In 1906, San Francisco, California was hit by a disastrous earthquake and fire, which cut off all telegraph and telephone communication, so until the lines could be restored the only direct communication with the outside world was via a small number of Navy ships that were equipped with radio transmitters. Three years later, a new station was installed at the Chronicle newspaper by United Wireless, then the largest radio company in the United States. United Wireless was prone to exaggeration -- many of the coverage ranges and income expectations mentioned in this article are highly optimistic.
San Francisco Chronicle, September 6, 1909, page 16:
"Chronicle" First Paper on Coast to Install Wireless Apparatus
NEW SERVICE IS ESTABLISHED
News Dispatches and Aerograms From Ships at Sea Received at Station on Roof of Building.
WHEN the wires are down, and when there are none, the "Chronicle" will hereafter publish the news with the same accurate and prompt service that succeeds in good weather between telegraph stations.
In these days of conquest of the air and polar discovery conditions are rapidly changing, and the "Chronicle," pursuant to its long-established policy of keeping abreast of the times, announces to-day the establishment of the Chronicle Wireless Bureau, with a completely fitted station of the United Wireless Telegraph Company, established on the roof of the Chronicle building, where messages will be received from steamers at sea and from inland points when storms or floods interrupt the service over the wires on the earth.
With forty land stations on the Coast, and with fifty-eight steamships plying from Pacific ports already equipped with wireless instruments, the service rendered by the company has attained a degree of efficiency that makes it a factor in news gathering that cannot be neglected in ordinary times, and may be the sole means of quick communication between cities in days when weather conditions put telegraph wires out of action.
FIRST IN THE FIELD.
The "Chronicle" is the first paper on the Pacific Coast to add to the telephone and telegraph the wireless service. And the call "C-H" vibrating through the upper air will be answered by the man in the little office upon the roof, just as "Kearny 1041" brings its response from the telephone operator in the city department.
After the storm that occurred on March 4th, when the news of the Taft inauguration had to be sent from Washington by wireless, several Eastern papers, among them the New York Tribune and the Boston Herald, saw the necessity of providing themselves with the new means of telegraphic communication, which is naturally of earlier importance to newspapers of seaport cities.
From to-day the field of the "Chronicle's" news-gathering service is extended to cover half a hundred ships at sea, and as the scope of the United Wireless continues to be enlarged the "Chronicle" will benefit by each station that is added. Messages announcing the position and probable time of arrival of incoming steamers will form an important part of the new service, and in times of disaster at sea the aerograms signaling for help will be caught upon the receiving instrument and given directly to the public in the "Chronicle" bulletins.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PLANT.
Rising from the tank house on the roof of the building a tall mast has been erected on which the antennae wires are strung, and in a small office over the sixteenth floor the sending and receiving apparatus, with its dynamo and transformer in which the 110-volt current is stepped up to 20,000 volts, has been installed. Messages are received directly from stations on land as far south as San Luis Obispo, and to the north as far distant as Marshfield, Or., while the aerograms from incoming steamers and from the war ships in the bay buzz their cryptic signals in the ears of the operator. Messages for the "Chronicle" from more distant stations, as Honolulu or the points in Alaska where wireless equipment has been erected, are received by the Russian Hill station and transmitted directly to the "Chronicle" operator, thus making a connection in an ever-widening radius that cannot be disturbed by storms or floods.
Since the first of the year thirty new land stations have been erected by the United Wireless on this Coast, and the number of sea-going vessels that are installed with wireless is constantly being added to. The company is at present planning the erection of a fifteen-kilowatt station near the beach at Parkside, from which it is expected that direct communication with Japan may be maintained. From the five kilowatt station on Russian Hill messages are sent to and received from Honolulu, and the steamers carrying two-kilowatt installation already talk over a radius of over 1500 miles. The succesful operation of a wireless plant established on a moving railroad train was a feature of the California Promotion Committee's special train to Seattle.
A WONDERFUL SYSTEM.
These facts indicate the present attainments of the system, but more than that they are significant of what may be expected in the near future, when Edison has predicted that the wireless will put the submarine telegraph cables out of business. Whatever the advances made by wireless the "Chronicle" will get the best, and added stations and greater radius of operation will add to the efficiency of the new "Chronicle Wireless Bureau."
