Popular Science Monthly/Volume 64/November 1903/Hertzian Wave Wireless Telegraphy VI


By Dr. J. A. FLEMING, F.R.S.,


It remains then to consider some of the questions connected with practical Hertzian wave telegraphy and the problem of the limitation of communication. These matters at the present moment very much occupy the public attention, and many conflicting opinions are expressed concerning them.

It may be observed at the outset that the difficulty of dealing with the subject as freely as many desire is that Hertzian wave telegraphy is no longer merely a subject of scientific investigation, but has developed into a business and involves therefore other interests than the simple advancement of scientific knowledge. We can, however, discuss in a general manner some of the scientific problems which present themselves for solution. The first of these is the independence of communication between stations. It is desirable, at the outset, to clear up a little misunderstanding. There is a great difference between preventing the reception of communication when it is not desired by the recipient and preventing it when it is the object of the latter to overhear if he can. It is therefore necessary to distinguish between isolation and overhearing. We may say that a station is isolated when it is not affected by Hertzian waves other than those it desires to receive; but that a station overhears when it can, if it chooses, pick up communications not intended for it, or can not help receiving them against its will.

This distinction is a perfectly fair one. Any telegraph or telephone wire can be tapped, if it is desired, but unless there is some fault on the line, no station will receive a message against its desires. Moreover, it may be noted that there are penalties attaching to tapping a telegraph wire, and at present there are none connected with the misappropriation of an ether wave.

We shall therefore consider in the first place the methods so far proposed for preventing any given receiver from being affected by Hertzian waves sent out from other stations, except that of those from which it is desired to receive them. The first method is that which has been called the method of electrical syntony, and consists in adjusting the electrical capacity and inductance of the various open and closed circuits of the receiving and transmitting stations to be put in communication so that they have the same electrical time-period.[1]

In the Cantor Lectures before the Society of Arts in 1900, on electrical oscillations and electric waves, the author has discussed at length the conditions under which powerful electrical oscillations can be set up in a circuit. It was there shown that every electric circuit having capacity and inductance has a particular or natural time-period of electrical oscillation depending on the product of these qualities, and that, to accumulate powerful electrical oscillations in it, the electromotive impulses on it must be delivered at this rate. Illustrations were drawn from mechanics, such as the examples furnished by vibrating pendulums and springs, and from acoustics, as illustrated by the phenomena of resonance, to show that small or feeble blows or impulses delivered at the proper time intervals have a cumulative effect in setting up vibrations in a body capable of oscillation. It is a familiar fact that if we time our blows, we can achieve that which no single blow, however powerful, can accomplish in throwing into vibration a body such as a pendulum, which is capable of oscillation under the action of a restoring force. Precisely the same is true of an electric circuit. We have already seen that the receiving aerial has an alternating electromotive force set up in it by the impact of the successive electric waves sent out from the transmitter. It must, however, be remembered that the transmitter sends out a series of trains of waves, not by any means a continuous train, but one cut up into groups of probably ten to fifty waves, each separated by intervals of silence, long, compared with the duration of a single train of waves.

If, however, by a suitable adjustment of capacity and inductance, we make the natural time-period of oscillation of the receiving aerial circuits agree with those of the transmitting aerial, within certain limits the former will only be receptive for waves of the frequency sent out by the transmitter. It is quite easy to illustrate this principle by numerous experiments. It can be done by means of an apparatus devised by Dr. Georg Seibt for showing in an interesting manner the syntonization or tuning of two electric circuits. This consists of two bobbins, each consisting of one layer of insulated wire wound on a wooden rod (see Fig. 22). Each of these bobbins has a certain electrical capacity with respect to the earth, when considered as an insulated conductor, and it has also a certain inductance. If therefore electromotive impulses are applied to one end of the bobbin at regular intervals, electrical oscillations will be set up in it, and, as already explained, if these are timed at a certain rate, the bobbin will act like a closed organ pipe to air impulses and oscillations of potential will be accumulated at the opposite end, which have much greater amplitude than the impressed oscillations at the end at which they are applied. We can make the existence of the amplitude oscillations of potential evident by attaching to one end of the bobbin a vacuum tube, which will be illuminated there by, or by terminating it by a pointed piece of wire, PSM V64 D059 Seibt apparatus for demonstrating electric resonance.pngFig. 22. Seibt's Apparatus for Exhibiting Electric Resonance. I, induction coil; S, spark gap; CC, condensers; L, variable inductance; E, earth plate; WW, wire spirals; VV, vacuum tubes. so that an electrical brush can be formed at the point, if the potential variations have sufficient amplitude. We arrange also another closed oscillation circuit consisting of two Leyden jars and a variable inductance coil and a pair of spark balls which are connected to an induction coil. In this manner we can set up oscillations in the discharge circuit of these Leyden jars, and we can vary the time period by altering the inductance and the capacity. If we denote the capacity of the jars in the microfarads by the letter C and the inductance in centimeters of the discharge circuit of the jars by the letter L, it can then be shown that the number of oscillations per second denoted by n is given by the expression:[2]

