Albert Einstein once remarked: ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’.

One person who displayed such a quality and prophesied about the

future of telegraphy and telephony was Sir William Crookes.


In a lengthy article ‘On some possibilities of electricity’, published in the 1st February

1892 issue of the Fortnightly Review, he expounded his thoughts on the ‘new

and astonishing world’ that was opening up as a consequence of the work of

Hertz and Lodge; a world with ‘an almost infinite range of ethereal vibrations

or electric rays, from wavelengths of thousands of miles down to a few feet’.

Crookes observed it was difficult to conceive that this world ‘should contain no

possibilities for transmitting or receiving intelligence’.


Rays of light will not pierce through a wall, nor, as we know only too well, through a

London fog. But the electrical vibrations of a yard or more in wavelength . . . will easily

pierce such mediums, which to them will be transparent. Here, then, is revealed the

bewildering possibility of telegraphy without wires, posts, cables, or any of our present

costly appliances. Granted a few reasonable postulates, the whole thing comes well

within the realms of possible fulfillment. At the present time experimentalists are able to

generate electrical waves of any desired wavelength from a few feet upwards, and to keep

up a succession of such waves radiating into space in all directions . .


Crookes was well aware of the need for tuning if confidentiality of message

transmission were required.


I assume here that the progress of discovery would give instruments capable of adjustment

by turning a screw or altering the length of a wire, so as to become receptive of

wavelengths of any pre-concerted length . . .. Considering that there would be the whole

range of waves to choose from, varying from a few feet to several thousand miles



....neither Hertz nor Lodge saw any practical use for their discoveries,

although at the 1888 British Association meeting Lodge prophesied [58] that ‘the

now recognised fact that light is an electrical oscillation must have before long a

profound practical import’. No patents were sought by either experimentalist.

Both had shown imagination in devising brilliant series of experiments to

show, for the first time ever, the existence of unguided (free-space) and guided

electromagnetic waves – in confirmation of Maxwell’s theory – but both seemed

to lack the imagination necessary to relate their work to a pragmatic advantage,

e.g. signalling. Hertz and Lodge were pure scientists, and the tradition and

ethos of the natural sciences precluded patenting embodiments of ideas and

scientific findings for commercial gain.



For Lodge, the details of implementing practically a system of telegraphy based on

Hertzian waves ‘could safely be left to those who had charge of the Government

monopoly of telegraphs, especially as their eminent Head [Wlm Preece] was known to

be interested in this kind of subject’ . Four years would pass before Crookes’s

scientific prophecies would begin to be realised. Then, curiously, in 1896, Preece

wholeheartedly welcomed an unknown, 21 year old, foreign, amateur inventor

with an interest in wireless into his circle of influence and gave him much

encouragement, and the patronage of the Post Office.



Henry Jackson (1855–1929 - meets Marconi in 1896


March 1896 he was using a more powerful induction coil in his transmitter, and had fabricated a

coherer which comprised a glass tube filled with metal filings and an electric bell trembler. By the

summer of this year he had discarded the glass and pitch lenses he used for focusing the

radiation from his transmitter because he had found that elevated wires (antennas) at the

transmitting and receiving ends of his system gave improved results. With this apparatus he

demonstrated, on 20th August 1896, the transmissionand reception of Morse code signals, and

by the end of the month he had achieved a range [16] of 54.6 yards (50 m), the maximum working

distance available on HMS Defiance. Also, at the end of the month he met the young Italian inventor named

G. Marconi.



Mother: Annie’s appeal, which must have been considerable, brought  success: her son would be allowed to use

certain university facilities which were under Righi’s control. Guglielmo was permitted to set up experiments in Righi’s laboratory,


Towards the end of the 1895 summer another chance discovery aided Marconi [27].

I [Marconi] was sending waves through the air and getting signals at a distance of a mile,

or thereabouts, when I discovered that the wave which went to my receiver through the

air was affecting another receiver which I had set up on the other side of the hill. In other

words, the waves were going through or over the hill. It is my belief that they went

through, but I do not wish to state it as a fact.


