Journal of the Franklin Institute, December, 1897, pages 463-464:
NOTES AND COMMENTS.*
TELEGRAPHY WITHOUT WIRES.
The following intelligent summary of the present status of the problem of telegraphy is condensed from a recent editorial utterance of the Scientific American, and will be found of interest :
Nikola Tesla has lately announced that he has completed his wireless telegraph to such an extent as to permit of telegraphy through the earth for a distance of twenty miles or more, and his experiments satisfy him of the feasibility of wireless telegraphy on a much more extended scale. In fact, he aims at nothing less than the establishment of a system of telegraphy that shall include the whole earth, and by which items of news may be distributed from one political or commercial center to every other such center throughout the world. This, Mr. Tesla claims, is possible without the interference of one set of signals with another.
He has constructed and tested both transmitting and receiving apparatus, and has found that a surprisingly small expenditure of energy is required. It is impossible, at this writing, to secure details of the apparatus, but it is known that he utilizes the static equilibrium of the earth. This he disturbs at one point, making signals which can be distinguished at one or more distant points.
In his earlier experiments in high frequency currents Mr. Tesla attained a frequency of 10,000 per second ; now 2,000,000 oscillations per second is not deemed extraordinary. It is said that the success of the system is assured, but he will not come before the public until every detail is completed. It is understood that the transmission of power from place to place by means of similar system is contemplated.
While Mr. Tesla has been wrestling with this great problem in this country, Mr. Marconi, a young Anglo-Italian, has been working on the same line in England under the direction of Mr. Preece. It is reported that Mr. Preece has succeeded in telegraphing with certainty and sufficient rapidity from Penarth to Weston-super-Mare, a distance across the water of seven or eight miles, without wires, and it is believed that this distance can be greatly extended.
It is said by The Engineer that the apparatus devised by Marconi is extremely ingenious, and has for its object the getting out of the Hertzian vibrations sufficient work for telegraphic purposes. The apparatus comprises a transmitter and receiver. The former consists mainly of a small Ruhmkorff induction coil excited by a couple of battery cells. The secondary or high tension wires terminate each in a metallic ball. Between the two balls is placed a cubical box containing oil. In the opposite sides of the box are fixed two brass balls, oil-tight, so that one-half of each ball is in the oil in the box and the other half outside of the box. The balls do not touch. The whole arrangement has been designed by an Italian professor, Righi. On sending a current through the induction coil, Hertzian vibrations are set up in the balls and communicated to the ether. The oil has a peculiar effect, acting as a species of brake, the rapidity of the wave vibrations being only about one-half of that stated by Dr. Lodge. These vibrations are then given off into space all around in every direction. So far as known, nothing save metals appears to be opaque to them, and here, therefore, we have an analogy with the Röentgen ray.
Marconi's receiver consists of a tube about ¼ inch in diameter and 3 inches long, in which are two silver plugs terminating in wires, the ends of which are soldered to the silver plugs. The wires are fused into the glass. The tube is exhausted to a near approach to absolute vacuum. The faces of the two silver plugs are very close to each other, and the space between is filled up with an impalpable metallic dust. On the nature of this dust much depends. It must suffice to say that there are in it three constituents, one of which is nickel. Under ordinary conditions this powder will not conduct electricity, save feebly. Its resistance is very high. If a Hertzian ray falls on the little tube, the dust is polarized like the filings in a Hughes test tube, and the powder becomes a conductor. It will be seen at once that we have here a make and break which can be acted on from a distance, and an ordinary Morse sounder does the rest. But matters, after all, are not quite so simple. It is easy to dispatch into space Hertzian waves at intervals corresponding to dots and dashes, but the powder in the receiver, once polarized, remains polarized. To get over this obstacle, a tiny hammer is so arranged that, the moment a current passes through the tube, the hammer taps the side of the tube and depolarizes the powder ready for the next signal.
There is nothing in common between ethereal or wireless telegraphy and telegraphy by induction; the phenomena are wholly distinct. The Hertzian radiance is akin to light, and the polarization of the powder in the receiver finds its analogue in the molecular change which is wrought by light in a sensitized plate.
*From the Secretary's monthly reports.