Posts Tagged ‘radio’
Contact: A hundred years before iconic figures like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs permeated our lives, 60 years before Marshall McLuhan proclaimed media to be “the extensions of man,” an Irish-Italian inventor laid the foundation of the communication explosion of the 21st century. Guglielmo Marconi was arguably the first truly global figure in modern communication. Not only was he the first to communicate globally, he was the first to think globally about communication. Marconi may not have been the greatest inventor of his time, but more than anyone else, he brought about a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.
Today’s globally networked media and communication system has its origins in the 19th century, when, for the first time, messages were sent electronically across great distances. The telegraph, the telephone, and radio were the obvious precursors of the Internet, iPods, and mobile phones. What made the link from then to now was the development of wireless communication. Marconi was the first to develop and perfect a practical system for wireless, using the recently-discovered “air waves” that make up the electromagnetic spectrum…
* Guglielmo Marconi
As we tweak the dial, we might recall that, thanks to a handwritten note by illustrator Heinrich Cremer, we know that the final binding of the Gutenberg Bible took place on this date in 1456.
The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification turns ten in 2016. Created by artist Julian Montague [bio here], the book attempts to bring clarity to a world littered with shopping carts far away from their birth stores. Written in the voice of a character who takes the project as seriously as a birder would take a birding guide, the book is as complex as it is wry…
A winner of the 2006 award for Oddest Book Title of the Year [c.f. this earlier visit to that list], Montague’s guide received a decent amount of media attention when it came out. But, published in the rudimentary years of social media, it missed out on a chance for the level of virality it may have achieved today. So far, there are few, if any, efforts to add to Montague’s research. Perhaps it’s too good. Perhaps it’s too insane…
See for yourself at “A Look Back at the Greatest (and Only) Stray Shopping Cart Identification Guide Ever Made.”
* Benjamin Franklin
As we return our baskets to the queue, we might recall that it was on this date in 1904 that “CQD” (Morse code – · – · – – · – – · ·) became the official distress signal to be used by Marconi wireless radio operators. A few years later, judging that “CQD” was too easily mistaken for the general call “CQ” in conditions of poor reception, the signal was changed to the now-ubiquitous “SOS” (· · · – – – · · · ).
In 1912, RMS Titanic radio operator Jack Phillips initially sent “CQD”, which was still commonly used by British ships. Harold Bride, the junior radio operator, jokingly suggested using the new code, “SOS”. Thinking it might be the only time he would get to use it, Phillips began to alternate between the two.
“Any eavesdropping alien civilization will know all about our TV programs (probably a bad thing), will hear all our FM music (probably a good thing)*…
The speed of light, at which radio waves propagate into space, is fast– really fast– but it’s not instant. So what a space traveler would hear at ever-greater distances from Earth is an ever-older playlist of radio hits.
Hear them for yourself at Lightyear.fm.
* “FM signals and those of broadcast television…[travel] out to space at the speed of light. Any eavesdropping alien civilization will know all about our TV programs (probably a bad thing), will hear all our FM music (probably a good thing), and know nothing of the politics of AM talk-show hosts (probably a safe thing)…”
-Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Death By Black Hole, p. 172
As we aim for about 50 LY out, we might recall that it was on this date in 1850 that Harvard Observatory director William Cranch Bond and Boston photographer John Adams Whipple took a daguerreotype of Vega– the first photograph of a star ever made.
Newton Minow, famed Chairman of the FCC during the Kennedy Administration, recalled visiting NASA with the President, who asked him about a satellite they were shown:
I told him that it would be more important than sending a man into space. “Why?” he asked. “Because,” I said, “this satellite will send ideas into space, and ideas last longer than men.”
Greg Roberts, a retired astronomer and ham radio operator (ZS1BI in Cape Town) has been observing and recording the sounds broadcast by satellites since 1957. He’s collected his recordings so that one can hear “ideas traveling through space,” for example, Telstar.
Hear them all at “Sounds from Space.”
* NBC News, introducing the “beep-beep” chirp transmitted by the Sputnik satellites
As we look to the skies, we might recall that it was on this date in 1781 that English astronomer William Herschel detected every schoolboy’s favorite planet, Uranus, in the night sky (though he initially thought it was a comet:; it was the first planet to be discovered with the aid of a telescope. In fact, Uranus had been detected much earlier– but mistaken for a star: the earliest likely observation was by Hipparchos, who in 128BC seems to have recorded the planet as a star for his star catalogue, later incorporated into Ptolemy’s Almagest. The earliest definite sighting was in 1690 when John Flamsteed observed it at least six times, cataloguing it as the star 34 Tauri.
Herschel named the planet in honor of his King: Georgium Sidus (George’s Star), an unpopular choice, especially outside England; argument over alternatives ensued. Berlin astronomer Johann Elert Bode came up with the moniker “Uranus,” which was adopted throughout the world’s astronomical community by 1850.
“If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners”*…
There’s no denying that newspapers are in jeopardy; emerging electronic media have eaten away at both their audiences and their advertising revenue. But lest we count them altogether out, we might remind ourselves that folks have been predicting their demise for decades.
