The World's Work, December, 1907, pages 9624-9626:
TRANSATLANTIC MARCONIGRAMS NOW AND HEREAFTER
ON THE morning of October 18, 1907, a young man sat at a telegraph key in a lonely station at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and "talked" to Clifden, Ireland, not by a cable under the ocean, but through the air, as a man might talk with his friends across an alley. That marked the beginning of a new era in communication. Perhaps it will be regarded as an economic event as great as the opening of the first cable. At any rate, even though the wireless should not soon become a commercial competitor of the cable, to-day we must regard it as another link to bind the Old World to the New.
The mere wireless bridging of the Atlantic is no new thing. The new thing is the opening of a wireless "line" to the business of the world, the statement that some press messages will be accepted for transmission at the rate of five cents per word, and the sending of 10,000 words in one day at that rate. These things made the transatlantic wireless a servant of commerce.
The romance of this new marvel culminated on December 12, 1901, six years ago. On that day Mr. Marconi sat at a little flat table in an old barracks on Signal Hill, Newfoundland. He held a telephone receiver to his ear and listened. The wire ran out to another wire that ran from the earth to a kite flying four hundred feet in air. The man at the receiver was quiet, contained, placid. For many minutes he sat unmoved; then a smile crossed his face. He handed the receiver to his assistant:
"See if you can hear anything, Mr. Kemp!" he asked.
The other man took the receiver and listened, while Mr. Marconi watched him closely. Suddenly a faint sound, like a distant echo, came over the wire. It might have been merely an accident, the flight of an insect against the suspended wire, or some little atmospheric disturbance. But it came again, still faint, but clear--the three dots that in the Morse code make the letter S. The thing was done.
A year later, December 16, 1902, the first long message was sent from the station at Glace Bay to the station in Great Britain, addressed to the London Times, from its own correspondent on the ground. Many other messages followed. In January, 1903, the station at Cape Cod sent greetings from resident Roosevelt to the King of England. From time to time, from that day to this, brief messages have been sent across. The inventor has been hard at work, seeking to overcome the troubles of his mechanism, seeking to make this scientific marvel an every-day commercial machine.
These difficulties were immense. The obvious troubles, to the lay mind, were: first, that the wireless message, once launched, seemed to belong to all the world; second, that the spark needed to make the transmission was so enormously powerful that the plant was shaken, wrecked, and ruined by a few hours' service. These things had to be overcome.
The second difficulty has been overcome in large part by the invention of a system of generation that, to all intents, makes the current little more difficult to handle than the current used in the wire cable. The first difficulty is not yet fully overcome, and it may be doubted whether it will be so fully surmounted as to make the wireless message absolutely private. Of course that can be done by a private code. To-day the messages are "tuned" so that only receiving instruments adapted ed to the "tune" can hear them--but that is only a partial safeguard. If the instruments became very numerous, chance interceptions would surely occur, in great numbers. This is, in all probability, the yet unsolved problem of the wireless.
But the system is now a commercial machine. The first message sent to England on October 18th was from Sir Wilfred Laurier, and was addressed to the London Standard. British greetings came back. Then the line was formally declared open for press business, and 10,000 words of press dispatches came back and went forth that day. The charge was five cents a word, with telegraph tolls on land added, making a rate of about eight cents a word from New York to London. These are what are called "press rates." When the world at large can use the line--not to-day nor, perhaps, this year--the rate will be at least double that amount. Meantime, the transatlantic wireless is the servant of the newspapers. Mr. Thomas Edison's judgment of the commercial future of the Marconi transatlantic messages is as follows: "Give Marconi ten years and he will be sending 1,000 words a minute by wireless. He won't need any duplex system to do it, either. Marconi is the man."
And Marconi is the man. This Irish-Italian, young, enthusiastic, practical, has brought together and made practical the theories and the experiments of all the great scientists who in their day tried to solve the problem of the transmission of sounds or messages without wires. He did not invent wireless. More than sixty years ago Morse sent a message under the Susquehanna River without the aid of wires. Hertz discovered the principle upon which Marconi built his system. Faraday, Lodge, Preece, Maxwell--a dozen others of the great physicists and inventors--all experimented with the science of wireless transmission before young Marconi paid his epoch-making visit to Sir William Preece, and asked the backing of the British Telegraph Department in solving the puzzle.
The vertical wire--one end earthed, the other suspended far above the world--was, they say, invented by another man. Professor Dolbear, of Tufts College, is the American claimant of that honor. Germany, too, has other claimants. The little "coherer," the thing that made the records in the successful experiments of Marconi, was perfected by Branly, of the Catholic University of Paris. Little, indeed, seems the part that was left to Marconi, yet "Marconi is the man."
