The original scan for this article appears at: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85047097/1900-09-04/ed-1/seq-4.pdf.
Honolulu Independent, September 4, 1900, page 4:
Via Mother Earth Without Wires--System Being Perfected.
In a little workshop not a hundred feet away from Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, a young inventor has devised and is fast perfecting a system of telephony where by the human voice, as well as the signals of the Morse alphabet, is transmitted through earth and air without the use of wires.
Here, almost at the very spot where rare old Ben Franklin conducted his experiments with his kite and Leyden jar, a practical demonstration of wireless telephony was given last Tuesday and a stock company organized to exploit the system named after Professor A. Frederick Collins, an electric engineer formerly of Chicago, but now residing in Philadelphia. The Collins plan is quite distinct from the Marconi system. This coherer is a very delicate device that must be adjusted to the minutest nicety and is very liable to become deranged.
Out of door tests have been made under favorable and unfavorable conditions, and apparently the new wireless telephony and telegraphy is a success. Though still in a crude state, the verity of the principle that terrestrial waves of electricity are as inductive as the ether waves utilized by Marconi, Dolbear and others seems to have been proved. Larger machines are to be built at once and tests of the most rigid character will follow.
Professor Collins is not yet thirty-five, but he has been a worker of no mean sort in the field of electrical endeavor for a good many years. After taking the scientific course at Chicago University he joined the Thompson-Houston Electric Company and did a great deal of experimental work for them. In his spare moments he studied telephony. When Marconi's system of wireless telegraph was brought out, several years ago, Professor Collins read a description of it in an English engineering journal.
He promptly set to work to construct a similar apparatus to himself and succeeded in duplicating Marconi's feats on a small scale. These instruments, by the way, are now in his laboratory at No. 132 South Sixth street, Philadelphia.
In response to a request for a not too technical account of his system for the benefit of the lay reader, Professor Collins dictated the following:
"It is really too soon to set myself up as an Edison or a Tesla, and I do not want to pose as anything else than a student of telephony. Since Marconi perfected his system, men everywhere have been studying the problem of wireless communication of articulate sounds. Such success as I may have attained is due in no small degree to my wife. Since our marriage, three years ago, she has constantly encouraged me, and by her knowledge of mathematics and interest in telephony has aided me with practical suggestions and unfailing sympathy.
"In the first place it should be said that while the earth is a poor conductor of electricity the currents projected through it meet with no such resistance as the ether waves utilized by Marconi. The network of telephone, telegraph and electric light wires, trolley wires, tall steel skeleton structures, and the hundred and one obstacles that divert and disrupt air currents are not encountered under ground. Again, some strata of earth are pretty good conductors of electricity, while others are non-conductors. Thus, it is possible to project two currents, say at different depths, and to secure perfect insulation.
"Now, as to syntony, or electric tuning, a term the layman does not understand usually, let me explain. In listening to a phonograph, say, one may distinguish the notes of a certain instrument in a band if he tries to. He simply attunes his ear and his mind to the vibrations produced by that one instrument. So also in wireless telephony. Everybody understands how a tuning fork will respond, that is, will sound to a certain note struck on the piano. A scientist would say it vibrated when something with the same rate of vibration was set in motion.
"Electric tuning is analogous. A given receiver properly tuned will respond to a certain number of ether or air vibrations per second. So it will to terestrial vibrations, but it will remain unaffected by another rate of vibrations. Thus, any number of ether or terrestrial waves vibrating at different rates would not interfere with one another, nor would any set of vibrations affect any receiver, except the one specially attuned to its rate.
"Now," continued Professor Collins, "we take an ordinary Bell receiver and pick up the vibrations set loose at a distant point with no connecting media save mother earth. Each instrument (transmitter and receiver) is connected by wire with two copper plates, or, rather a copper coil and a copper plate proper. The plate is buried in the earth at varying distances from a foot to thirty foot. The copper coil is incased in the cabinet. The sounds--that is, the vibrations--are transmitted over the wire to the sunken plate, thence through the earth to the corresponding plate buried at the receiving point connected with the receiving instrument. Of course, the layman will understand that there are batteries attached to the cabinets, and a Crookes tube as well.
"The induced current passes simultaneously with the earth current.
"At present I am working on a system of electrical resonance or syntony where two, two hundred or two thousand subscribers may talk without conflicting. I do not think this problem will be harder than articulate speech without wires. A more or less mechanical device I am giving time and thought to is a bell for signalling, all devices extant not being applicable to our telephone. On each telephone we will have to place a couple of discs resembling the combination lock on a safe. Then, when Smith wants to call Jones, whose number is 142 for instance, he will turn the dial to 142. This will put his 'phone in tune with Jones'. That is, the number of ohms resistance regulated by this combination lock illustration anywhere between two thousand and a hundred thousand ohms will equal the resistance indicated by Jones' instrument, and then Jones' signal will be rung.
"Brown and Robinson are talking in the same locality they will not hear Smith, and Jones nor be heard, for the resistance on their circuit is different and so on."
Mr. Crossdale, electrical patent attorney, of Philadelphia, has had charge of the acquiring of patents, and Charles Chase, the corporation counsel, has had charge of the formation of the development company, besides tendering the use of his extensive country seat at Linwoop for further out-of-door tests by Professor Collins. The enterprise is entirely a private one. No stock is for sale, and the inventor is modestly denying himself to those who would exploit his efforts, for he says there are many details to be worked out yet.