To-day we are not thrilled by the fact that we can pick up the telephone on our office table and call up a friend in America, but 28 years ago scientists in America were thrilled by three faint dots received from a station in Cornwall.
From the time of my earliest experiments I had always held the belief - almost amounting to an intuition - that radio signals would one day be regularly sent across the greatest distances on earth, and I felt convinced that transatlantic radio telegraphy would be feasible.
Very naturally I realised that my first endeavour must be directed to prove that an electric wave could be sent right across the Atlantic and detected on the other side.
Kite Aerial Used
So I decided, notwithstanding many setbacks, to carry out experiments in Newfoundland with a receiving aerial supported by a balloon or kite, as it was clearly impossible at the time of the year - owing to the wintry conditions and the shortness of the time at our disposal - to erect high masts to support the receiving aerial.
I had arranged with my assistants in Cornwall to send a series of 'Ss' at a pre-arranged speed, during certain hours of the day. I chose the letter 'S' because it was easy to transmit, and with the very primitive apparatus used at Poldhu I was afraid that the transmission of other Morse signals which included dashes might perhaps cause too much strain on it and break it down.
Coherer as Detector
On the morning of Thursday, December 12th, twenty-eight years ago, the critical moment for which I had been working so long at last arrived, and, in spite of the gale raging, we managed to fly a kite carrying an antenna wire some 400 ft. long. I was at last on the point of putting the correctness of my belief to the test!
Up till then I had nearly always used a receiving arrangement including a coherer, which recorded signals automatically through a relay and a Morse instrument. I decided in this instance to use also a telephone connected to a self-restoring coherer - the human ear being far more sensitive than the recorder. Suddenly, at about half-past twelve, a succession of three faint clicks on the telephone, corresponding to the three dots of the letter 'S' sounded several times in my ear - beyond the possibility of a doubt!
I then felt for the first time absolutely certain that the day when I should be able to send messages without wires or cables across the Atlantic, and across other oceans and perhaps continents, was not far distant.
On the following day the signals were again heard, though not quite so distinctly. However, there could not possibly be any doubt that the experiment had succeeded.
The result meant much more than the mere successful realisation of an experiment. It was a discovery which proved that, contrary to the general belief, radio signals could travel over such great distances as those separating Europe from America, and constituted, as Sir Oliver Lodge has stated, an epoch in history besides being an astonishing and remarkable feat.
Violation of Rights
Following the success of my test, I was promptly notified by the Anglo-American Telegraph Company that, as they had the exclusive right to construct and operate stations for telegraphic communication between Newfoundland and places outside that colony, the work upon which I was engaged was a violation of their rights.
I was absolutely astounded by this communication, but it gave me the satisfaction of knowing that one of the great cable companies not only believed in my success, but already feared the competition of radio transatlantic communication.
The preceding paragraphs are interesting extracts from a recent talk given by Marchese Marconi and relayed in America after being broadcast by 5SW at Chelmsford.