In the mid-1890s, Guglielmo Marconi had ignored expert opinion and successfully developed a practical method for long-range radio signaling. However, he was not as successful with these later ideas about using radio waves to transmit power -- virtually all of the technical and political predictions in this article turned out to be wrong. During his life Marconi had limited involvement with political matters, although he was appointed as a Senator from Rome two years after this article appeared. Marconi died in 1937, after the rise of Benito Mussolini, who was a kind of semi-socialist in his own right, although perhaps not in the fashion in which this article uses the term.
Technical World Magazine, October, 1912, pages 145-150:
M A R C O N I ' S P L A N S F O R T H E W O R L D
I V A N N A R O D N Y
"WITHIN the next two generations we shall have not only wireless telegraphy and telephony, but also wireless transmission of all power for individual and corporate use, wireless heating and light, and wireless fertilizing of fields.
"When all that has been accomplished--as it surely will be--mankind will be free from many of the burdens imposed by present economic conditions.
"In the wireless era the government will necessarily be the owner of all the great sources of power. This will naturally bring railways, telegraph and telephone lines, great ocean-going vessels, and great mills and factories into public ownership. It will sweep away the present enormous corporations and will bring about a semi-socialistic state.
"I am not personally a socialist; I have small faith in any political propaganda; but I do believe that the progress of invention will create a state which will realize most of the present dreams of the socialists.
"The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.
"The inventor is the greatest revolutionist in the world."
The man who made these startling predictions is not a visionary, but one who already has to his credit one of the greatest material achievements of modern times--Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the wireless telegraph.
I was talking with the wizard about his great invention, and I listened enraptured as he opened up before me his plans for the future development of the wireless idea.
Marconi is a man of medium height and, though of a nervous and highly-strung temperament, he remains cool and deliberate in his manner. Unlike the inventor of tradition, he is fashionably dressed and has the appearance of a member of the leisure class of society. He assured me that he had never written a line for any publication; nor taken part in any scientific dispute. Though born at Bologna, in Italy, thirty-seven years ago, he speaks English as perfectly as he does his native tongue. His blue eyes, light hair, and fair complexion give him more the appearance of an American than of an Italian. When he was nineteen years old he began the experiments which culminated in his discovery of the wireless transmission of electric energy.
"At twenty-one I came from Italy to London and convinced the British Post Office Department of the practicability of my invention," said Marconi, "and at twenty-three I had already made my reputation.
"In August, 1898, I was invited to install my wireless system between the Royal yacht Osborne and Osborne House, Isle of Wight. The late Queen Victoria wanted to communicate with the then Prince of Wales, during his cruises in Cowes Bay and the Channel. When the Prince of Wales sent the first message to the Duke of Connaught, he asked me if that was the very first ever sent from English soil. 'Oh, no, Your Royal Highness,' I replied; 'The first message from the English soil I sent to my aged parents to Italy,' and the prince shrugged his shoulders.
"That was amusing, dramatic, too, in a light comedy way. It stands in sharp contrast with another experience I had--that of sending the first message across the Atlantic. This was on December 12, 1901. The mere memory of it makes me shudder. It may seem a simple story to the world, but to me it was a question of the life and death of my future. I have never told the story before for publication."
Mr. Marconi paused as if grouping the facts in his mind, and continued: "I landed quietly on December 9, 1901, at St. Johns in Newfoundland with my two assistants, Mr. Kemp and Mr. Paget, and set my instruments in a low room in the old barracks of Signal Hall, which stands about half a mile from the town of St. Johns. Nobody knew of my plans and arrival for I intended to make the experiment without any great attention. I was not skeptical about the possibility of the feat, but I was afraid that some technical imperfection might ruin the whole experiment. Before leaving England, I had instructed my assistants to send me a certain signal at a fixed time each day. This signal was to be sent out from Poldhu, Cornwall, the most southwestern end of England. The question was: Could I receive on my kite-wire in Newfoundland some of the electric waves produced in England? It was a distance of two thousand miles. I had cabled my assistants across the water to begin sending the signals on December 12, at three o'clock, p. m., in England, and continue until six p. m., which hours correspond to about 11:30 to 2:30 o'clock in St. Johns.