From the March 1922 issue of Radio News magazine:
Seated comfortably in the club car of the Twenty-first Century Flyer — fast airplane service between London and New York — the president of the Ultra National Bank removes a small rubber disk from his vest pocket and places it over his ear. A moment hence, he will receive by radiophone the financial news of the world. Simultaneously, millions of other people all over the globe will receive the message. At designated hours, news of a general character will also be received.
The broadcasting of news by radiophone had long displaced the daily newspaper, and…
Don’t scoff! The day may be nearer than you suspect. In Hungary, a wire “telephone newspaper” has been successfully conducted for more than 25 years. For nearly a year, financial news direct from the Amsterdam Bourse has been broadcasted by radiophone to 200 banks and brokerage firms in Holland. And within a few months the German Government has installed near Berlin a wireless telephone station for the broadcasting of general news on a regular daily schedule throughout the entire country.
More on the premature reports of the death of the newspaper at “1922: Radio Will Kill the Newspaper Star.” (See also “The Newspaper of Tomorrow: 11 Predictions from Yesteryear.”
* Johnny Carson
As we strap on our jet-packs, we might recall that it was on this date two years earlier, in 1920, that Scientific American got a forecast powerfully right; in an issue cover-dated the following day, it made then-bold prediction that radio would be come an important medium for delivering music.
It has been well known for some years that by placing a form of telephone transmitter in a concert hall or at any point where music is being played the sound may be carried over telephone wires to an ordinary telephone receiver at a distant point, thus enabling those several miles away to listen to the music. Such systems have been in use in London between a number of the theaters and hotels for many years, but it is only recently that a method of transmitting music by radio has been found possible.
It has now been discovered that music can be transmitted by wireless in the same manner as speech or code signals and as a result of research work on radio telephony at the Bureau of Standards it has been proven that music sent by this means does not lose its quality. It is, therefore, obvious that music can be performed at any place, radiated into the air through an ordinary radio transmitting set and received at any other place, even though hundreds of miles away. The music received can be made as loud as desired by suitable operation of the receiving apparatus. The result is perhaps not so very different from that secured by means of the ordinary telephone apparatus above mentioned, but the system is far simpler and does not require the use of any intermediate circuit. The entire feasibility of centralized concerts has been demonstrated and in fact such concerts are now being sent out by a number of persons and institutions. Experimental concerts are at present being conducted every Friday evening from 8:30 to 11:00 by the Radio Laboratory of the Bureau of Standards. The wave length used is 500 meters. This music can be heard by any one in the territory near the District of Columbia having a simple amateur receiving outfit. The possibilities of such centralized radio concerts are great and extremely interesting. One simple means of producing music for radio transmission is to play a phonograph into the radio transmitter. An interesting improvement upon this method is being utilized in the experiments at the Bureau. The carbon microphone, which is the mouthpiece of an ordinary telephone, is mounted on the phonograph in place of the usual vibrating diaphragm. As a result the phonograph record produces direct variations of electric current in the telephone apparatus instead of producing sound; thus while the music is not audible at the place where the phonograph record is being played, it is distinctly heard at the different receiving stations.
“This is the patent age of new inventions for killing bodies, and for saving souls. All propagated with the best intentions.”*…
Sam Lavigne has created the ultimate tool for this, the Age of Intellectual Property: a program that transforms literary and philosophical texts into patent applications…
In short, it reframes texts as inventions or machines. You can view the code on github.
I was partially inspired by Paul Scheerbart’s Perpetual Motion Machine, a sort of technical/literary diary in which Scheerbart documents and reflects on various failed attempts to create a perpetual motion machine. Scheerbart frequently refers to his machines as “stories” – I wanted to reverse the concept and transform stories into machines…
Here’s some sample output, listed by invention title and source text:
“A method and device for comprehending theoretically the historical movement” (The Communist Manifesto)
“An apparatus and device for staring into vacancy” (“The Hunger Artist” by Kafka)
“A device and system for belonging to bringing-forth” (The Question Concerning Technology by Heidegger)
One can read the details– and try it for oneself– at “Transform any text into a patent application.”
* Lord Byron
As we ponder the protection of “property” that isn’t even ours, we might recall that it was on this date in 1903 that what was likely the first instance of electronic hacking took place. During a demonstration by Marconi of his wireless communications system at the Royal Institution in London, one of Marconi’s rivals, the magician and inventor Nevil Maskelyne intervened. As physicist John Ambrose Fleming was preparing to give the public their first demonstration of “radio,” Marconi was at his clifftop radio station in Poldhu, Cornwall, 300 miles away, preparing to send a Morse code signal. Though the audience was unaware of it, the assistant tending the receiving apparatus found it was already tapping out the word “rats,” repeatedly. Then it mocked, “There was a young fellow of Italy, who diddled the public quite prettily…” and more. Maskelyne was attempting– rather successfully– to make Marconi’s claims of “secure and private communication” appear foolish.