The World's Work, January, 1913, pages 311-314:


THERE is a talking ticker now, a machine that will entertain and instruct you for twelve hours on a stretch with the gist of the day's political speeches, baseball scores, election returns, and any other news that seems important. It will tell you all this in your own home as soon as you could find it out if you stood in front of the newspaper bulletin boards, and when there is no vital news to tell, it will entertain you with ragtime or grand opera. When you go to the station the same machine will tell you when your train leaves or what track your friend's train is coming in on. When you go abroad it will help your feeling of security on shipboard; for it enables the captain to give simultaneous orders to all the crew no matter where they are. All these things are true if you happen to live in the right apartment house in Wilmington, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or New York, if you go to the right station, and if you go to sea on the right ship, for the Magnaphone that does all these things is new.
    The City of New York has granted a franchise to the magnaphone company, permitting it to furnish, by means of an entirely independent telephone system, not only sermons and music but all manner of news. Already the installation has been made in sixty-four apartment houses in the upper part of New York City, and extensions are rapidly going on. Every six minutes from noon until midnight these sixty-four apartment houses hear a new musical number, the latest baseball scores, election returns, or other items of important news.
    By means of the magnaphone instrument itself, which is the chief mechanical novelty of the service, the sounds carried over the wires are so magnified that it is not necessary to hold a telephone receiver to the ear. The sounds carry distinctly to all parts of the room.
    A simple use of the magnaphone has been made in the Grand Central Station in New York City. A number of receiving horns have been placed in all parts of the building, with a single transmitter in a telephone booth. The train announcer steps into the booth and calls the arrivals or departures of trains, giving the schedules through the transmitter in little more than an ordinary tone of voice. Each tiny magnaphone instrument at the end of the line enlarges his words and casts them out over the building.
    The magnaphone news and music service, however, is a more impressive use of the invention. The present central office can take care of 1,000 subscribers.
    The cables, that now terminate at one end of sixty-four receivers, terminate at the other end in several transmitters, from any one of which sounds can be sent to all the receivers at the same instant. One transmitter is used in making the news announcements. A man of distinct enunciation is selected to make them but he never speaks in more than an ordinary tone. Other transmitters are connected with graphophone musical records.
    A different kind of transmitter, which is a separate invention, comes into play here. The instrument is not a great deal larger than the sound box of a phonograph and it moves over the revolving graphophone record, in the same way, receiving vibrations from the needle that reports the inequalities in the disk.
    In this case, however, the vibrations of the needle are not directly recorded by sound vibrations. They are transformed first into electric waves in the transmitter and sent thus over the wires. Not till they reach the other end of the line are they transformed into sound waves. No musical sound is heard where the record revolves, but it is heard in many homes of the subscribers. Not only has the voice of the singer or the tone of the musical instrument been preserved for a long period of time on a graphophone record, but when it is again reproduced it is heard miles from the reproducing instrument. In this long distance transmission there is also an improvement in the quality of the music. The hearer is not annoyed by the mechanical sounds of the grinding motor. The only sound transmitted is that generated as the needle point passes over the disk. To the listener, too, there is a gain from the fact that he is not compelled to manipulate records or the mechanical contrivance of the graphophone. He does not of necessity even see the sound-producing instrument. A small horn, which may be concealed in a corner of the library or bent into the centre of a bouquet, pours out melody at all times of the day without his having to touch it, unless he wishes to shut it off.
    The line being on a separate circuit from the regular telephone, the subscriber can keep the instrument busy all day long, if he chooses. He can even regulate the volume of the sound by cutting in more or less resistance to the magnaphone instrument. A resistance box with coils offering either 200, 300, or 500 ohms in resistance, gives four different volumes, and the sound may be still further dimmed by removing the horn from the receiver.
    At the central station the operators have had their own problems of volume to settle; but they conquered all the difficulties as they arose. Each graphophone transmitter carries current sufficient to furnish 100 wires with full volume of sound. This current is very strong, however, and the transmitter is kept cool by means of a water jacket with a constant flow of cold water--just as a steam engine is water-jacketed. When more than 100 wires are receiving the music service, another transmitter is harnessed into service--an extra transmitter for each 100 additional receivers. These move over the records in absolute synchronization, because all the disks on the transmitting table are revolved by one electric motor and are controlled by a single switch. The number of wires leading to the central station do not determine the number of transmitters to be brought into service. Only the number of instruments actually connected count, and ingenious methods of telling about how many subscribers are using the service at a given time have been devised.
    At the present time the subscribers to this magnaphone service are all taking everything that comes over the line to them. They appear to be as happy with it as is the proverbial small boy with his first pair of copper-toed boots. Nor is it exactly a toy. The news service is accurate and speedy. At least once every hour the bulletins are read over the line. From every available source the news comes into the central distributing station. In fact, a news gathering service is being built up which in time promises to equal that of any one of the great newspapers. Magnaphone subscribers receive their bulletins almost as soon as the news is flashed to the daily papers, so they are not compelled to wait until the next morning for their information. In the transmission of the news of great events, catastrophes, baseball games, and election returns, this immediate service is of recognized importance.
