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A History of Wireless Telegraphy (2nd edition, revised), J. J. Fahie, 1901, pages xi-xvii:
PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION
EARLY in 1897 there was a great flutter in the dove-cotes of telegraphy, and holders of the many millions of telegraph securities, and those interested in the allied industries, began to be alarmed for the safety of their property. Mysterious paragraphs about the New, Wireless, or Space Telegraphy, as it was variously called, kept appearing in the papers; and the electrical profession itself--certainly some leading members of it--seemed disposed to accept implicitly the new marvels, without the grain of salt usual and proper on such occasions.
In a lecture on Submarine Telegraphy at the Imperial Institute (February 15, 1897), Professor Ayrton said: "I have told you about the past and about the present. What about the future? Well, there is no doubt the day will come, maybe when you and I are forgotten, when copper wires, gutta-percha coverings, and iron sheathings will be relegated to the Museum of Antiquities. Then, when a person wants to telegraph to a friend, he knows not where, he will call in an electro-magnetic voice, which will be heard loud by him who has the electro-magnetic ear, but will be silent to every one else. He will call, 'Where are you?' and the reply will come, 'I am at the bottom of the coal-mine,' or 'Crossing the Andes,' or 'In the middle of the Pacific'; or perhaps no reply will come at all, and he may then conclude the friend is dead."
Soon after, in the course of a debate in the House of Commons (April 2, 1897) on the Telephone monopoly, one of the speakers said: "It would be unwise on the part of the Post Office to enter into any very large undertakings in respect of laying down telephone wires until they had ascertained what was likely to be the result of the Röntgen form of telegraph, which, if successful, would revolutionise our telephonic and telegraphic systems."
When cautious men of science spoke, or should I not say dreamt thus, and when sober senators accepted the dream as a reality and proceeded to legislate upon it, we can imagine the ideas that were passing in the minds of those of the general public who gave the subject a thought. Well, two years and more have now elapsed, and the unbounded potentialities of the new telegraphy have been whittled down by actual experiment to small practical though still very important proportions; and so, those interested in the old order can sleep in peace, and can go on doing so for a long time yet to come.
Having in the course of many years' researches in electric lore collected a mass of materials on this subject--for the idea embodied in the new telegraphy is by no means new--and having been a close observer of its recent and startling developments, I have thought that a popular account of its origin and progress would not now be uninteresting. This I have accordingly attempted in the following pages.
At an early stage in the evolution of our subject, objection was taken to the epithet Telegraphy without Wires, or, briefly, Wireless Telegraphy, as a misnomer (e.g., the 'Builder,' March 17, 1855, p. 132), and in recent times the objection has been repeated. Induction, Space, and Ethereal Telegraphy have been suggested, but though accurate for certain forms, they are not comprehensive enough. A better name would be Telegraphy without Connecting Wires, which has also been suggested, but it is too cumbrous--an awkward mouthful. Pending the discovery of a better one, I have adhered to the original designation, Wireless Telegraphy, which actually is the popular one, and for which, moreover, I have the high sanction of her Majesty's Attorney-General.
In the course of a discussion on Mr (now Sir Wm.) Preece's paper on Electric Signalling without Wires ('Journal Society of Arts,' February 23, 1894), Sir Richard Webster laid down the law thus: "I think the objection to the title of the paper is rather hypercritical, because ordinary people always understand telegraphing by wire as meaning through the wire, going from one station to the other; and these parallel wires, not connected, would rather be looked upon as parts of the sending and receiving instruments. I hope, therefore, that the same name will be adhered to in any further development of the subject." If thus the name be allowable in Preece's case where, to bridge a space of, say, one mile, two parallel wires, each theoretically one mile long, are requisite, or double the amount required in the old form of telegraphy, it cannot be objected to in any of the other proposals which are described in these pages, certainly not to the Marconi system, where a few yards of wire at each end suffice for one mile of space, or, to put it accurately, where the height of the vertical wires (in yards) varies as the square root of the distance (in miles) to be signalled over.