Motivated by his progress and aware that financial support and commercial

development would be needed to further his work Marconi sought the advice

of his parents. Giuseppe Marconi consulted friends in the district and learnt

that Dr Gardini, the family physician, knew the Italian Ambassador in London,

General Ferrero, and was willing to request him to approach the Italian

Government on Guglielmo’s behalf.


Mother's relatives in England in the expectation that they would be able to use their

influences. Her eldest sister’s son, Colonel H. Jameson-Davis, who was a professional

engineer with an office at 12 Mark Lane in the City of London, had

good contacts in both the scientific and the financial circles of the capital and

was prepared to assist the young inventor


Marconi filed an application for a patent to protect his invention. It was filed at the

Patent Office on 5th March  The patent  ) was subsequently abandoned –

possibly it was inadequately drafted – and no details have survived.

Colonel Jameson-Davis was the contact that led to A.A. Campbell Swinton,

electrical engineer, being given a private demonstration of Marconi’s equipment

in the Bayswater rooms. Swinton, on 30th March, wrote to W.H. Preece, of the

Post Office.


"I am taking the liberty of sending to you with this note a young Italian of the name of

Marconi, who has come over to this country with the idea of getting taken up a new

system of telegraphing without wires, at which he has been working. It appears to be

based upon the use of Hertzian waves, and Oliver Lodge’s coherer, but from what he

tells me he appears to have got considerably beyond what I believe other parties have

done in this line."


Marconi did not meet Preece until July. Meantime, in May, Marconi had written to the

War Office and declared that he ‘had discovered electrical devices which enabled him

 to guide or steer a self propelled boat or torpedo from the shore or from a vessel without any person

being on board the said boat or torpedo’. Since the coastal defence of the United Kingdom was the

responsibility of the army, Marconi presumably felt that his ‘invention’ would be of interest to them.

However, the officer, Major C. Penrose, deputed to investigate Marconi’s system was interested more

in the wireless telegraphy aspects of the invention than in the method of torpedo control.



Demonstration , arranged by Preece, was given on 27th July, before members of the GPO’s administrative staff.

Signals were successfully transmitted from the roof of one of the GPO’s buildings at St Martins le Grand

to a receiver on the roof of the Savings Bank in Knightrider Street.   Preece, soon told  Marconi that the Post Office

had decided to spare no expense in experimenting with the apparatus.’


Henry Jackson immediately saw the potential of the new system and reported

to the Commander-in-Chief at Devonport that ‘for military purposes, as an

auxiliary signal for fog, and transmitting secret intelligence, its adoption would

be almost invaluable’. Again, the apparatus ‘would be invaluable for friendly

torpedo boats to signal their approach’ to units of the fleet. Using the new

communication means an Admiral in his flagship would be enabled to maintain

contact with all the ships under his command even ‘when the ships were not

visible, or even aware of their proximity to each other’. The application to

collision avoidance at sea was obvious


By July 1897 reports of Marconi’s successes had reached the Italian Government:

Marconi was summoned to return to Italy. He carried out demonstrations

at Spezia and showed that wireless telegraphy was possible between the San

Bartolemeo shipyard, Spezia, and the cruiser San Martino 12 miles (19.3 km)

distant. This was followed by another successful demonstration (in August),

seen by the King and Queen of Italy, which led to the adoption, at a later date,

of the Marconi system by the Italian Navy


Set up his own company:

The Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Limited was established on 20th

July 1897 with the objective of developing commercially the Marconi system. It

had a nominal capital of £100,000, comprising 100,000 £1 shares. Marconi was

handsomely rewarded for his efforts and received 60,000 shares, the balance of

40,000 being available for public subscription. In addition out of the proceeds

from the sale of these shares Marconi was awarded £15,000 for his patents


Marconi began to surround himself with a group of very able engineers and scientists.