n 5,000,000√CL

If now we adjust the Leyden jar circuit to a particular rate of oscillation, we have between the terminals of the jar or condenser an alternating difference of potential or electromotive force. If we connect one side of the jars to the earth and the other side to the foot of one of the spirals or bobbins above described, we shall find perhaps that the vacuum tube at the other end is not rendered luminous. When, however, we adjust the inductance in the discharge circuit of the jar to a certain value to make the frequency of the condenser oscillations agree with the natural time period of the bobbin terminated by the vacuum tube, this latter at once lights up brilliantly. Again, if we connect both these bobbins at the same time to the discharge circuit of the Leyden jar, we shall find that we can make an adjustment of the inductance of that circuit, such that either of the bobbins at pleasure can be made to respond and be set in electrical vibration, as shown by the illumination of the vacuum tube at its upper end or by an electrical brush being formed at the terminal. In making this adjustment of inductance, we are tuning, as it is called, the Leyden jar discharge circuit to the resonating bobbin. A very small variation of the inductance of the jar circuit causes the vacuum tube to change in luminosity. If, however, the natural time periods of these bobbins do not lie very far apart, then a faint luminosity will make its appearance in both the vacuum tubes. Supposing therefore that we connect to the oscillating circuit of the jar a number of bobbins having different time-periods of oscillation, like organ-pipes, and supply them all with one common alternating electromotive force. Those bobbins whose natural time-period is very different to that of the oscillating circuit or impressed electromotive force will not respond, but those bobbins of which the natural time-period lies near to, even if not quite exactly the same as, that of the impressed electromotive force will give evidence of being set in oscillation. A very violent electromotive force will cause them all to respond to some slight extent, no matter whether the period of that impulse is tuned to their common period precisely or not.

At this point questions arise of great practical importance. A matter which has been in dispute in connection with practical Hertzian wave telegraphy is how far this electrical tuning is a sufficient solution of the practical problem of isolation. It is not denied that experiments such as those made with Seibt's apparatus can be shown on a small scale; and, on a still larger scale, Mr. Marconi gave to the author in September, 1900, a demonstration in practical telegraphic work of sending two independent Hertzian wave messages and receiving them on two independent receivers attached to the same aerial.

Since that date much experience has been gained and large power stations erected, and a statement has been frequently made that syntony is no protection against interference when one of the stations is sending out very powerful waves. The contention has been raised that large power stations producing electric waves will therefore play havoc with Hertzian wave telegraphy on a smaller scale, such as the ship to shore and intermarine communication. Under these circumstances, it appeared to the author important to subject the matter to a special test, and Mr. Marconi therefore offered to give a demonstration, with this object, in support of the opinion that he has expressed positively that waves from his power stations do not interfere with the working of his ship installations. This matter is vital to the whole question of practical Hertzian wave telegraphy, for the ship to shore communication is of stupendous importance ; and if Mr. Marconi had done nothing else except render this possible and effective, he would have earned, as he has done, the gratitude of humanity for all time. Accordingly, the author embraced the opportunity of making some careful tests to settle the question, whether the powerful waves sent out from a station such as Poldhu did or did not affect the exchange of messages between ship and shore stations in proximity, equipped with Marconi apparatus of a suitable type.