At the outset of my task I was met with the difficulty of arranging my materials--whether in simple chronological order, or classified under heads, as Conduction, Induction, Wave, and Other or Miscellaneous Methods. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but after consideration I decided to follow in the main the chronological order as the better of the two for a history which is intended to be a simple record of what has been done or attempted in the last sixty years by the many experimenters who have attacked the problem or contributed in any way to its solution.
Having settled this point, the further question of subdivision presented itself, and as the materials did not lend themselves to arrangement in chapters, I decided to divide the text into periods. The first I have called The Possible Period, which deals with first suggestions and empirical methods of experiment, and which, by reason of the want of delicacy in the instruments then available, may not inaccurately be compared with the Palæolithic period in geology. The second is The Practicable (or Neolithic) Period, when the conditions of the problem came to be better understood, and more delicate instruments of research were at hand. The third--The Practical Period--brings the subject up to date, and deals with the proposals of Preece (Electro-Magnetic), of Willoughby Smith (Conductive), and of Marconi (Hertzian), which are to-day in actual operation.
The whole concludes with five Appendices, containing much necessary information for which I could not conveniently find room in the body of the work. Appendix A deals with the philosophic views of the relation between electricity and light before and after Hertz, who, for the first time, showed them to be identical in kind, differing only in the degree of their wave-lengths. Appendix B gives in a popular form the modern views of electric currents consequent on the discoveries of Clerk-Maxwell, Hertz, and their disciples. Appendix C reproduces the greater part of Professor Branly's classic paper on his discovery of the Coherer principle, which is one of the foundation-stones of the Marconi system. Appendix D contains a very interesting correspondence between myself and Prof. Hughes, F.R.S., which came too late for insertion in the body of the work, and which is too important from the historical point of view to be omitted.
In Appendix E Mr Marconi's patent specification is reproduced, as, besides being historically interesting as the first patent for a telegraph of the Hertzian order, it is in itself a marvel of completeness. As the apparatus is there described, so it is used to-day after three years' rigorous experimentation, the only alterations being in points of detail--a finer adjustment of means to ends. This says much for the constructive genius of the young inventor,and bodes well for the survival of his system in the struggle for existence in which it is now engaged.
In the presentation of my materials I have allowed, as far as possible, the various authors to speak in their own words, merely condensing freely and, where necessary, translating obsolete words and phrases into modern technical language. This course in a historical work is, I think, preferable to obtruding myself as their interpreter. For time same reason I have given in the text, or in footnotes thereto, full references, so that the reader who desires to consult the original sources can readily do so.
I seem to hear the facetious critic exclaim, "Why, this is all scissors and paste." So it is, good sir, much of it and so is all true history when you delete the fictions with which many historians embellish their facts. What one person said or what another did is not altered by the presence or absence of quotation marks. However, the only credit I claim is that due to collecting, condensing, and presenting my facts in a readable form--no light task,--and if my critics will award me this I will be satisfied.
Since the following pages were written, two excellent contributions have been made by Prof. Oliver Lodge and Mr Sydney Evershed in papers read before the Institution of Electrical Engineers, December 8 and 22, 1898. These will be found in No. 137 of the 'Journal,' and, together with the discussion which followed, should be studied by all interested in this fascinating subject. Mr Marconi has followed up these papers with one on his own method, which was read before the Institution on the 2nd of March last, and was repeated by general request on the 16th idem. He does not carry the matter farther than I have done in the text, but still the paper is worth reading--if only as an exposition in a nutshell of his beautiful system.
As a Frontispiece I give a group of twelve portraits of eminent men who may be fitly called the Arch-builders of Wireless Telegraphy. At the top stands Oersted (Denmark), who first showed the connection between electricity and magnetism. Then follow in order of time Ampère (France), Faraday (England), and Henry (America), who explained and extended the principles of the new science of electro-magnetism. Then come Clerk-Maxwell (England) and Hertz (Germany), who showed the relation between electricity and light, the one theoretically, and the other by actual demonstration. These are followed by Branly (France), Lodge (England), and Righi (Italy), whose discoveries have made possible the invention of Marconi. The last three are portraits of Preece and Willoughby Smith (England) and Marconi (Italy), who divide between them the honour of establishing the first practical lines of wireless telegraph--each typical of a different order.
ST HELIER'S, JERSEY,
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