There is something almost terrifying in the news from Germany that attempts at telephoning without wires have already attained such success that a scientist as eminent and sober-minded as Prof. SLABY, well known for his achievements in wireless telegraphy, announces the approach of the time when a man will be able to speak without any conducting wire to a friend in any part at the world. Already conversations have been thus carried on over a distance of twenty-four miles, and only the perfection of the apparatus used seems necessary for extending the system till the professor's prophecy is fulfilled.
The telegraph, marvelous as our grandfathers thought it, is now a mere matter of course--an important but dull utility. We can still exclaim a little over the telephone, but only when we hear a familiar voice from some such absurd distance as Chicago or St. Louis. Wireless telegraphy remains a wonder, but already it is a familiar wonder, and we are quite ready to believe any assertion of its possibilities. Wireless telephony is another matter--as different from wireless telegraphy as the telephone is from the telegraph--for again the "operator" will be not a specially trained person doing things that common people can't, but anybody who can talk! That brings the miracle closer home and adds vastly to its impressiveness.
But the telephone is a nuisance as well as a convenience and a blessing without which, it seems now, life would be almost impossible and business quite so. When we ourselves "call up," of course it is all right, but when others do it the rightness is often rather deeply veiled, and we resent not a few of the demands upon our time. And yet everybody "answers the 'phone," interrupting almost any occupation to do it. How will it be when we're told, not that somebody's "on the wire," but that somebody's "on the air," and we are exposed to answer calls from any part of the atmosphere?
It will be a good while, however, before even the telephone reaches around the earth, and wireless telegraphy has as yet sent barely more than expiring, inexpressive whispers across the narrower seas. Wireless telephony has more difficulties to conquer than those of all three of its predecessors put together, and it will not be a thing of to-morrow or next day. Old-fashioned as they are, the postal departments of the several countries will be doing business for some years to come, and most of us will be rather gray-headed before anybody rings us up from China, either with or without a wire.