These experiments were carried out on the eighteenth of March last, at Poldhu, in Cornwall, and a program was arranged by the author of the following kind. Close to the Poldhu station is an isolated mast, which was equipped by Mr. Marconi with a Hertzian wave apparatus, similar to that he places on ships. Six miles from Poldhu is the Lizard receiving station, with which ships proceeding up or down the English Channel communicate. It was arranged that a series of secret messages, some of them in cipher, should be delivered simultaneously at certain known times, both to the power station at Poldhu and to the small adjacent ship station; and it was arranged that these messages should be sent off simultaneously, the operators being kept in ignorance up to the moment of sending as to the nature of the messages. At the Lizard, Mr. Marconi connected two of his receiving instruments to the aerial, one of them tuned to the waves proceeding from the power station at Poldhu, and the other to those proceeding from the small ship station. At the appointed time, these two sets of messages were received simultaneously in the presence of the author, each message being printed down independently on its own receiver; and Mr. Marconi read off and interpreted all these messages perfectly correctly, not having known before what was the message that was about to be sent. In addition to this, precautions were taken to prove that the power station at Poldhu was really emitting waves sufficiently powerful to cross the Atlantic and not being made to sing small for the occasion. To assist in proving this, the messages sent out from the power station were also received at a station at Poole, two hundred miles away, and the assistant there was instructed to telegraph back these messages by wire as soon as he received them. These messages came back perfectly correctly, thus demonstrating that the power station was sending out power waves. The whole program was carried out with the greatest care to avoid any mistakes on the part of the assistants, and provided an absolute demonstration of the truth of Mr. Marconi's assertion that the waves from one of his power stations, such as Poldhu, do not ia the least degree interfere with the transmission and reception of messages between ship and shore, effected by means of certain forms of Marconi apparatus for producing and detecting waves of a different wave length.[3] This complete independence of transmission, however, is entirely due to the employment of a receiving circuit of a certain type in Mr. Marconi's receivers. It does not at all follow that receiving circuit of any kind, even a Marconi receiver not especially arranged, set up in proximity to a power station would not be affected. This, however, is not an important matter. Far more important is it to show, as has been shown, that practically perfect isolation can be achieved if it is desired.

It must be noted, however, that, although the fact that electric circuits have a natural time-period of oscillation of their own is a scientific principle which carries us a considerable way towards a solution of what is called syntonic Hertzian wave telegraphy, it is not in itself alone in every respect an entire solution of the practical problem. The degree to which it is a solution depends to a considerable extent upon the nature of the detecting device, or kumascope, which we are employing. The coherer, or Branly filings tube, has the peculiarity that its passage from a nonconductive to a conductive condition follows immediately when the difference of potential between its ends is made sufficiently great. In other words, if the tube is acted upon by a sufficient electromotive force, it is not necessary that electromotive force should be repeated at intervals to make this particular form of kumascope responsive. Again, if we consider the nature of the oscillations which are sent out from any transmitting aerial, we find that each group of oscillations corresponding to a single spark consists of waves gradually decreasing in amplitude. In other words, the first wave of the group is the strongest, and the decay in amplitude is often very rapid. Supposing, then, we construct a simple receiver consisting of an aerial having inserted in its circuit a sensitive Branly filings tube. Such a receiver is almost entirely non-syntonic ; that is to say, it is affected by any wave passing over it which is sufficiently powerful. We may look upon it that if the first wave of the series is sufficiently powerful to affect the kumascope, the conductive change takes place whether or not the first wave is followed by others. Accordingly, it is perfectly certain that if a transmitter is sending out trains of waves of any period, a simple combination of coherer and aerial will be influenced, if it is placed near enough to the transmitter. On the other hand, it is possible to combine a kumascope of a certain type with a receiving aerial and other circuits in such a manner that when the waves that reach it are feeble it shall not respond at all unless those waves have very nearly a time period of a certain value.

