[AMRadio] 99 years of AM Phone!

Robert Nickels w9ran at oneradio.net
Sun Dec 11 19:15:08 EST 2005

The following was posted on the hfpack list today, I thought it would be 
of interest here.

73, Bob W9RAN

99 Years: First Radio Broadcast of Music
Fessenden's Radio Station at Brant Rock

Two days before Christmas in 1906, Canadian-born radio inventor
Reginald Fessenden sent a Morse code message from his transmitter in
Massachusetts, to the ships of the US Navy and the United Fruit
Company, many of whom were using radio equipment he had made them for
radio-telegraph. Fessendon's message simply told them to be sure to
listen for another message on Christmas Eve.

On 24 December 1906, at 9PM eastern standard time, the radio operators
tuned in, and got a big suprise: they heard Fessenden's voice! He then
broadcasted music using an Edifon phonograph record of Handel's
"Largo". This was followed by the music of Fessenden himself, playing
the hymn "O Holy Night" on his violin into one of the transmitter's
microphones. The historic music broadcast was heard by radio operators
around the east coast of North America, and as far south as the
Carribean. He asked for anyone hearing the broadcast to send him a
letter, and he gave his address. Later on, he was pleasantly surprised
at the large volume of mail he received from listeners who called the
broadcast "real radio".

Fessendon had previously transmitted his voice across the Atlantic in
November of 1906, during a radiotelegraph communication between his
Massachusetts station and Scotland. So, it would seem like a logical
step to broadcast music, right? But in the early 20th century, the
value of radio as a broadcast medium was not yet recognized. It was
not until the 1920s that Fessendon was vindicated, when radio became
commercially viable for broadcasting music and audio programs to a
wide audience.

Fessenden's Brant Rock Station was located in the town of Marshfield
in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA. The station was founded in
1905 with the construction of a 400-foot radio tower. It used a
special radio alternator to generate a signal on 80 kilocycles.
Fessenden also arranged the construction of a second tower in
Macrihanish, Scotland.

Historic photos:

6 years earlier, Fessenden's lab at Cobb Island in the Potomac River
was the site of his experiments with a new improved radio generator
for transmitting to a receiving station 50 miles away at Arlington,
Virginia. As early as the spring of 1900, Fessenden had transmitted
and received intelligible speech at a distance of one mile. In October
1900, Fessenden experimentally hooked up a microphone to the improved
radio generator system at his Cobb Island station. On December 23,
1900, Fessenden said into his microphone, "One, two, three, four. Is
it snowing where you are Mr. Thiessen? If so, telegraph back and let
me know." His assistant, Thiessen, replied by telegraph from 50 miles
away in Morse code, "YES IT IS SNOWING". Excitedly, Fessenden wrote in
his notebook, "This afternoon here at Cobb Island, intelligible speech
by electromagnetic waves has for the first time in World's History
been transmitted." Almost a year after Fessenden transmitted that
first human voice by radio, Marconi made his first one-way
transatlantic transmission, in Morse code from England to Newfoundland
on 12 December 1901.

The microphones Fessenden invented for broadcasting music in 1906
could handle up to 15 Amperes of electric current without burning up!
He used a condenser design and another water-cooled carbon granule
design he called a "trough transmitter". But one had to be careful not
to get too close to those first Fessenden microphones, because they
would scorch the lips of the talker!

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