Electrician and Mechanic, July, 1912, pages 57-58:
SOME RECENT DEVELOPMENTS OF THE POULSEN SYSTEM OF WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY
W. C. R.
So much has been heard recently of the benefits which the existence of wireless has conferred upon mankind, that it will not be without interest to say a few words relating to the recent progress which Valdemar Poulsen's system of undamped oscillations has made.
As long ago as 1907 the fact was mentioned, says The Model Engineer and Electrician, that quite a number of wireless stations using the Poulsen system were established in England, Denmark and Germany, and although even in those days the system worked admirably the period which has since elapsed must have been one of continuous progress and development, judging by the state of affairs as outlined by Mr. Carl Philip to Politiken recently.
It is interesting at this point to recall the manner in which Sir William Preece introduced Mr. Valdemar Poulsen to his audience of distinguished scientists at Queen's Hall, London, when, in 1907, he gave a demonstration of his system. Sir William said that the demonstration his audience was about to witness was to sound the death-knell of spark telegraphy. The significance of that statement may be judged by the developments now in progress.
At the present time there are three companies making use of Poulsen's system. One is a Continental syndicate, which is working the European Continent. Another combination consists of English and Canadian interests, which was formed some time ago, and upon which great hopes were placed. It failed for a time, however, to do all that has been expected, on account of financial troubles. Hampered in this way for some time, the concern has now been placed on a more solid basis, and the interests of the principal shareholder have been acquired by Danish capital. The youngest of the three Poulsen companies is the Federal Telegraph Co., which uses the system all over the United States. Not more than about two years ago Mr. Elwell traveled from San Francisco to Denmark to study the real possibilities of the Poulsen system first hand, and the result was the formation of this company, San Francisco being the headquarters. The Federal Telegraph Co. has at present nearly thirty stations working in the western part of the States, situated in relation to each other in such a way that they make a complete whole from the British Columbia frontier down to Mexico in the south, and from San Francisco to Chicago in the east. Besides San Francisco and Chicago there are stations in Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Stockton, Los Angeles, Kansas City, etc.,--in all, as we said before, thirty towns, and, moreover, the network is steadfastly being enlarged by the addition of new stations. At the present time one is being erected on Honolulu (Sandwich Islands). The monthly costs of working are said to be at present $35,000. So far extraordinary success has attended this Company's endeavors, and that it will be more than maintained there is little doubt. The secret of its success lies in the fact that its charges for the transmission of messages can be kept very low--much lower, we believe, than the Western Union Co.'s, which has hitherto had the field in the West, and in which Morgan has enormous interests. The Federal Company sends fifteen words for the same charge as the Western Union sends ten, which is accounted for by the fact that the Poulsen stations are in first cost and maintenance considerably less than the older company's stations, and it is found that even at the low rate which the Federal Company charges the profits are proportionately larger. But, it may be asked, could not the older and perhaps larger company institute a system of undercutting, and so, by sheer weight of capital resource, eventually ruin the Federal Company? Fortunately, there is no reason to fear any such thing, for here the American law steps in and says, in effect, that when you have once fixed a certain charge for transmission you must not increase that charge. It may be reduced as much as you choose, but it must never be raised again at your own convenience. Here, then, is an effective method of stopping a ruinous system of competition, which is fair and ingenious.
A few instances of what the Federal Company is doing with the Poulsen system are also worth recording. The other day 350 telegrams were sent from San Francisco, and 200 of these were to Los Angeles. But what is even more to the point lies in the fact that several large banks and many business men of standing in both San Francisco and other towns, have declared that the quickness, precision and certainty with which the Federal Company works is perfectly satisfactory. The main object in view now is to amalgamate the English-Canadian and the American Company and run them under one management. If this project is successfully accomplished, the next step will be to erect a couple of big stations on either side of the Atlantic.
As regards the application of Poulsen's system outside America, it is interesting to note that Germany has equipped her fleet with it throughout, at a cost of between three and four million marks. Australia has also manifested a great practical interest in its possibilities, and has installed it in many of her fortresses. Austrian officers have visited Poulsen's station at Lyngbye, not far from Copenhagen, taking part on these occasions in certain experiments, and also have communicated at various times with the Poulsen station on the west coast of Ireland. That there are certain undoubtedly important inherent advantages in the Poulsen system seems slowly to be becoming recognized--but in England, very slowly. True, there is a station at Portsmouth, and also one at Newcastle with which our naval authorities are experimenting, and it would be interesting to learn with what success.
In view, then, of the brief outline of recent events which the writer has endeavored to present clearly to those of his readers who are interested in wireless progress as a whole, and not merely with the Marconi system, it is not altogether surprising that Valdemar Poulsen did not jump at the invitation extended to him recently to erect a station at Trinidad. In such a situation he would be practically surrounded by the Marconi system, and the possibilities of convenient extension would be an indefinite factor. No, his and the American Company's plans for the development of his system are much more far reaching.