Popular Electricity, December, 1912, pages 808-810:
Something Really New--The Magnaphone
Although school has just "let out" and the afternoon is fine, a dozen boys of baseball age are gathered in a library in an upper Broadway apartment house. They are ranged in a circle, facing a corner of the room, straining eager ears and eyes toward a small horn about the size and appearance of those used by the deaf. From the horn comes a voice, proclaiming:
"Ty Cobb fanned out, leaving two men on bases, and two out. Southpaw Binks to the bat."
The boys set up a babel of heated comment, which instantly subsides into tense quiet when the voice in the horn continues:
"Binks hits a bounder to the pitcher. The ball flies home and then gets to first ahead of Binks. New York to the bat."
The strange instrument about which the boys are grouped is called a magnaphone. It is the latest development of telephone principles, put to the fullest use in news and music distribution.
When the baseball bulletins cease a voice announces:
"Barbieri will sing Shubert's 'Serenade,' by special request."
So it varies--music and baseball scores, weather reports and the latest news. At three minute intervals, from noon till midnight, the horn in the corner of the library keeps up a continual chatter.
At present there are nearly 100 such instruments in New York apartments, and the number is increasing. The wires from these various machines lead to a central office. This office can send news service and music to 1,000 subscribers with its present equipment.
In Wilmington, Delaware, a central office for this service has actually over 1,000 subscribers getting this new kind of wire service.
In the New York office the wires all lead to a table on which there are ten disks for graphophone records, and to a single voice transmitter, through which the news bulletins and announcements are sent. In connection with each disk there is a novel kind of transmitter, fitted with a graphophone needle, which operates over the record as usual.
But it is not a sound box, as in the graphophone, which receives the vibrations of the needle as it travels over the record. The sound boxes are all at the other end of the line, perhaps blocks away, possibly miles away. While the record is turning no sound is heard at the machine. In order that the operator may know that the record is playing, he must have one of the receiving horns in the room with him, or he must depend upon the lamps which are cut into the same circuit with the transmitter to tell him that the machine is working.
The little transmitter works a modern miracle in the way of music. The vibrations of the needle are transformed first, not into sound waves, but into electrical waves, which are sent over the wire. At the receiving end they are transformed back into sound waves. The result, maybe years after the human voice threw its melody into the graphophone horn, and certainly miles away from the instrument which is reproducing the song--the result, after all this interval of time and place, is music. This music is capable of constant magnification. It can be so repeated that ten people can hear it. And it can be repeated so that a thousand instruments in as many different places will pour out melody.
One graphophone record, however, is not depended upon for 1,000 wires, if all are listening. The transmitting table having ten disks turned by a single motor and controlled by a single switch, ten records can be played at once in absolute synchronization. It is customary to use an additional record for each 100 wires.
The service is not expensive, the present rate being eight dollars a month to each subscriber.
In spite of the value of the music to the sick and the lonely, the news is proving to be the most attractive feature of the service offered by the magnaphone company. It is always ahead of the newspapers on local news. The regular news is bulletined once an hour, but special features have precedence over the announced music schedule.
The music is not limited to the graphophone, although that is the principal reliance at present and will probably remain so. But as the service is extended, high class soloists and singers can perform directly before the voice transmitter.
In the meantime many other extensions of the serviceableness of this instrument have come. In the first place, it has been installed in the Grand Central Terminal in New York, and with receiving horns at all parts of the station, one announcer is enabled to call out the trains in a voice uniformly distributed. Last summer at the close of the season these instruments were installed in one of the Hudson River boats to Albany for announcing features of the scenery. The United States Navy appreciated the possibility of these instruments on ships. The battleship Utah is now equipped with the magnaphone, and eventually all of the vessels of the navy will be.
The inventor of the magnaphone, George R. Webb, is constantly extending the use of the instrument. When he first produced it, over five years ago, he was heavily interested in various electric light companies, traction companies and telephone lines. At one time he was president of the United Railways of Baltimore, of the electric light company and of the telephone company of that city. He was also head of the Pittsburgh, the Allegheny, the Duquesne and the Wilmington light companies. The magnaphone was simply his relaxation, but now he has given up all other interests to push this one invention. So quiet had been Mr. Webb's work in New York that no notice was taken in the newspapers of the franchise, and of the wonderful field it was opening up. None of them heralded the entrance into their field of an agency certain greatly to influence them, and possibly to prove in some ways an all powerful rival.