This article has an interesting construction, because although it starts out as a conventional review of the rise of radio communication, beginning with a purported scheme for pagers for Chicago police officers, it veers off wildly into humorous speculation on the potential ills of the innovation.
The Country Gentleman, April 22, 1922, page 30:
A Wireless Warning
By Tom P. Morgan
DESPITE the many beneficences it is daily conferring on the world, the radio or wireless telephone will not prove to be an entirely unmixed blessing. That it has come to stay is shown by the action of various, telephone companies who, already rating it as a dangerous rival, are offering 7 per cent nontaxable, nonassessable preferred stock for sale and giving their employees 2 per cent of the proceeds for selling it. They have also lately adopted sundry sweetly sentimental mottoes, like "Service First," "The Public Must Be Pleased," and so on, to replace the hardboiled slogan, "W'at t' 'ell!" of just the other day.
Radio receiving stations are springing up everywhere. Some are elaborate affairs, others almost as simple listening devices as keyholes. Any schoolboy possessed of a medium amount of mechanical skill can construct one that will work with uncanny precision. At the present time programs are chiefly sent out by large sending stations on ether waves of various lengths and intensities. Up garret in the farmhouse, out in the barn loft, on the roofs of buildings tall and short, almost everywhere, eager lads, by means of dinky little mechanisms wholly or in part made by themselves, are listening in on concerts, lectures, orations, and so forth, originating hundreds of miles away.
Many high schools now have receiving stations. The radio is giving pleasure to patients in hospitals. The shut-in's slow-passing hours are brightened by music, song and story coming out of the air. The broker receives the latest stock quotations. The farmer learns how produce is selling away over yonder. The pimply youth lounging in the drug store gets the sporting scores. The flapper hears the newest and silliest dance tunes. The housewife obtains the latest cooking recipes.
Great newspapers are sending out news events from all over the world. A famous clergyman preaches, and thousands of devout listeners are edified. A president utters epoch-making words, and chin whiskers wag in profound approval in the Red Front Grocery in Peeweecuddyhump. To the skirl of the pipes and with a glow in his good heart and a cluck on his merry tongue, a beloved Scottish comedian sings a rollicking ballad of the heilands and the heather, and the occupants of ten thousand sick beds are happy with him.
Policemen in Chicago are equipped with small wireless receiving sets. The antenna is sewn into the officer's coat. Naturally, as he cannot preserve his dignity unless he keeps his coat on, the radio outfit is constantly with him during his working hours. On one arm is clasped a disk or concussor of about the size of an ordinary wrist watch.
Bodes Ill for Hired Man
WHEN the chief wishes to convey a message to the officer on any particular beat he pushes a switch. The disk on the policeman, wrist thumps responsively. The officer immediately takes from his pocket a small receiver, places it to his ear and is given the message.
No doubt in a reasonably short time a somewhat similar device will be perfected for use on the average hired man. The latter is prone to remove his coat, so probably certain portions of the contrivance will be sewn in his breeches; and for obvious reasons the concussor will be provided with a prod instead of a mere thumper. About once in so often his employer will push a switch, and the hired man will leap from his recumbent position in the shade and hear a stern voice commanding him to get to work.
While this would be of value to the farmer and perhaps of some benefit to the health of the hired man, it could and almost certainly would be badly overdone. The temptation to elongate and sharpen the prod would be well-nigh irresistible; and the chances are that in a few years, looking in any direction, we should behold frenzied hired men plunging across the face of Nature like wild gazelles bounding from crag to crag, ever and anon leaping frantically into the air as the prods stabbed them to the quick, and while voices, rendered stentorian by amplifiers, dad-burned their dod-blistered pictures, or words to that effect.
Though this might be naught but simple justice it would result in the speedy extinction of the hired man, and that is something that no farmer, no matter how deeply and properly infuriated he has become, can afford to have happen. Of course a mechanical hired man would quickly be invented but there is no way of knowing in advance whether it could be made to work.
Plainly, the danger, or at least detriment, in the wireless lies not in its moderate use but in its abuse. A little of it kept in the house for medicine, as it were, would be of benefit, but when used as a beverage to say, it would undoubtedly be a menace.
More and more the ether will become chopped up into various wave lengths. Think of Aunt Fretty Faults, whose azmy at best makes it difficult for her to breathe, unable to catch her particular lengths of air for half an hour on a stretch, according to her own testimony, though grabbing after them all the time. Her condition, and yours, too, if she had come visiting at your house a year ago last March and was there yet, wouldn't be any laughing matter, let me tell you!
The Gloomy Possibility
AS RECEIVING stations multiply, sending stations will increase in number. There are in this country thousands upon thousands of good gentlemen who promote causes, select certain days and weeks during which the rest of mankind should do or refrain from doing thus and so, and engineer drives for the purpose of raising money for the benefit of the various societies and bunds of which they are the secretaries. There are also many worthy ladies, usually with double chins, who are eternally endeavoring to bring sweetness and light to everybody else, while their own children skellyhoot about with their innocent little pantaloons and skirticoats a sight to behold. These earnest women are the up-getters of funds to preserve the birthplaces of unimportant nincompoops, to send missionaries to Rumpus Ridge, to paint everything white in Darkest Africa, and otherwise keep their names everlastingly in print.
At present the Hons. in and out of office can address the greater portion of the rest of us on the burning issues of the day only by mail, and it is very hard work to put tears in the voice in a letter.
Now the farmer, being comparatively isolated, gets some little peace. But the time will come when wireless sending apparatuses will be as plentiful as the plagues of Egypt. Then when Farmer Broadhead dons his carpet slippers of an evening, opens up the radio receiver and settles down in his comfortable chair with his pipe alight and his good wife nigh, to listen for a space to the news of the world, a report on crop conditions, a song or two by Al Jolson; a few funny sayings by Will Rogers, and so forth--whatever he likes, even if it don't elevate him to hurt--he is likely to feel the disgust of his life.
Suddenly, after a few minutes of pleasure, a voice begins, "Dear friend, please bear in mind that next Wednesday is Blah-blah Day when all good citizens should -----" Or an insinuating voice whines through its nose for funds to place a lily fair in the curly hair of every Bangweolo belle. And so on and on like the River Oregon. Meanwhile the Hons. have torn loose and are flapdoodling like mad. And there is not the slightest reason to imagine that any of them will get through so long as there is a dollar, a line of publicity or a vote lurking in the offing.
Statistics tell us that there are now fewer farmers in the insane asylums of this country than of any other class of citizens. But can you believe that they will not all be there within the next few years progress as I have here prognosticated the one thing to do is not to abolish the wireless telephone in its infancy, but to enact laws immediately that will make sure it does not become a menace when it grows up.