This tribute to Guglielmo Marconi is acknowledged to the Cape Breton Wireless Heritage Society, Cape Breton, Canada.
See the Society's Website for comprehensive information.
Many people contributed to the development of wireless communications, but the
best known is Guglielmo Marconi. In1895, at the age of 21, Marconi demonstrated the transmission and reception of wireless
signals over a distance of about one mile on the family estate near Bologna, Italy. He moved to England in1896, and set up
a company there in1897 to manufacture and lease wireless equipment.
The next goal for Marconi was worldwide radio communications,
and the first step was to bridge the Atlantic Ocean. In December, 1901 Marconi received a radio test signal at St. John's,
Newfoundland that was transmitted by his station in Cornwall, England.
The company that operated the transatlantic telegraph cable threatened Marconi
with legal action if he continued his experiments because they held a monopoly on telegraph operations in Newfoundland. Rather
than endure legal delays, Marconi left Newfoundland and sailed to North Sydney, Cape Breton. There alert Canadian officials
persuaded him to build a permanent station in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In 1902 he built a radio station at Table Head in
Glace Bay, Nova Scotia for transatlantic communications. In December of that year he transmitted Morse code messages from
this station to his station in Cornwall.
Communications between Glace Bay and Cornwall proved unreliable, and only
possible after dark, so between 1905 and 1907 Marconi and his company built large new stations on both sides of the Atlantic.
These stations were at Clifden, Ireland, and just south of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. The latter station became known locally
as Marconi Towers The two stations operated on wavelengths of thousands of metres, and were the most powerful radio stations
in the world.
The technology was much like that used in the original experiments, but scaled up to gigantic proportions.
Transatlantic communication was successful both day and night, and a regular commercial service between Marconi Towers and
Clifden opened officially on October 17, 1907. In succeeding years it was followed by competing services operated by other
companies and countries, spanning the oceans of the world, and leading to the worldwide wireless network that we take for
Initially the stations at Marconi Towers and Clifden were limited to one-way-at-a-time
transmissions, either east-to-west or west-to-east. Telegraphers called this a simplex system. This limitation was due to
the fact that the receivers, which were at the same locations as the transmitters, could not function while the transmitter
was operating. When business justified it, the system was upgraded to a simultaneous two-way or duplex system by the addition
of dedicated receiving stations at Letterfrack, Ireland and Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. The duplex service began in 1913.
station at Clifden was destroyed by Irish rebels in 1922, and its service was taken over by a newer long wavelength station
at Caernarfon (Carnarvon) in Wales.