Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, November 28, 1915:
TEAM WORK MADE WIRELESS TELEPHONY POSSIBLE
By ARTHUR BENINGTON.
"Hello, Wilson! Hello, Hartley! One-two-three-four-five. Mary had a little lamb."
For the thousandth time those words, or words of similar vagueness, were talked into the air at Montauk Point, L. I., and the men sat down to await a long-distance telephone call. The call came over and over again from Wilmington, Del., and was always about the same:
FOR days and weeks that little group of five or six--not always all together, for there was much running back and forth between Montauk Point, New York City and Wilmington--adjusting apparatus, changing this and changing that, talking these meaningless words into the air and awaiting with feverish eagerness the long distance call from Wilmington. For they hoped that Wilmington would hear them.
At their head, the inspiration of all their efforts, was John J. Carty, chief engineer of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. With him were C. E. Scribner, chief engineer of the Western Electric Company; Dr. F. B. Jewett, assistant chief engineer, and E. H. Colpitts, research engineer of the Western Electric Company; Dr. F. Arnold and R. A. Heising of the Research Department, and Lloyd Espenschied, an engineer of the A. T. & T. Co. The conductors of the Long Island Railroad grew to know these men, and to call them by name, especially square-browed, keen-eyed Carty, with his face like Kitchener's but without that soldier's sternness. For Mr. Carty was directing the effort to talk through the air to R. H. Wilson and R. L. Hartley, who were spending their time on the roof of the du Pont Building in Wilmington, 200 miles away, with a wireless receiving antenna above them and the mouthpiece of a long-distance telephone at their side.
It was just after Christmas that they commenced building the station at Montauk from which this seemingly Quixotic performance of talking into the air at the eastern end of Long Island and expecting men in Delaware to hear what they were saying was to be tried. And two or three times a day the long-distance phone brought back the disheartening words:
Meaning that Messrs. Wilson and Hartley could not near Messrs. Carty, Scribner, Jewett, et al., talking 200 miles away.
These failures would have discouraged most men, but those five engineers of the Bell system and their assistants are not easily discouraged. They felt certain they were on the right track. They knew that the instruments they had devised ought to send into the air a current that would reach Wilmington--or Hong Kong or Melbourne, for the matter of that--and that it was only a question patience and perfecting the apparatus when their efforts would be crowned with success, and long-distance wireless telephony would be a fact.
The weeks passed, the winter gradually turned into spring, and still the receiving instruments at Wilmington were deaf to everything they said at Montauk.
Finally, one day just before Easter, when their voices had been shot off into the air as usual, the long-distance telephone answered so quickly that it seemed like an echo. Mr. Carty's ear was at the receiver and his eyes flashed a more than usually bright glitter.
"We hear you!" came the message over the wire, "You said: 'Hello, Wilson! Hello, Hartley! One-two-three-four-five. Mary had a little lamb!'"
The five engineers beamed upon each other. Smiles swept the lines of anxiety from their faces. Hands seized hands and shook with hearty happiness.
Message followed message through the air. And ever the messages were repeated back word for word over the long-distance telephone. For there was no sending apparatus at Wilmington.
"Attach your receiving apparatus to the telephone and let us hear ourselves talk," went the message through the air. Instructions as to how to do this were sent to Wilson and Hartley, and presently the telephone was bringing back to Montauk Point every word the engineers spoke, and they were literally listening to their own voices, spread through the air on the crest of electric waves, caught by receivers 200 miles away, and borne back over the telephone wires to the ears of the speakers.
That day in Holy Week, when Wilmington heard Montauk talking, was the supreme moment, the actual physical birth of long-distance wireless telephony.
It was no sudden discovery, nor can any one man be crowned with laurels for making it. It had no Edison, no Marconi. It was the result of many years of experimentation, in which at least a hundred men were directly and at least five hundred indirectly engaged. For two or three years the vast laboratories of the Western Electric Company at West and Bethune Streets, New York, have been working toward this very end. For years every suggestion that seemed to have the slightest merit in it was taken up, studied and tested by a staff of trained experts, each with his own specialty in engineering, electricity or chemistry.
They were not certain at first whether radio-telegraphy had any place in their system nor how it might affect their business, so they studied it in its every smallest detail, especially as they knew that many other scientific men were already at work upon it.
During these years of experiment they learned many valuable things, especially in the line of what principles to discard as promising no satisfactory results. One fact they very soon discovered--that the more magnifying of the power of the sending instruments was futile; it might serve for transmitting words to short distances, but was valueless for anything more serious, as the power required was out of all proportion to the results obtained.
Finally, one day last fall, Mr. Carty called the engineers together and said:
"At last we seem to be on the right track. We have now discovered the principle that seems to promise real results. Let us take it up at once and devote all our energies in this one direction."
What this principle may be, the engineers of the two companies that have since developed it into success will not say. They have not yet patented either it or the apparatus that carries it into effect. They have filed applications for some patents and their patent experts are at work preparing applications for others. Until these shall have been granted they cannot make public their great discovery, for otherwise they might be robbed of the fruits of all their labor.