And a potentially valuable market.... The Corporation of Trinity House

had long wanted some reliable means of communicating with their off-shore

lighthouses and lightships but none existed.


the Marconi International Marine Communication Company (MIMCC) declared that ships

installed with its apparatus would not, except in an emergency, communicate with ships or

shore stations employing the equipment of a competitor.


In 1904 the British Government, anxious to prevent the unregulated growth

of wireless telegraphy, enacted the Wireless Telegraphy Act. This provided that

no person should establish or work a wireless telegraph apparatus in Great

Britain or on a British ship except under licence from the Postmaster General



Internationalisation of WT

Action to oppose a world monopoly of wireless telegraph services was also

taken diplomatically. There seemed to be an opinion, and a fear, particularly in

Germany, that the activities of MIMCC and Lloyds would create monopolistic

wireless telegraph services which would parallel those of the very extensive,

world-wide, British cable services. And so, when proposals were put forward for

the amalgamation of the Slaby-Arco and Marconi interests and were rejected,

the German Government took diplomatic steps to protect their national



In 1903 the German Government organised, as stated previously, an International

Conference on the subject of International Legislation of Wireless

Telegraphy [44]. It was held at the Imperial Post Office in August 1903 and was

attended by representatives of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-

Hungary, Russia, Spain and the United States of America


The German proposals were outlined by Herr Sydow, the Under Secretary of

the Post Office. They were predicated on the basis that all wireless telegraph

messages to and from ships should be accepted and transmitted by all systems of

WT; that is a ship equipped with a German set should be able to send messages

to, and receive signals from, a Marconi shore station.



In 1906 the German Government organised another International Convention

on Wireless Telegraphy [48]. It was attended by representatives from

Argentina, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Egypt,

France, Germany, Greece, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Monaco,

Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Persia, Portugal, Roumania, Russia,

Siam, Spain, Sweden, the United States of America and Uruguay. The

conference discussed, article by article, the text of a protocol outlining draft

regulations for the international control of radiotelegraphy. Of these articles,

Article 3 provided that coastal stations and ship stations should be compelled to

exchange wireless telegrams regardless of the system used to transmit them.



On 21st December 1902 the structures at the Glace Bay and Cape Cod stations

were sufficiently well advanced to enable Marconi to send the following

message to England from Nova Scotia:


I beg to inform you that I have established wireless telegraphic communication between

Cape Breton, Canada, and Poldhu, in Cornwall, England, with complete success.

Inauguratory messages, including one from the Governor General of Canada to King

Edward VII, have already been transmitted (December 21) and forwarded to the Kings of

England and Italy.



Less than one month later, on 19th January 1903, a wireless message was sent

across the Atlantic, from Cape Cod (Fig. 14.5) to Poldhu, from Mr Roosevelt,

the President of the United States of America, to King Edward VII


 (by Marconi’s transatlantic wireless telegraph)

In taking advantage of the wonderful triumph of scientific research and ingenuity

which has been achieved in perfecting the system of wireless telegraphy, I extend on

behalf of the American people the most cordial greetings and good wishes to you and all

the people of the British Empire. Theodore Roosevelt, White House, Washington


These successes appeared to indicate that all was now ready for a commercial

news service across the Atlantic, and a press service for The Times was started...


The Glace Bay–Clifden wireless link was opened for a limited public service

in October 1907, and an unrestricted service was operative from February 1908.


In March 1910 MIMCC submitted to HM Government a plan for an radio communications

 network throughout the Empire (‘wireless’ was replaced by ‘radio’ at the 1903 German Conference).

Probably, the news, early in 1910, that MIMCC’s main rival, the Telefunken company, had

obtained a contract to install its equipment in two stations in Australia.

According to the plan MIMCC would construct 18 radio stations on British

soil at key positions in the Empire.



Sound broadcasting

The first broadcasters were the radio amateurs or ‘hams’, whose hobby it

was to communicate with other radio hams. Their activities were curtailed in

the United Kingdom during the 1914–18 period so that no interference with

essential communications would occur, but in the United States their hobby

was given some encouragement by the work of Dr F. Conrad, a well respected

engineer of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company (WEM),



I have in mind a plan of development which would make radio a household utility in the

same sense as a piano or phonograph. The idea is to bring music into the home by

wireless. . . . Should the plan materialise, it would seem reasonable to expect sales of

424 Communications: An international history of the formative years

1,000,000 ‘radio music boxes’ within a period of three years. Roughly estimating the

selling price at $75 per set, $75,000,000 can be expected.




