in time for the 70's. Imagine the 60's with no radio. There would have been no BBC (founded in 1921), No NPR, and no Wolfman Jack.
  • Q: What's going over the Atlantic now?

    A: Baywatch reruns.
  • The Royal Mint [] [Danger: Netscape-unfriendly site] has commemorated Marconi's 100th anniversary in UK coinage with the current issue of the UK Two Pound Coin, News item here [] and picture of the thing on the right hand side of the first picture on this page []

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!