"On Thursday, December 12, I filled a fourteen-foot hydrogen balloon and sent it up through a thick fog. We succeeded in holding it up at an elevation of about four hundred feet and I prepared myself for the crucial test.
"At noon I was waiting with a telephone receiver at my ear, my heart beating rapidly. I used the telephone in my experiments merely to hear the slightest clicking of the regular receiving instrument. On the table before me lay the sensitive receiving instrument -- the crown of all my labors and triumphs. A wire connected it with the kite, which could be seen swaying high in the air. It was rather a rough and unfavorable day for an experiment. When I listened to the monotonous roar of the ocean at the base of the cliff, and gazed out over the waste of water eastward and thought of the two thousand miles of distance, my heart grew heavy. The coming of a mysterious message seemed almost impossible. Yet my faith was unshaken.
"I remained waiting an hour without a sound, except the roaring sea, to break the silence. Then suddenly I heard the tapper as it struck against the coherer. I listened, my hand trembling with excitement. A few minutes pause, and again I heard, faintly yet distinctly, the three low clicks, signifying the letter S. in the Morse telegraphic system. My assistants, Mr. Kemp and Mr. Paget, were in the other room and, unable to control myself. I exclaimed: 'Gentlemen, did you hear it?' The question was solved and I experienced a feeling of the greatest joy. Half an hour later, other repetitions of the signal were received. As it was windy the kite swayed so much in the air that the receiving wire was not maintained at the same altitude, as it should be, therefore the experiment was more than successful. When I walked down the hill toward the city I felt proud of having wrought the greatest wonder of electrical science.
"Although most people know about wireless telegraphy and admit the possibility of wireless transmission of sound and energy, yet they do not seem to understand the fundamental principles of this, perhaps, most revolutionizing invention of the age. Wireless transmission is nothing more than a certain vibration of the ether. In the ether, when it is carrying the wireless message, a sort of invisible earthquake is set up. Etheric vibrations of four hundred billions of waves in a second produce red light, twice as fast violet, but vibrations of two hundred millions in a second produce the waves that carry the wireless message. The static electricity of the ether is energized by the oscillating current sent up and down by the aërial wire of the wireless telegraphic instrument and is diffused through space. The power of this is supplied by an ordinary alternate-current generator, having an output of thirty kilowatts, with a voltage of about two thousand. By means of special transformers and condensers, the electrical pressure is increased to fifty thousand volts, or even more. The terminals of the transformer are connected with two metal spheres, one of which is connected with the perpendicular wires and the other with the ground. On the circuit being closed the spheres become charged. The discharge of those spheres is oscillatory and they radiate electrical waves in the ether in all directions. Some of these vibrating waves dash across the space to the corresponding station, where they strike wires in connection with the receiving instrument. A simple illustration of the action of these ether waves is that of throwing a stone into a placid lake. A series of ripples is created which spread out in circles. Any small piece of wood which may be floating upon the surface will bob up and down in each consecutive ripple. This is the principle of every wireless transmission, be it dispatch, sound, heat or energy. The difference is only in the length of the wave and the velocity of its oscillation.
"It seems as if it would be possible for every one who puts up a receiving station to catch the wireless energy and thus to easily steal it. More important than that which presents itself to those who make use of these waves for messages will be the problem to those availing themselves of wireless for light and dynamic power. But this is easily prevented by tuning the waves so that they can be received only by a corresponding coherer. If the transmitter is sending out one million five hundred thousand waves in a second, they can be received only by an instrument of corresponding construction.
"In one of my experiments I had connected three receivers with a single wire, but they were all tuned differently to transmitters, of which one was in Germany, one in France and one in England. The three transmitters sent three different messages, one in German, one in French and one in English. The dispatches were received simultaneously without any interference. This is striking proof of how easily electric energy without wireless transmission can be managed.