Conrad re-commissioned his amateur wireless telegraph station and converted it to transmit and receive wireless telephony signals. He

found that his broadcasts were being received by a number of radio amateurs.


As H.P. Davis, the Vice-President of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company has recalled

the programs sent out by Dr Conrad caused the thought to come to me that the efforts

that were then being made to develop radio telephony as a confidential means of communications

were wrong, and that instead its field was really one of a wide publicity, in

fact, the only means of instantaneous collective communication ever devised. Right in

our grasp, therefore, we had that service which we had been thinking about and

endeavouring to formulate.

Here was an idea of limitless opportunity if it could be ‘put across’. . . .

Resulting from this was my decision to install a broadcasting station at East Pittsburg

and to initiate this service. This decision, made in 1920, created the present huge radio

industry. Not until fall, however, was the equipment ready for operation.



This initiative touched off an immediate boom in radio broadcasting

and in the formation of transmitting stations. Eleven stations were

transmitting in September 1921, 23 in October and 32 in December. After the

turn of the year the numbers increased considerably: 58, 72, 99 and 187 at the

ends of the first four months respectively of 1922 . By 1st May there were

219 registered radio stations in the USA broadcasting a mixture of news,

commentaries, weather and stock market reports, lectures and music.


Such was the growth in demand for receivers that manufacturers had difficulty

satisfying the public need. One commentator, writing in May 1922 noted:


The rate of increase in the number of people who spend at least a part of their evening in

listening in is almost incomprehensible. To those who have recently tried to purchase

receiving equipment, some idea of this increase has undoubtedly occurred as they stood

perhaps in the fourth or fifth row at the radio counter waiting their turn, only to be

told, when they finally reached the counter, that they might place an order and it would

be filled when possible. . . . It seems quite likely before the movement has reached its

height . . . there will be at least five million receiving sets in this country.


A further 99 stations went on the air in that month (May), and by the end of 1924 there were 530 US stations.



UK in January 1920, the company secured a licence for, and constructed, a station in Chelmsford. The station was intended

to broadcast on a world-wide basis and to show potential customers that in technical developments the British company

was not lagging behind its American counterparts and that only Government restrictions prevented a more

widespread usage of broadcasting in Britain. In January 1920 strong signals of good quality speech were received in Madrid.


Special broadcast concert by Dame Nellie Melba, On 15th June 1920, she travelled to  Chelmsford and sang into the microphone

of the 15 kW transmitter. The broadcast was heard at places as far away as St John’s, Newfoundland, a distance of 2,673 miles (4301 km)


Chelmsford broadcasts were stopped. By the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1904 all transmitting stations

and receivers of wireless signals were required to possess a licence, the terms and conditions of which

were determined by the General Post Office. Wireless Sub-committee of the Imperial Communications Committee


Post Office did not want chaos of USA and multiple broadcasters or evena  monopoly of SB

in the hands of the Marconi Co.


Representatives of 63 wireless societies, on 29th December 1921, petitioned the GPO.

They voiced a national resentment that public services such as wireless time and telephony should be

left to our neighbours to provide, and that permission to transmit weather reports, news and music by wireless

telephony should not be refused to companies competent and willing to do so without interference with the

defensive services of the country.


The GPO now relented and on 13th January 1922 agreed to MWT being approved to include within the weekly

period of half-an-hour already authorised a programme of 15 minutes’ telephony (speech and music) in the

transmission from [the] Chelmsford station for the benefit of the Wireless Societies. The conditions imposed

by the General Post Office were far from generous.Apart from the very limited transmission time, and power

the station had to close down for three minutes in every ten to allow the engineer-in-charge to listen-in for

instructions to close the station if it was causing interference to other services.


