Western Electrician, August 24, 1901, page 119:
Spark, Space, Wireless, Etheric, Hertzian Wave or Cableless Telegraphy--Which?
BY A. FREDERICK COLLINS.
The moot question relating to the applicability of the word "wireless" to electrical communication without intervening connecting wires has been again brought up. It has recently been proposed to substitute the word "spark" for the offending one of "wireless," since the latter is said to be misleading, there being coils of wire at both transmitting and receiving stations, wires high in the air and wires deep in the ground. In a discussion following the reading of Mr. W. H. Preece's paper on "Electric Signaling Without Wires" before the Society of Arts in 1894, Sir Richard Webster, then attorney-general in the British cabinet, decided that the objection was hypercritical, because it is ordinarily understood that telegraphy by wire means over a wire, and without wires that there are no wires connecting the sending with the receiving instrument. This sanction of one so high in authority has been adhered to at least in the popular mind. Thus it is that since 1894 the term wireless telegraphy has conveyed, to all intents and purposes, the meaning, i e., the non-existence of connecting wires.
This term is satisfying to the laity and generally to the technician. The recent progress in transmission without connecting wires wherein a disruptive discharge takes place between the terminals of an induction coil or other high-tension apparatus and the emission of waves effected by creating a spark has led to the suggestion that the word "spark" be substituted for that of "wireless." "Spark telegraphy" has a crisp, fresh, crackling sound, and if the spark method of wireless telegraphy was the only one in existence, the change advocated would be welcome indeed.
But there are at least three other separate and distinct systems which use no spark, as, for instance, the conductivity method, popularized by Lindsay, Willoughby Smith and Morse, the magneto-induction of Preece, the electrostatic of Collins, and possibly some combinations of these. Should any of those named become more generally used, it will at once be seen how absurd the term "spark telegraphy" would be when applied to them--even more absurd than that of "wireless," although all of the systems cited require wire, and plenty of it, as in the former case.
Another qualifying adjective proposed, and one that is frequently used to designate the propagation of electric or etheric waves through the earth or through free air, is "space telegraphy." This sounds well, but lacks that definite meaning sought so hard by the brainiest men in the electrical profession. The wire telegraph is also a space-eliminating device, if the element of time is taken into consideration, and so "space" is not more explicit nor self-explanatory than the word "wireless."
"Etheric-wave telegraphy" seems to approach more nearly the absolute meaning of the desired expression, and is not open to the objection that spark telegraphy is, namely, the inapplicability of the term to the other and less-known systems, since electricity itself may be, in any form, a manifestation of the ether, but in view of the fallacy regarding the etheric waves in the transmission of messages by means of a disruptive discharge the term is seldom used. Hertzian waves and those employed in spark telegraphy are evidently not identical, and it is bestowing honors in the wrong direction to harbor the term "Hertzian wave" in this relation.
One feature in common with all the various systems of wireless telegraphy is their adaptability for marine transmission of intelligence. Herein lies a thought. Why not use the term "cableless telegraphy?" None of the systems yet devised have been employed to advantage on land, the Guarini system excepted. The idea of connecting the shore with a moving ship by cable approaches the impossible, but to transmit messages from ship to shore or vice versa without a cable is a thing accomplished, and though the system employed is not "wireless" it is "cableless" to a certainty.
But when we come to dry land, the old objections are again in force and the term "cableless" is inappropriate and useless. In the distant future when all wire systems, both telegraph and telephone, have been superseded by the so-called wireless, there will be no confusing qualifying adjectives, for there will be no dual systems requiring qualification, and wireless telegraphy and telephony will be spoken of as simply telegraphy and telephony. Should one recall the old, out-of-date systems connected with miles of wire strung on unsightly poles, the word wire will be necessary to make clear the meaning.
The day will be a happy one when wire will be relegated to the dead past, except in so far as it is applicable to wire-pulling politicians, and even then it may fall into innocuous desuetude, for without connecting telephone and telegraph wires, there will not be so many franchises to be given away--for money--and the world will be the better for it. Until then the various prefixes--spark, space, etheric wave, wireless and cableless--will be used synonymously, and in this all will serve a purpose.
It would be difficult at this late date to eliminate the word wireless from the vocabulary of the average reader, either lay or technical.