"No invention has had directed against it a more bitter opposition than has wireless telegraphy. There have been directed also widespread jealousy and animosity against the inventor. I have been attacked most aggressively in every possible way by people who are afraid of my revolutionizing invention. The reason for this is very simple. About four hundred millions of dollars are invested in cable systems in various countries of the world and twice as much in land wires. As soon as my wireless system succeeds the vast network of cables and wires will become useless and the money invested in the old system will be simply thrown away. It is a vital point for those companies that have invested in the old system and they are making me now every possible trouble.
"A cable across the Atlantic costs four million dollars and requires constant repairs. But I can equip stations on both sides of the ocean for less than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The subsequent expense of maintaining these stations, as compared with the cable systems, would be very small. I would be able to transmit with one instrument about twenty words a minute and I can have a hundred or more instruments working from the same station. A word sent by cable now costs twenty-five cents. I would be able to send a word for three or perhaps two cents. The difficulty with a bigger commercial use of my system has been merely the scarcity of wireless stations throughout the country, here and in Europe. It is true, that there are many companies competing with mine, all working independently. I think it is only a matter of time, however, when they will be all consolidated into one international wireless union.
A step further in the progress of wireless stands wireless lighting, heating and transmission of motor power. Each of these systems is based on the same principle as wireless telegraphy, only the transmitting and receiving instruments are different and the vibrations of the etheric waves have a different nature, intensity and length. The so-called high-potential magnifying transmitter is the instrument to be applied in these new wireless systems of electric energy. This creates a freely vibrating secondary circuits, from which one end is connected with the ground and the other with an elevated conductor. I suppose currents of one thousand amperes and fifteen to twenty million volts will be necessary for producing these waves and for the receiving of them by the consumers.
"The generating terminals of the wireless energy will have to be owned by the State governments. The waves will be sent out to the consumers in various degrees of power. Some of the waves will be utilized for dynamic purposes, others for lighting, heating, fertilizing and, possibly, for military purposes. Water and wind power, possibly light, also, will be used for generating purposes in the huge national power-stations. As an example, take Niagara, the water power of which is owned by New York State. Say, for instance, that Niagara would be able to send out every hour one hundred and fifty million horsepower in electric waves, that twenty millions of it would be used for mills, shops, railways, traffic in the cities, and for household purposes, that ten millions would be consumed for lighting and thirty millions for heating and fertilizing within the boundaries of the State. There would then remain eighty million horse-power that could be sold to other States. It would seem at first glance as if the owners of receiving stations outside of New York State could easily steal the energy of Niagara for whatever purpose they wanted it, without payment. But this will be impossible, for in the first place, the waves of various degrees will be so tuned that only corresponding receivers can use them and these receivers will have to be recorded by the municipalities, and in the second place, every user of wireless energy will be obliged to use a meter, like the present gas-meter. Motor waves, for instance, will have two million vibrations, and forty million volts, the light waves measure slightly less and the fertilizing waves still less. All the generators of energy in New York State will be exactly of the same degree. If this New York wave should overload Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, it could not be utilized there, because all the receivers of those States would have their individual tuning, different from New York. But New York State knowing that it could spare eighty million horse-power as the surplus of what it created might agree to sell it to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, or any other customer for a definite price. Consequently those States could have certain accumulators which would receive the rest of New York's electrical energy and transform it to the same measure of waves used within their borders. By this method it will be much simpler to handle wireless energy than steam and electricity in their present form.
"As soon as the use of wireless energy becomes universal it will necessarily sweep out all the present privileged corporations of power and create a semi-socialistic state of affairs. In the future the government will be the owner of all energy. Individuals will use it to a certain amount free of any charge, but for the rest they will have to pay for the state a definite tribute. This will naturally make railways, telegraphy, telephone, vessels and mills a public ownership. There remains opportunity for an individual under those new conditions. The main trouble with all the today's economic friction is that the energy can be owned by certain privileged individuals, who use it for their own selfish ends but not for the benefit of humanity."