But the following explanation may help to convey some idea of what it is: When one talks, the sound-waves of the voice set the diaphragm of the transmitter vibrating, and it is these vibrations that actuate the very weak electric current that makes the diaphragm at the receiving end of the wire vibrate in unison with that at the talker's end. The human voice can control only a very weak current. When waves of electricity are discharged into the air they spread, like waves caused by dropping a stone into the water, in every direction; that is to say, spherically; or, because of the surface of the earth, hemispherically. As they spread they become attenuated. Suitable receiving apparatus catches these waves at distant points and reproduces them. The further away the receiver the more delicate it must be, for of course the greater the distance the weaker the waves. Therefore, very powerful waves must be emitted if they are to be caught at great distances. What Mr. Carty and Dr. Jewett and their assistants have succeeded in doing is to make the weak energy of the voice-actuated telephone current control the form of the waves set up by the enormously powerful wireless current in such a way that the latter shall be an exact replica of the former on an enlarged scale. And at the receiving end they hare succeeded in amplifying or magnifying until it is audible the very small amount of energy that arrives.
Such, in the merest outline, was the principle upon which these engineers went definitely at work nearly a year ago. Until then their experiments had been confined to the building in West Street.
Now they went to Montauk Point and built steel towers 600 feet apart and 175 feet high, with wires strung between their tops for antenna, and installed their instruments in a small building nearby. Messrs. Wilson and Hartley were sent to Wilmington, where the du Ponts lent them the wireless receiving apparatus on the roof of their building.
Having succeeded in telephoning through 200 miles of air, the engineers decided to try it at 1,000 miles. Receiving apparatus was installed on St. Simon's Island, near Brunswick, Ga., and the spoken words were just as audible there as they had been at Wilmington. The receiving apparatus was connected there with the ordinary long-distance wires to New York, so that Dr. Jewett and Mr. Colpitts were able to sit at their desks in the Western Electric Company's building and receive messages telephoned by wireless 1,000 miles and then, without human, intervention, coming directly back over the wires.
Success was complete and remained only to be demonstrated. The Navy Department placed its antenna at the service of the engineers, and they began work at once on constructing the instruments, those they had used heretofore having been temporary makeshifts.
"Never before had such apparatus been made," said Dr. F. B. Jewett in telling the story. "Each part had to be developed in its entirety and men had to be trained in its manufacture. Night and day--literally, not figuratively--the work went on in the laboratories, the workshops and at Arlington. By early summer things had progressed sufficiently far so men were despatched to their far-off stations in the West and South. These men from the research branch, W. Wilson, R. L. Hartley and R. H. Wilson, started for the Naval Radio Stations at San Diego, Mare Island and Darien; H. E. Shreeve and A. M. Curtis for Paris, and Lloyd Espenschied of the A. T. & T. engineering department to the station at Honolulu. By the time the men reached their distant posts, Arnold, Mills, Heising and the rest of the research branch had the apparatus ready for preliminary trials. As was to be expected, defects or troubles here and there showed up on these trials. Changes had to be made in some of the sending equipment, and Espenschied found the regular antenna at Honolulu unsuitable. This was remedied by stringing a little makeshift antenna between a smokestack and a water tank at the Pearl Harbor yard--an antenna so small as to make the final results truly remarkable.
"Gradually the difficulties were overcome, and more or less regular tests with one or other of the stations became the order of the day. Sometimes the press of official business at the stations prevented the tests; sometimes they were interfered with by the adverse atmospheric conditions which prevail during the summer months.
"By the first of September, however, Darien was being reached regularly, and some time later San Diego and Mare Island as well. Owing to the much greater distance and the very small receiving antenna, results at Honolulu were not quite so satisfactory."
The public test made on Sept. 29, when Theodore N. Vail actually talked with San Francisco and Honolulu, is now history, as is the feat of talking with the company's representatives on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This latter however, a notable accomplishment, because the Eiffel Tower receiving station is in the centre of a nest of the most powerful wireless apparatus in the world, and it handles about 500,000 words of wireless a month. As Mr. Shreeve, one of the engineers there, said, trying to receive a message was "just like trying to hear a watch tick in a boiler factory."
Those men at the distant points bad a far more difficult task than those at Montauk Point and New York and Arlington, for they had to wait and wait and wait, ignorant, most of the time, of what was going on, knowing nothing but that their receiving instruments gave them no word. Was it the fault of their instruments or of those that were sending? They could not tell. And so they sat and waited and listened and hoped and despaired, their faces becoming tense and lined, their nerves quivering under the strain. When at last the words came through the air and the tension was suddenly over, more than one of them collapsed.
Now that wireless telephony is an accomplished fact, the question naturally arises, to what extent will it supersede ordinary telephony over wires? Not at all, is the answer of Dr. Jewett.
"In the first place," he said, "atmospheric conditions make wireless telephony impossible at certain times. In the second place, it cannot be secret at the present stage, nor do I see how it can ever be secret. Any one with the proper receiving apparatus can listen to any message sent from anywhere; any one can hitch up the receiver with the ordinary telephone and thus every person in the world who has a telephone could listen to every wireless message.
"It is, of course, possible to adjust the wave-lengths of sending and receiving instruments, but there is a narrow limit within which adjustment is possible, and if wireless telephony were to become at all widespread there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of instruments operating on the same wave-lengths. When these were working at the same time their waves would interfere with each other and nobody would receive anything but a jumble of unintelligible sounds.
"The value of wireless telephony," continued Dr. Jewett, "will be for talking between ships at sea, between ships and shore, and for a limited number of transoceanic messages. Distance is no limit."
If one try to fix the credit for the wonderful achievement just where it belongs, he is forced to give up seeking for one man and to repeat the words which H. B. Thayer, President of the Western Electric Company, addressed to his men:
"No one man can say just where the work of one man, one department or one company leaves off and the work of another man, another department or another company begins. What we have done has not been the result of a discovery which some individual has accidentally made. It has been the result of a deliberate effort by an organization, thoroughly thought out and thoroughly carried out. It is the triumph of intelligent team work."