Thursday, August 15, 2013

On Wireless Telegraphy and the Radio


On Wireless Telegraphy and the Radio: Contrary to popular belief, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi did not invent the radio. He developed the wireless telegraph and brought it to the United States in 1899. It was a major upgrade from the standard telegraph because it allowed for the transmission of coded messages through the air. This proved especially important for ships at sea, which could now communicate over long distances and without the use of flags or lights. The wireless telegraph did not, however, allow for sounds (human voice, music, etc.) to be transmitted. That was precisely where the radio had a distinct advantage. But it would be another twenty years before advances in electronics technology could incite the growth of a full-fledged radio industry. Ultimately, what was necessary for radio wave broadcasting were vacuum tubes (complex light bulbs). American inventor Lee de Forest had been experimenting with them in the early 1900s, having developed a triode ("The Audion") to amplify electronic signals. In 1907, de Forest completed the world's first ship-to-shore radio broadcast while on a boat in Lake Erie. After which, he eloquently (and somewhat egotistically) stated, "I discovered an Invisible Empire of the Air, intangible, yet solid as granite."

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