At this stage, it may be perhaps well to explain a little in detail what is meant by an easily responsive circuit, and, on the other hand, by an irresponsive circuit, or, as we may call it, a stiff circuit. Supposing that we consider an aerial consisting of a simple straight wire having small capacity and small inductance, such a circuit admits of being sent into electrical oscillation, not only by waves of its own natural time-period, but by the sudden application of any violent electromotive impulse. If, on the other hand, we bestow upon the circuit in any way considerable inductance, we then obtain what may be called a stiff or irresponsive circuit, which is one in which electrical oscillations can be accumulated only by the prolonged action of impulses tuned to a particular period.

A mechanical analogue of this difference may be found in considering the different behavior of elastic bodies to mechanical blows. Take, for instance, a piece of elastic steel and fix the bottom end in a vise. The steel strip may be thrown into vibration by deflecting the upper end. It has, however, a very small mass, and therefore any violent blow or blows, even although not repeated, will set it in oscillation. If, however, we add mass to it by fixing at the other end a heavy weight, such as a ball of lead, and at the same time make the spring stiffer, we have an arrangement which is capable of being sent into considerable oscillation only by the action of a series of impulses or blows which are timed at a particular rate.

Returning then to the electrical problem, we see that in order to preserve a kumascope or wave detector from being operated on by any vagrant wave or waves having a period very different to an assigned period, it must be associated with an electrical circuit of the kind above called a stiff circuit.

We will now consider the manner in which the problem has been practically attacked by Mr. Marconi, Dr. Slaby, Sir Oliver Lodge and others, who have invented forms of receiver and transmitter, which are syntonic or sympathetic to one another.

Some of the methods which Mr. Marconi has devised for the achievement of syntonic wireless telegraphy were fully described by him in a paper read before the Society of Arts on May 17, 1901.[4]

On referring to his paper, it will be seen that in one form his transmitter consists of an aerial, near the base of which is inserted the secondary circuit of an oscillation transformer or transmitting jigger. One end of this secondary circuit is attached to the aerial and the other end is connected to the earth through a variable inductance coil. The primary circuit of this oscillation transformer is connected in series with a condenser, consisting of a battery of Leyden jars, and the two together are connected across to the spark balls which close the secondary circuit of an induction coil, having the usual make and break key in the primary circuit. Mr. Marconi so adjusts the induction of the aerial and the capacity of the condenser, or battery of Leyden jars, that the two circuits, consisting respectively of this battery of Leyden jars and the primary circuit of the transformer, and on the other hand of the capacity of the aerial and the inductance in series with it, and that of the secondary circuit of the transformer have the same time period. In other words, these two inductive circuits are tuned together. At the receiving end, the aerial is connected in series with a variable inductance and with the primary circuit of another oscillation transformer, the second terminal of which is connected to the earth. The secondary circuit of this last oscillation transformer is cut in the middle and is connected to the terminals of a small condenser. The outer terminals of this secondary circuit are connected to the metallic filings tube or other sensitive receiver and to a small condenser in parallel with it (see Fig. 23). The terminals of the condenser which is inserted in the middle

PSM V64 D064 Marconi transmitter and receiver.png

Fig. 23. Marconi Transmitter and Receiver. I, induction coil; A, aerial; E, earth plate; HH, choking coils; S, spark gap; J, transmitting jigger; K, receiving jigger; R, relay C, condenser; F, filings tube; B, battery. Many practical details are omitted.

of the secondary circuit of the oscillation transformer are connected through two small inductance coils with a relay and a single cell. This relay in turn actuates a Morse printer by means of a local battery. The two circuits of the oscillation transformer are tuned or syntonized to one another, and also to the similar circuit of the transmitting arrangement. When this is the case, the transmitter affects the coresonant receiving arrangement, but will not affect any other similar arrangement, unless it is within a certain minimum range of distance. Owing to the inductance of the oscillation transformer forming part of the receiving arrangements, the receiving circuit is, as before stated, very stiff or irresponsive; the sensitive tube is therefore not acted upon in virtue merely of the impact of the single wave against the aerial, but it needs repeated or accumulated effects of a great many waves, coming in proper time, to break down the coherer and cause the recording mechanism to act. An inspection of the diagram will show that as soon as the secondary electromotive force in the small oscillation transformer or jigger of the receiving instrument is of sufficient amplitude to break down the resistance of the coherer, the local cell in circuit with the relay can send a current through it and cause the relay to act and in turn make the associated telegraphic instrument record or sound.

