Guglielmo Marconi

Moving, now, over to this stiff aristocrat, Bill Marconi. What Marconi was, was a powerful organizer and a business man, and a pretty grabby guy, if you come right down to it, and he succeeded in building giant wireless stations all over the world… tremendous stations…

The most famous station in this area, of course, was the one down at Wellfleet.  And what with the ocean rising and the storms, the land that it was situated on is all gone and washed away into the ocean.  And it was what they called MCC, for Marconi Cape Cod originally…it later became WCC when RCA took over the Marconi interest.  WCC was a very famous shore station for ships.  In the early days, radio was mostly a very useful tool for steamers going to sea, so they could communicate to the shore, messages for the passengers, both directions, and also they could send SOS and other necessary things.  And they could warn other ships of ice flows like the problem on the Titanic, and unfortunately, as everybody knows these days because of the big centennial of the Titanic thing, that the steamer, California, was within sight of the Titanic, and it wanted to advise the Titanic to go slow because there were ice flows all over the place.  And the operator on the Titanic was sending “CQD, CQD” distress signal, but the California’s operator had gone to bed because it was midnight.  The captain came down…he saw the rockets going up…and he came down to the wireless room and found the operator asleep, so he didn’t want to bother him.  He didn’t understand the Morse Code, so he didn’t understand the messages.  He assumed that all the rockets…was just the Titanic celebrating their maiden voyage.  And tragically, he steamed right along, and he could have rescued most of the people, but that’s part of the tragedy.

Well, to go along to the next window, it’s curious that Marconi…

Fred – “Is this a Marconi patent?”

Yes…or one of them.  This is a copy of the Nobel Prize, which he won in 1909, and so did Karl Ferdinand Braun…the same year.  I should point out one more thing.  There is a coherer that is attached to a piece of that whale bone, and a coherer is nothing but fine metal particles between two electrodes, and if one end is connected to an antenna, and another is to a ground, they will tend to cohere when a wireless signal arrives.  Basically, the microscopic particles weld together a little bit, allowing current to flow, and they have to be tapped to be ready for the next message.

These are all authentic things.  That’s a very early Marconi instrument.  This is a very early Marconi wave meter to measure the wavelength that you are sending on or receiving on.

Text from the transcript of a tour of New England Wireless & Steam Museum’s Wireless Building given by Robert W. Merriam on a winter day in 2012. Transcription by Craig H. Moody, K1CHM. Edited by Fred Jaggi.