    At the season of the year when baseball results are most eagerly sought, even though Wagner's "Siegfried" may be scheduled for 3.42 P. M. on the programme, it has to be elbowed off the list by the announcement to the expectant subscribers that Hans Wagner has made a home run. The baseball reports are eagerly followed and the boys in whose homes the magnaphone has been installed are the heroes of the day in their juvenile neighborhood.
    The news and music service is already getting on a commercial basis, and other uses of the magnaphone are being continually discovered. The inventor, Mr. George R. Webb, has given up all other work in his efforts to develop the service to its fullest. When he first brought the magnaphone into existence he was tied up with many business interests. He was president of the United Railways of Baltimore, of the Electric Light Company, and of the Telephone Company in the same city, and he had been president of the Wilmington, Pittsburg and Allegheny Telephone Company and of the Duquesne Light Company. The magnaphone was at first simply his plaything, but as its possibilities opened up to him he gradually dropped his other interests to give his exclusive attention to his invention. Fortunately relieved of the anxiety about financing it, he has been able to go rapidly ahead. His distaste for premature publicity caused him to make no announcement of his progress until his dream had actually been realized.


    Mr. Webb has achieved a method of synchronizing his magnaphone service with the operation of the motion picture machine, so that the picture and the dialogue can be given simultaneously. This is the achievement toward which Mr. Thomas A. Edison has been bending his energies for so long a time, and if Mr. Webb's method proves universally practicable he will have revolutionized the motion picture business. He is now in France demonstrating his method.
    Other extensions of the usefulness of the magnaphone have already been made. The magnaphone has been put on a dredge and it operates so that the foreman standing on the surface of the ground may know, by means of the noises brought up from below, just what kind of material the shovel is working through.
    It has been attached to a diving apparatus, so that the man at work beneath the water may keep those above him posted as to the exact conditions surrounding him. It has been made use of by a lecturer so that, while speaking from the platform, his voice has been relayed, so to speak, and repeated from various angles of the auditorium. The results are perfect. There is nothing like an echo to confuse the ears of the audience. For that matter, his speech may be repeated almost indefinitely and listened to by hundreds of thousands.
    It has been suggested that the magnaphone be placed in all subway and elevated cars in New York City, so that the stations, as they are approached, may be announced in a manner understandable to the passengers. In the meantime, one of the transcontinental railroad companies has arranged to equip all cars on its through service with magnaphones. As soon as that is done those in the last coach will share with those in the first, as well as with those in the intermediate coaches, the knowledge that "dinner is now ready in the dining car." On one of the Hudson River steamboats magnaphones are now in use. One announcer dilates on the beauties of the scenery and all on board are properly informed.
    The Navy Department has had the Battleship Utah equipped with magnaphones. This has been done not only for the purpose of furnishing entertainment to the crew but also to facilitate giving orders. In time of battle or in time of practice manoeuvres, this use of the magnaphone will be of the utmost importance. Orders may be given by the commanding officer and repeated throughout the entire ship, if so desired. The Kaiserin Augusta Victoria is also equipped with it.
    An ocean liner equipped with magnaphones would make the dangers of the deep much less to be feared than they are at the present time, and the convenience of ocean travelers on ordinary occasions would be served. In the time of dangers, the captain from the bridge could sound warning in every stateroom, and, in fact, throughout the ship, and this could be followed by commands to the crew. By a reversal of the ordinary use of the magnaphone aboard ship, it would be possible for the captain, or the officer in command, while on the bridge, to know exactly what was going on even in the most distant part of the ship.
    The New York Times tells of other uses:
    The Kings Park State Hospital is fully equipped with magnaphone instruments. It has long since been found that any effort to entertain its inmates in a common meeting ball was almost valueless because of their restlessness, inharmony of spirit, and germane causes. But Dr. Macey has found that a magnaphone horn placed in a ward, or a single room, not only provides the best kind of diversion for his patients, but is in many cases of actual curative potency. The surprise of hearing an unexpected melody issuing from an innocent looking little horn has brought any number of patients out of an uncontrolled hysteria.
    It is operated under the direction of the hospital authorities, and is by them turned into any room where its help is needed.
    In public parks and amusement places it has already superseded the occasional orchestra. There are several places on Coney Island where its services are being gratefully acknowledged by a nightly throng of music-starved souls whose purse strings will not stretch to admittances to music halls. It is installed in Asbury Park, and will presently be placed in some of the smaller coast resorts which do not rise to the dignity of a public orchestra.
    The company controlling the magnaphone is beginning to lease its hundred-unit equipments. The first shipment has gone to an enterprising apartment house owner in Philadelphia. This owner, finding business dull, has arranged to install a magnaphone in every apartment, and has advertised as included in the rent, "light, heat, water, telephone, news and music service, all free." As a result, his apartment house at the present time is without a single vacancy.