Mr. Marconi described in the above-mentioned paper some other arrangements for achieving the same result, but those mentioned all depend for their operation upon the construction of a receiving circuit on which the time-period of electrical oscillations is identical with that of a transmitting arrangement. By this means he showed experiments during the reading of his paper, illustrating the fact that two pairs of transmitting and receiving arrangements could be so syntonized that each receiver responded only to its particular transmitter and not to the other.

With arrangements of substantially the same nature, he made experiments in the autumn of 1900 between Niton, in the Isle of Wight, near Bournemouth, a distance of about thirty miles, in which independent messages were sent and received on the same aerial.

Dr. Slaby and Count von Arco, working in Germany, have followed very much on the same lines as Mr. Marconi, though with appliances of a somewhat different nature. As constructed by the General Electric Company, of Berlin, the Slaby-Arco syntonic system of Hertzian telegraphy is arranged in one form as follows: The transmitter consists of a vertical rod like a lightning conductor, say 100 or 150 feet in height. At a point six or nine feet above the ground, a connection is

PSM V64 D065 Slaby arco syntonic transmitter and receiver.png

Fig. 24. Slaby-Arco Syntonic Transmitter and Receiver. I, induction coil; M, multiplier; B, battery; A, aerial; F, filings tube; R, relay; E, earthplate; C, condenser.

made to a spark ball (see Fig. 24), and the corresponding ball is connected through a variable inductance with one terminal of a condenser, the other terminal of which is connected to the earth. The two spark balls are connected to an induction coil, or alternating current transformer, and by variation of the inductance and capacity the frequency is so arranged that the wave-length corresponding to it is equal to four times the length of that portion of the aerial which is above the spark ball connection. The method by which this tuning is achieved is to insert in the portion of the aerial below the spark balls, between it and the earth, a hot wire ammeter of some form. It has already been shown that in the case of such an earthed aerial, when electrical oscillations are set up in it, there is a potential node at the earth and a potential antinode or loop at the summit, if it is vibrating in its fundamental manner; also, there is a node of current at the summit of the aerial and an antinode at the base. This amounts to saying that the amplitude of the potential vibrations is greatest at the top end of the aerial, and the amplitude of the current vibrations is greatest at the bottom or earthed end. Accordingly, the inductance and capacity of the lateral branch of the transmitter is altered until the hot wire ammeter in the base of the aerial shows the largest possible current.

The corresponding receiver is constructed in a very similar manner. A lightning conductor or long vertical rod of the same height as the transmitting aerial is set up at the receiving station, and at a point six or nine feet from the ground a circuit is taken off, consisting of a wire loosely coiled in a spiral, the length of which is nearly equal to, although a little shorter than, the height of the vertical wire above the point of connection. The outer end of this loose spiral is connected to one terminal of the coherer tube, and the other terminal of the coherer is connected to the earth through a condenser of rather large capacity. The terminals of this last condenser are short-circuited by a relay and a single cell. When the adjustments are properly made, it is claimed that the receiver responds only to waves coming from its own syntonized or tuned transmitter. In this case, the length of the receiving aerial above the point of junction with the coherer circuit is one quarter the length of the wave. A variation of the above arrangements consists in making this lateral circuit equal in length to one half of a wave, and connecting the coherer to its center through a condenser to the earth. The outer end of this lateral circuit is also connected to the earth (see Fig. 24).[5]

Dr. Slaby claims that this arrangement is not affected by atmospheric electricity, and that the complete and direct earthing of the aerial and also in the second arrangement, of the receiver of the outer end of the lateral conductor, conduces to preserve the receiver immune from any electrical disturbances except those having a period to which it is tuned.

