A most interesting description of the radiotelephone service that is available in Fredonia, Kansas. This is doubtless the forerunner of many cities, which will supply to all telephone subscribers the wonders of radio.
To take up your telephone receiver and listen in to the best radio broadcast programs without the trouble of tuning in is a new sensation, but one which new and far-reaching developments have made practical. One may now simply call Central and ask to be connected, then settle back in a chair and listen contentedly with the telephone receiver instead of the customary headphones.
But if the family as a whole wishes to hear radio music and possibly to dance to the strains of a popular jazz orchestra sent over the air, loud speaker service is also possible. An ordinary radio loud speaker can be installed in the home, connected by special wires to the regular telephone cables. All the subscriber to this new public service has to do is to turn a switch. The radio set is in the office of the telephone company.
The co-ordination of the telephone exchange with the radio broadcast station to spread this form of entertainment more widely than ever has been effected by J. A. Gustafson, manager of the Fredonia Telephone Co., which operates an independent exchange at Fredonia, Kans. While this little Kansas town of 4,000 persons has been the first in the United States to inaugurate such a service for its customers, several other towns are now following suit, and the innovation promises soon to become widespread.
What the ultimate effect of this development will be is impossible to predict. It is hardly likely that the elimination of the individual radio set is to come as a result. There remains too much pleasure for the average fan in doing his own tuning, selecting the particular station he wishes to hear, and trying for long distance reception, for any such form of standardized radio receiving to become universal. However, if the widely discussed plans for a few super-broadcast stations to take the place of the hundreds of smaller stations should ever come to pass, the opening for such a system would, of course, be apparent. Selective radio sets would be thrown into the discard, the radio service supplied by the great telephone companies would become a generally used public service. In fact, this would eliminate the radio part of radio telephony, for the phone company could easily send its programs over land wires without bothering with the ether waves. Few radio fans hope for such a day, however.
Meanwhile, the novel service supplied to citizens of the southeastern section of the Sunflower State fills in a need that does exist. There are, undoubtedly, thousands of people who either cannot afford the expense of a good commercial set and have not the time to build their own, or who will not take the trouble to tune in various stations and tune out static and other disturbances. For these people the service of the Fredonia Telephone Co. comes as a real public utility.
The radio receiving set in the office of the telephone exchange furnishes broadcast programs to subscribers free. They call, ask the regular switchboard operator to connect them, and listen in from their telephones. If a loud speaker is installed in their homes, a monthly rental is paid to the company, as a separate line is necessary for this convenience. The company connects the loud speaker in the home to its power amplifier, the lines running through the regular telephone cables. Thus radio programs are supplied without the trouble of tuning in.
A microphone is placed in a different church each Sunday to give subscribers the local church service. Sometimes the company puts on its own broadcast programs. To show what public approval has been given the service already, it is only necessary to mention that this loud speaker service has been requested and furnished to homes that have no telephone service. Forty loud speakers are operated in a town 11 miles from the central receiving set.
Both of the political conventions were heard by these subscribers through the medium of the radio set in the telephone exchange. The acceptance speeches of President Coolidge and Mr. Davis were received most satisfactorily, and more people in Fredonia, according to the size of the town, heard the political conventions and the acceptance speeches than in any other town in the United States. Radio reports of the world series ball games and of the actual election returns were heard by these radio telephone subscribers.
A loud speaker is installed in the same manner as the telephone, except that a small switch is connected in so that the listener can put out the horn at any time. These horns, as has been said before, are on lines independent of those serving the telephone instrument, but the regular telephone cable wires are used for the service. As many wires as are in the vicinity of the cable terminals can be connected to one cable pair.
A number of power amplifiers are used in supplying this service. The power from each amplifier is divided by a one-to-one repeating coil as it goes out on the lines. With five to six cable pairs on each coil, this helps to overcome the capacity of the cable. Each amplifier operates from 60 to 75 horns.
This service in no way interferes with the telephone service. While connections on the switchboard have been made so that any subscriber can call in and have the operator connect him with radio on his regular telephone, the number of those who can listen in this manner is limited to the number of cords the operator can spare.
"Using this system of ours," says Gustafson, "it would be possible to connect every town in the United States possessing a telephone exchange. Think of how the people could be reached by fine lectures and other educational material. Keep on thinking and you will see new possibilities."
Miss Ruth Fuegham is the radio telephone operator for the new system, and the entertainment of the subscribers is dependent upon her tuning in. So far, she has never failed to give the best presentation possible of any program.
Gustafson himself is in doubt as to just what the future of his development will be. Although he sees its ultimate possibilities, he does not claim that it will bring any such revolutionizing changes in radio. He does believe, however, that many more towns a service that furnishes radio programs with the least possible effort and expense.
At the start of this service there were many technical problems to be overcome, as well as many practical difficulties. For instance in the case of the loud speaker operation, it is easy to understand that before the number of units that would operate successfully from one output was determined, an enormous amount of experimenting was necessary. There was also the problem of interference to be considered, both from the viewpoint of telephone and radio reception. If a person were speaking over a long distance line any interference from radio signals would be extremely annoying, as sometimes the connections made are not of the best and it is difficult to understand the person at the other end of the line.