Making Waves

The first public demonstration of electromagnetic waves

During the 1894 British Association meeting in Oxford, Oliver Lodge was lecturing on light and the way in which it is perceived by the brain. On 14th August he set up a demonstration in which a morse key activated a transmission that was received in an adjacent room and caused the deflection of a spot of light. This was in effect the first public demonstration of wireless, but no-one saw any practical application for the phenomenon, and it passed without note.

Marconi on the job

Marconi, however, who had almost no formal scientific education, worked round the clock to develop a commercial communication system. The British GPO were only mildly impressed, and failed to see the possibilities of a popular entertainment system based on radio. Similarly, the experts mocked Marconi's plans for transatlantic communication: they knew that the curvature of the earth would defeat him, and that his straight-line signals would simply head out into space!

The first hackers?

At an early Marconi radio demonstration, a rival group set up nearby and transmitted a jamming signal so as to disrupt the proceedings.

The above items come from a book on Oliver Lodge, Cambridge University Library 459.c.97.159



How he would have loved to see Skype!

During the 1860s there was a cash crisis at the Royal Academy of Music. Teaching staff were being laid off, to minimise operating costs. Principal William S Bennett speculated that if the trend continued “he expected to teach future music students by electronic telegraph in Hyde Park” – presumably an allusion to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park during the summer of 1851, when the Electric Telegraph Company demonstrated its prowess to the many visitors, including Queen Victoria herself. (Source: Museum Display at Royal Academy of Music, quoting from the ‘Musical Times’ of 1868.)

...return to commonplace book index