He was born in Italy, April 25, 1874, and grew up on his father's estate--no extraordinary child. His education was gained at the Italian schools and universities. It was early in 1896 that the assistance given to him by Sir William Preece, head of the British telegraphs, enabled him to bring to a successful conclusion his long experiments in wireless. In May of that year he took out his first British patent. In June, 1897, he succeeded in sending a message nine miles. In July, he reached twelve miles. In the next year, the distance grew to thirty-two miles. It was not until January 23, 1901, that he sent his waves 189 miles, from the Lizard to St. Catharine's, on the Isle of Wight. The success of that message demonstrated to the world the claim of Marconi that the waves of sound would not be intercepted by the curve of the earth, and opened the way for the larger experiments that have culminated, at last, in the message across the Atlantic.
The young inventor has been assailed in a thousand ways. Rivals have sprung up, entering the field that he had marked for his own. Failure has more than once grinned through the window of his laboratory. Funds have run short. Disrepute has dogged the steps of every effort made to capitalize his invention. The stocks of his companies have been made speculative footballs for gamblers and sharpers. The very word "wireless" brings a smile to the lips of the Wall Street man. Widows and orphans, poor men and parsons, all looked alike to the wireless fishermen who spread their nets for the American public. Thousands of men and women in this country have already learned to curse the day Marconi made his first experiment.
On this point, it is well to dwell for a moment in passing. The success of the transmission of commercial messages across the Atlantic will probably lead to a revival of interest in these deserted stocks in the purlieus of the Wall street market. It is, therefore, as well to say that wireless stocks, at large, are to be regarded by the public as little better than race-track gambling. Most of these wireless telegraph stocks have been put through a long period of juggling, washing, manipulation, fraud, and malfeasance that should effectually remove them, for good and all, from the field of investment. The time may come when the wireless will become suitable for consideration by investors. It will not come until some strong, clean, honest financial interests take charge and utterly eliminate the miserable, fraudulent, unwholesome methods that have marked the whole market history of these issues.
But to come back to the discovery itself. During the last five years, the system of wireless telegraphy has been fairly well tested. It is not, however, wholly beyond the experimental stage yet. It is true that the British navy is equipped with it. It is also true that almost all the larger passenger liners that sail the seas report their progress by wireless as they go. The American navy and others are not far behind the British. Almost every day one may read in the New York papers a list of reports from ships at sea, giving the distance from port, the character of the weather encountered and other items of importance. The business man of to-day may travel across the ocean, keeping close watch upon his affairs. On some of the larger ships, the wireless reports every day the startling news of the world ashore, and daily bulletins are published for the wayfarers.
And yet, surely the first ten years of its use have given us but an inkling--no more--of the possibilities that lie in this invention. Hardly a month passes that some new phase or form of it does not crop up. Here, in November, we hear that the British navy has given to the Radio Telegraph Company the contract for equipping some of the ships with a new wireless telephone, which makes it possible to talk from ship to ship for a distance of thirty miles or more. At the same time, wireless telephones on land have passed beyond the gossip stage, and are in actual operation in and about New York, though not yet in the bands of the public nor likely to be for many a day. But the feat has been done.
In considering the subject from a commercial point of view, one naturally turns to the cable companies. These great monopolistic concerns profess no uneasiness about the possible or contingent rivalry of the wireless across the ocean, nor, indeed, on land. The mere sending of twelve, or twenty, or even thirty words a minute by the transatlantic route is not a thing that alarms a corporation equipped and ready to send thousands of words a minute. Yet the cable companies are watching the developments with much more than passing interest. When Mr. Marconi first sent a message across the ocean, six years ago, the Anglo-American Cable Company brought a suit to enjoin him. To-day there are no suits. Instead, there is careful watching--plotting, it may be, to get possession of his patents when the time shall come. Openly the cable companies claim, that the communication between the shores and the ships at sea, the most notable and characteristic of the Marconi accomplishments, makes the wireless a supplement to the cable, not an opponent.
Of course, if the wireless transatlantic is ever going to be a real rival of the cables, the prophesy of Mr. Edison will have to be more than fulfilled. If it takes ten years to reach a final capacity of 1,000 words a minute, the wireless will never really injure the cable business at all. For new cables must be laid to-day because the old ones are overcrowded. Moreover, the Western Union and the Commercial Postal Telegraph Companies work in close cooperation with the cables. The wireless, on the other hand, has far to go before it has the land covered as these have. The system is, in fact, in its infancy. What it will be when it gets its growth is one of the interesting questions of the day, not only in scientific but also in commercial circles.