Wireless enthusiasts mark Marconi milestone

17th October 2007, 11:08
By KELLY SHIERS Staff Reporter -Chronicle Herald, Halifax NS

Now itís as easy as picking up a phone and dialling a number. But communicating across the ocean wasnít always so easy.

Today, wireless enthusiasts will gather on both sides of the ocean to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first transatlantic wireless service, established between radio stations near Glace Bay and Clifden, Ireland.

Greetings in Morse code will be exchanged between the Governor General of Canada and the president of Ireland through wireless facilities set up by amateur radio clubs in Cape Breton and Ireland at the original transatlantic station sites.

In Cape Breton, that site is known as Marconi Towers, just south of Glace Bay, and todayís celebration will take place on the front lawn of the house that was once inventor Guglielmo Marconiís residence and later became the station managerís home.

The event is expected to get underway at 10 a.m.

The wireless service, brainchild of radio pioneer Marconi, was the "critical first step" in establishing todayís worldwide communications network, according to Henry Bradford, chairman of the Cape Breton Wireless Heritage Society.

"Marconiís ambition was to have a worldwide wireless service ó by radio, in other words ó (and) the first step was to be able to transmit across oceans. . . . Obviously, the first ocean to attempt was the North Atlantic because that would provide the link between the New World and the Old World," Mr. Bradford said.

"Once he established that and showed it actually could work reliably and was commercially viable, then other transoceanic services were set up . . . and eventually most of the world was linked by a wireless network."

The regular service was established six years after Marconi wireless test signals were received at St. Johnís and five years after the first transatlantic wireless messages were sent from Table Head in Glace Bay to England.

"What you usually hear more about is the first steps leading to this service," Mr. Bradford said. "You donít hear about the final achievement of a working transatlantic service."

( kshiers@herald.ca)