A complete understanding of just how a wireless message is sent would involve a complete understanding of just what electricity is, and as no scientist claims to know that, it is evident that there is much about wireless telegraphy that has been named rather than well comprehended. The inventors are working with a great force. They have made their operations a commercial success, and reversed the experiment of Franklin with the kite, by sending electrical force through the air from high stations. "Vibrations of the ether in motion waves," is the nomenclature that is employed to express the instantaneous transmission of signals by wireless apparatus. Apparently these ether waves work in a somewhat similar fashion to sound waves. For example, it is reported that the Russian Hill station sometimes has difficulty in talking with the station at Eureka, when it finds no difficulty in reaching the Puget sound and Alaska stations with the same voltage. This is explained by the assumption that the waves travel in arcs.
SOME OF ITS FEATURES.
Another peculiar feature of the operation of the wireless is that by lengthening the length of the waves, those of shorter lengths may be "tuned out," so that they are not heard.
The first experience of placing the ear caps to one's ears and hearing the distinct buzzing of several sending stations, together with which may possibly be mingled the rhythmic sounds sent out from the top of a distant sky scraper by some experimenter in wireless telephoning, is novel and startling.
A popular misunderstanding of the operation of the wireless system is that the spark is transmitted directly to the air, while, in fact, it is received on wires from the muffler and finally escapes into the air from the antennae wires above.
George Jessop, the division manager , and C. A. Simons, the local fiscal agent of United Wireless in this city, tell of the commercial advance of the company, which last year earned $70,000, sending messages on land at the same rates as the Western Union and Postal, and charging from 50 cents to $2 for messages of ten words from vessels at sea, depending on the distance of the ship at the time.
LIST OF STATIONS.
The following is a list of the stations now in commercial operation on the Coast, and the steamers carrying wireless apparatus:
San Diego; Catalina Island; Los Angeles (2); San Pedro; Hotel Green, Pasadena; Hotel Potter, Santa Barbara; San Francisco; San Louis Obispo; Olympia, Wash.; Eureka; Portland, Or.; Imperial Hotel, Portland; Monterey; Salem, Or.; Roseburg, Or.; Fort Bragg; Marshfield, Or. (Coos Bay); Astoria, Or.; Westport, Wash.; Aberdeen, Wash.; Tacoma, Wash.; Kalama, Wash.; Everett, Wash.; Seattle, Wash.; Perry Hotel, Seattle, Wash.; Port Townsend, Wash.; Eugene, Or.; Newport, Or.; Bellingham, Wash.; Friday Harbor, Wash.; Chehalis, Wash.; North Vancouver, B. C.; Hotel Dunsmuir, Vancouver, B. C.; Victoria, B. C.; Katalla, Alaska; Cordova, Alaska; Ketchikan, Alaska; Juneau, Alaska; Seward, Alaska; Susitna, Alaska; Wenatchee, Wash.; North Yakima, Wash; Spokane, Wash.; The Dalles, Or.; "The Chronicle," S. F.
STEAMSHIPS AND STEAMSHIP COMPANIES.
Alaska Pacific Company--Buckman, Admiral Sampson, Watson.
Schubach-Hamilton Steamship Company--St. Croix, Mackinaw.
Matson Navigation Company--Enterprise, Hilonian, Wilhelminn.
Associated Oil Company--Porter, Rosecrans.
Alaska Steamship Company--Victoria, Yucatan, Northwestern, Santa Clara, Ohio, Jefferson, Olympia, Dolphin, Seward.
Pacific Coast Steamship Company--Governor, President, Umatilla, Senator.
Canadian Pacific Railroad Company--Princess May, Princess Charlotte, Princess Victoria, Princess Royal.
Pacific Mail Steamship Company--Pennsylvania, Kansas City.
Chlopeck Fish Company--Chicago.
MacKenzie Bros. Steamship Company, Ltd.--Rupert City.
Alaska Coast Company--Portland, Bertha.
Standard Oil Company--Col. E. L. Drake, Barge No. 3, Barge No. 91, Ascunsion, Maverick, Atlas.
Puget Sound Tugboat Company--Tyee, Goliah.
Independent Steamship Company--Hanalei.
California and Oregon Coast Company--Alliance.
Inland Navigation Company--Iroquois, Chippews.
Oceanic Steamship Company--Alameda, Mariposa.
Banning Bros. Steamship Company--Hermosa, Cabrillo.
C. A. Smith Lumber and Manufacturing Company--Nann Smith.
Pacific Coal and Transportation Company--Corwin.
Great Northern Steamship Company--Minnesota.
Humboldt Steamship Company--Humboldt.
Puget Sound Salvage Company--Santa Cruz.
Charles Nelson Company--Falcon.