A method has also been arranged by him for receiving on the same aerial two messages from different transmitting stations, simultaneously. In this case, two lateral wires of different lengths are connected to the receiving aerial, and to the outer end of each of these is connected a coherer tube, the other end of which is earthed through a condenser. One of these lateral wires is made equal or nearly equal in length to the aerial and the other is made longer to fulfil the following condition.[6] If we call H the height of the receiving aerial above point of junction of the lateral wires, then the length of one lateral wire is made equal to H, and the height of the aerial is adjusted to be equal to one quarter of the wave-length of one incident wave. The other lateral wire may then be made of a length equal to one third of H and it will then respond to the first odd harmonic of that wave, of which the fundamental is in syntony with the vertical wire. By suitably choosing the relation between the wave lengths of the two transmitting stations, it is possible to receive in this manner two different messages at the same time on the same aerial. Subsequently to the date of the above-mentioned demonstration of multiplex wireless telegraphy by Mr. Marconi, an exhibition of a similar nature was given by Professor Slaby in a lecture given in Berlin on December 22, 1900.[7]

Both the above described syntonic systems of Mr. Marconi and Dr. Slaby are 'earthed' systems, but arrangements for syntonic telegraphy have been devised by Sir Oliver Lodge and Professor Braun, which are 'non-earthed.'

Sir Oliver Lodge and Dr. Muirhead have devised also syntonic systems. According to their last methods, the syntonic transmitting and receiving arrangements are as shown in Fig. 25.[8] On examining the

PSM V64 D067 Lodge muirhead syntonic receiver.png

Fig. 25. Lodge-Muirhead Syntonic Receiver. I, induction coil; S, spark gap; A, aerial; C,C, condensers; E, earth plate; R, relay;L, variable inductance; F, filings tube; B, battery.

diagrams, it will be seen that the secondary terminals of the induction coil are, as usual, connected to a pair of spark balls, and that these spark balls are connected by a condenser and by a variable inductance. One terminal of the condenser is earthed through another condenser of large capacity, and the remaining terminal of the first condenser is connected to an aerial. It should therefore be borne in mind in dealing with electrical oscillations that a condenser of sufficient capacity is practically a conductor, and an inductance coil of sufficient inductance is practically a non-conductor. Hence the insertion of a large capacity in the path of the aerial wire is no advantage whatever and makes no essential difference in the arrangement. In order to obtain any powerful radiation, the length of the aerial or sky wire, as they call it, must be so adjusted that its length is one quarter the wave length corresponding to the oscillation circuit, consisting of the condenser and variable inductance.

The receiving arrangement consists of a similar sky wire or aerial earthed through a condenser of large capacity and having in the portion above this last condenser another condenser of similar capacity. At the earthed side of this last condenser a connection is made to a resonant circuit, consisting of a variable inductance, and another denser and a sensitive metallic filings tube of the Branly type; also a portion of this resonant circuit is shunted by another consisting of a battery and telegraphic relay, as shown in the diagram. The circuit, including the coherer, is tuned to its own aerial and also to that of the transmitting circuit, and under these circumstances trains of waves thrown off at the transmitting aerial will sympathetically affect the receiving aerial.

There is nothing in the arrangement which specially calls for notice. It is simply a variation of other known forms of syntonic transmitter and receiver, and possesses all the advantages and disadvantages attaching to such electrical syntonic methods.

Professor Braun's syntonic system, the receiver and transmitter of which have been described, is also in one form a non-earthed system. Innumerable other patentees have taken out patents for devices which are modifications in small degree of the above arrangements.

It may be well to note at this point the disadvantages that are possessed by any form of coherer as a telegraphic kumascope in connection with proposed arrangements for the isolation of Hertzian wave stations. All the detectors of the coherer type really depend for their actuation upon electromotive force; that is to say, upon the application to the terminals of the detector of a certain electromotive force. Although there may be no sharp and defined critical electromotive force, yet, nevertheless, as a matter of fact, if the electromotive force applied exceeds a certain value, then the detector passes suddenly from one state of conductivity to another. It may be of great conductivity, as in the case of the Branly coherer, or of lesser conductivity, as in the case of the so-called anticoherers, of which the Schäfer kumascope may be taken as a type. Accordingly, when these instruments are subjected to a train of waves, each individual group of which is damped, their operation is largely governed by the fact that if the first wave or oscillation set up in the receiving circuit is powerful enough to break down the coherer, then the receiving mechanism acts, no matter whether the first impulse is followed by others or not.