On 14th February 1922 the first official radio programme was broadcast  from the station at Writtle, near Chelmsford.

Its call sign was 2MT, or in telegraphese, ‘Two-Emma-Tock’. The station, erected under the direction of Captain P.P. Eckersley,

The station would be operational until 17th January 1923  The Writtle station led to other manufacturers

seeking similar advantages, and, by the middle of May 1922, more than 20 companies had applied to the

GPO for broadcasting licences. The response of the Postmaster General (PMG), Mr Kellaway, was to invite

 their representatives to a conference at which their views could be expressed. Twenty four firms attended the

meeting held at the General Post Office on 18th May1922. The PMG explained that if licences were granted to each company chaos

could occur, and so it was essential that if a satisfactory broadcasting service were to be implemented it should be undertaken by a single authority.



Broadcasting arrangements in various foreign countries



Regulations in regard to broadcasting are laid down in the Enactment of the Austrian Federal

Ministry of Commerce and Communications No. 346 of 23rd September 1924.

Broadcasting is conducted under a concession from the Government by a private firm, the ‘Austrian

Radio Traffic A.G.’ in which the State has an interestby the possession of shares and by representation

on the administrative and executive Councils of the Company. Only one transmitting station (at Vienna).

Relay stations are in course of construction. In addition every licensee has to pay an annual ‘user’

charge to the broadcasting company whether he intends to listen to the broadcast programmes or not.

Licence (obtainable at local PO) covers possession, installation and use of a single set, with essential component parts or to make such

parts if none for sale. Dealers have to be licensed and keep records of all sales.



Government has assumed control through [the] Minister of Public Works. Licences (issued at

Telegraph and Post Offices) are required for all stations. Government has nominated a Council representing

all the interested parties – actors, authors, elocutionists, wireless amateurs, manufacturers, pressmen – to control the amusement and

instructive sides of the programmes. All other transmissions are controlled by the State Telegraph Department. Transmitting stations are rented by the

Council from the Telegraph Department or the Army. Apparatus with loudspeaker in public place £10. Full fees must be paid for any portion of financial year.

 On payment of fee for receiving licence mark is issued for attachment to set



State monopoly under [the] Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. Decree 24th Nov. 1923 provides that State

Authority [is] required to establish wireless sending or receiving stations. Tour Eiffel – operating experimentally and another in

course of erection. Two private stations allowed to broadcast temporarily without Royalty Transmitting: no royalty at present.

Receiving: If a receiving set is used for public performance (with charge for admission) an annual royalty not exceeding 200 Frs. is charged.



State monopoly administered by Postal Authorities. Licence for sending or receiving sets required by Decree of 8th March 1924.

P.O. erects and maintains stations and leases to broadcasting Cos. 9 main stations, 3 relay stations.Transmitting: co. pays a fixed monthly

charge and a further charge according to hours of working. Co. takes 60% ofreceiving licence fees.Receiving: 24 Reichmarks (c. 120p)

collected by Postmen in monthlyinstalments of 2 Reichmarks





The British Broadcasting Company’s stations, August 1925


City/town Date of opening Wavelength

High power station (maximum power 25 kW)

Coventry 27th July 1925 1,750 yd (1,600 m)

Main broadcasting stations (maximum power 3 kW)

Aberdeen 10th October 1923

Belfast 15th September 1924

Birmingham 16th November 1922

Bournemouth 17th October 1923

Cardiff 13th February 1923 386 yd

Glasgow 6th March1923 461 yd

London 14th November 1922

Manchester 15th November 1922

Newcastle upon Tyne 24th December 1922


Relay broadcasting stations (maximum power 200 W)

Bradford 8th July 1924

Dundee 12th November 1924

Edinburgh 1st May 1924

Hull 15th August 1924

Leeds 8th July 1924

Liverpool 11th June 1924

Nottingham 16th September 1924

Plymouth 28th March 1924

Sheffield 16th November 1923

Stoke on Trent 21st October 1924

Swansea 12th December 1924