some history stuff by Debra E. Marvin - who learned to type on a manual typewriter
and is a better person for it.
On October 21, 1915, the first transatlantic radio voice message was made by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company from Virginia to Paris. Sure, it was scratchy and the receiver wasn’t quite sure what was said until the telegraphed confirmation arrived, but the idea that a voice message (a phone call) could travel under the Atlantic must have quite amazing!
But this is the middle of the story. Authors of historical fiction must have some strange interest in the obscure because we have to like research and have the patience to go digging. Another challenge is not to go too far afield. Bunny trails waste a lot of time. But in the guise of needing a history post, I chased down something that has always confused me. When did communication between Europe and the U.S supercede shipboard messages, and how?
Let’s go back to my cousin, Samuel F. B. Morse, (kidding... sort of ), a successful landscape and portrait painter for multiple decades in the early 19th century. While away from home, he received a letter telling him his wife was ill. He rushed home (it took him a few days) and arrived too late. Fraught with this loss, he determined to put art aside and work on more rapid long distance communication.
|This is NOT Samuel Morse but his portrait of President John Adams|
He wasn’t the only one, but in 1832, Morse tried out his first telegraph. It was a system of using electrical charges sent along a wire. It worked. Eventually Morse won the patent on the system and it became widely used and successful. The telegraph system flourished as a means of communication, once the operators got used to Morse’s system of dots and dashes.
|A telegraph machine|
Transatlantic communication at that time took ten days—the time it took the fastest ships to cross. Again, forward thinkers and entrepreneurs on both side of the ocean dreamed of the impossible. Running a cable between continents! The shortest route was from Ireland to Newfoundland, and in 1858, it was tested and worked.
|A map showing the first transAtlantic cable|
To celebrate, Queen Victoria sent a telegram to President James Buchanon.
She said: “The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of this great international work.”
President Buchanan replied:
“May the Atlantic Telegraph, under the blessing of Heaven, prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations, and an instrument designed by Divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilization, liberty and law throughout the world.”
IF it was up to the telegraph operator it would been:
Jim - nice job! Victoria
Thank God it works! Jim
The success was short lived. (A leak, do you suppose?) and within weeks, the system failed. New attempts to lay a successful cable continued until finally in 1866 a functioning transatlantic cable sent telegraphed messages again. The race was on! Multiple “cable companies” from the U.S, France, Great Britain and Germany laid multiple cables to carry the load of information.
During those same years, the ‘telephone’ battles began. As far back as 1844 Mr. Antonio Meucci started talking about a “speaking telegraph”. He wasn’t alone, and he wasn’t very good about applying for working patents either. Multiple men including Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were also working on new ways to transmit sound, but Bell beat them to the patent office. Lawsuits continued for decades on this and improvements to the system as well. In 1876, Bell had his first successful telephone call.
Around the turn of the century, (and about where my understanding of technology ends) Wireless –aka “The Marconi” became the new standard. Just like all our modern technology nowadays, I can’t figure out how it works. But Mr. Marconi did, and during the first decade of the 20th century WIRELESS transmission of the Morse Code replaced the telegraph line AND… meant ship to shore and ship to ship communication.
Jen –this is where you can say “Yes! The Titanic!”
|a MARCONI "Wireless" Machine|
If I can’t figure out how Bell’s telephone worked, I’m not going anywhere near Radio, Television, and Wireless Internet I'm still awed by watching movies on my Kindle!