In comparison with so-called coherers, those depending upon the changes in the magnetization of iron by electrical oscillations certainly have an advantage, because this is a process which requires the application of alternating electric currents decreasing in strength for a certain time; and it is found therefore that the magnetic receivers do not require to be associated with such a stiff or irresponsive resonant circuit to confine their indications to oscillations or waves of one definite period, and that they lend themselves much more perfectly to the work of 'tuning' or syntonizing stations than do those kumascopes depending upon the contact or coherer principle.

We may then glance at the alternative solutions of the problem offered by other investigators. M. Blondel has proposed to effect the syntonization of two stations, not by syntonizing the receiver for the exceedingly high frequency oscillations of the individual electric waves, but to syntonize it for the much lower frequency, corresponding to that of the intervals between the groups of waves. Thus, for instance, if an ordinary simple transmitting aerial is set up, the production of sparks between the spark balls results in the emission of short trains of waves, each of which may consist of half a dozen or more individual waves, the time of production of the whole group being very small compared with the interval between the groups. M. Blondel proposes, however, to syntonize the receiver, not for the high frequency period of the waves themselves, which may be reckoned in millions per second, but for the low frequency period between the groups of waves, which is reckoned in hundreds per second. Thus, for instance, if sparks are made at the rate of fifty or a hundred per second, they can be made to actuate the telephone receiver and so produce in the telephone a sound corresponding to a frequency of 50 or 100. In other words, to make a low musical note or hum. This continuous sound can be cut up, by means of a key placed in the primary circuit of the transmitting arrangement, into long or short periods, and hence the letters of the alphabet signal.

M. Blondel's arrangements comprise a Mercadier's monotone telephone and either a coherer or a particular form of vacuum tube as a kumascope. On August 16, 1898, M. Blondel deposited with the Academy of Sciences in Paris a sealed envelope containing a description of his improvements in syntonic wireless telegraphy, which was opened on May 19, 1900.[9] The arrangement of the receiving apparatus was as follows: A single battery cell keeps a condenser charged until the kumascope is rendered conductive by the oscillations coming down the aerial; and under these circumstances the condenser discharges through the telephone and causes a tick to be heard in it. If the trains of waves are at the rate of 50 or 100 per second, these small sounds run together into a musical note, and this continuous hum can be cut up into long and short spaces, in accordance with the Morse alphabet signals. The telephone must not be an ordinary telephone, capable of being influenced by any frequency, but be one which responds only to a particular note, and under these conditions the receiving arrangement is receptive only when the trains of waves arrive at certain regular predetermined intervals, corresponding with the tone to which the telephone is sensitive.

  1. The capacity of an electrical circuit corresponds to the elastic pliability, or what is commonly called the elasticity, of a material substance, and the inductance to mass or inertia. Hence capacity and inductance are qualities of an electric circuit which are analogous to the elasticity and inertia of such a body as a heavy spring.
  2. See Cantor Lectures, on 'Electrical Oscillations and Electric Waves,' delivered before the Society of Arts, London, November 26, December 4, 10, 17, 1900. Lecture I., page 12, of reprint.
  3. A fuller account of these experiments was given by the author in a letter to the London Times published on April 14, 1903.
  4. See Journal of the Society of Arts, Vol. XLIX., p. 505. 'Syntonic Wireless Telegraphy' by G. Marconi.
  5. See German Patent Specifications, Class 21a, No. 7,452 of 1900 and also No. 8,087 of 1901.
  6. See German Patent Specification, Class 21a, No. 7,498 of 1900, applied for November 9, 1900. The above-mentioned patent is subsequent in date to Mr. Marconi's experiments on the same subject.
  7. See Electrician, January 18, 1900, Vol. XLVI., p. 475. Also reprint of a paper of Professor A. Slaby, 'Abgestimmte und mehrfache Funkentelegraphie.'
  8. See British Specification, No. 11,348 of 1901.
  9. See Comptes Rendus, May 21, 1900; Rapports du Congrès International d'Electricité, Paris, 1900, p. 341.