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Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Pty Ltd

The Story of Fiskville

By Ian McLean, VK3JQ

Where it all began…

During the development of this article it was found that an explaination of where the original ideas came from and how they effected the creation of the Beam Wireless service was in order. Many people were involved, some well known and some very obscure. The Beamers themselves deserve special merit.

First we have to recap some of our history before introducing the Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd/OTC beam wireless station at Fiskville. Some of this history will be familiar, but then, some of it will not.

Transmitting Electrical Signals

Wireless transmission of intelligence is a modern satisfaction of one of the oldest cravings of man, who has always sought the annihilation of distance by communication through space without material linkage over the intervening expanse. Early experimenters with the telephone, particularly, were enthusiastic seekers of a method of wireless electrical communication that would convey the voice through space in the manner in which the air conducted sound. David Edward Hughes had noted, in 1879, that when an electric spark was produced anywhere in his house he heard a noise in his telephone receiver.

He traced the effect to the action of the carbon granules in contact with a metal disk in his telephone, which acted as a detector of the space waves by sticking together slightly, reducing the resistance of the mass, and producing a click in the receiver.

Prof. A. E. Dolbear, of Tufts College, amplified this observation and set up, in 1882, a demonstration set using the principle but eliminating the telephone set. He used a spark coil for creating waves and a mass of carbon granules for detecting them. This is exactly the "wireless" system that Marconi "discovered" fourteen years later.

Michael Faraday, in London, had described in 1845 his theory of the relationship between light and the electromagnetic lines of force; and in 1862 James Clerk Maxwell published an analysis of Faraday's work which gave a mathematical basis for the theory that light waves were electromagnetic in nature, and that it was possible for such waves to exist very much shorter and very much longer than the known wavelength of visible light. This was a challenge to scientists to prove the existence of such waves.

Prof. Heinrich Hertz, at Bonn, Germany, from 1886 to 1888, undertook the search for the waves longer than light or heat. He produced them by the spark discharge of an induction coil and recaptured them from space, at a short distance, in the form of a tiny spark that jumped the gap in a slotted ring of wire.

Meanwhile, Nikola Tesla was preparing to demonstrate his wireless system. In the spring of 1897 he was ready to make, on his wireless transmitter and receiver, the distance tests which had been interrupted by a fire two years before.

The success of these tests were announced by Tesla in an interview with a representative of the. Electrical Review which was published in the issue of July 9, 1897, of that journal.

It stated:
“Nearly every telegraphic inventor has for years dreamed in his waking hours of the possibility of communicating without wires. From time to time there has appeared in the technical journals a reference to the experiments showing the almost universal belief among electricians that, some day, wires will be done away with. Experiments have been made attempting to prove the possibilities, but it has remained for Mr. Nikola Tesla to advance a theory, and experimentally prove it, that wireless communication is a possibility and by no means a distant possibility. Indeed, after six years of careful and conscientious work, Mr. Tesla has arrived at a stage where some insight into the future is possible.

A representative of the Electrical Review receives the assurance personally from Mr. Tesla who, by the way, is nothing if not conservative, that electrical communication without wires is an accomplished fact and that the method employed and the principles involved have nothing in them to prevent messages being transmitted and intelligibly received between distant points. Already he has constructed both a transmitting apparatus and an electrical receiver which at distant points is sensitive to the signals of the transmitter, regardless of earth currents or points of the compass. And this has been done with a surprisingly small expenditure of energy.

Tesla's work with high frequency and high potential currents has been notable. As long ago as 1891 he foretold the present results, both as to vacuum tube lighting and intercommunication without wires. The former has in his hands assumed a condition capable of a public demonstration of the phenomena of the electrostatic molecular forces. Numberless experiments were carried out, and from what then was a startling frequency of 10,000 per second Mr. Tesla has advanced to what now is a moderate rate at 2,000,000 oscillations per second."

This announcement recorded the birth of modern radio - radio as it is in use today, born on a boat traveling up the Hudson River, carrying the receiving set twenty five miles from the Houston Street laboratory, a distance which was a small fraction of the range of the set but enough to demonstrate its capabilities.

Such an accomplishment was worthy of a flamboyant smash announcement instead of Tesla's very modest statement and the even more conservative manner in which the Electrical Review treated the news.

Tesla had to protect not only his patent rights, which would be jeopardized by premature disclosure, but also had to be on guard against invention invaders and patent pirates, with whom he had previously had unpleasant experiences.

The Electrical Review, naturally enough, was fearful of the consequences of "sticking its neck out by too enthusiastic a reception before full details were available.

Radio as it exists today is, therefore, the product of the genius of Nikola Tesla. He is the original inventor of the system as a whole and of all the principal electrical components. The man who, next to Tesla, is entitled to the greatest amount of credit is Sir Oliver Lodge, the great English scientist.

Lodge, early in 1894, had put a Hertz spark gap in a copper cylinder open at one end; and in this way he produced a beam of ultra-short-wave oscillations which could be transmitted in any direction. He did the same for the receiving set. Since the incoming waves could be received from only one direction, this receiving set was able to locate the direction from which the transmitted waves came. With this set he completely anticipated Marconi by two years. In the summer of that year, in a demonstration before the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford, he sent Morse signals, with an improved set, between two buildings separated by several hundred feet.

It is little wonder, then, that Marconi, who started his studies of wireless in 1895, created no stir in the scientific circles in England when he came from Italy to London in 1896 with a wireless set that in every essential feature was the same as that demonstrated by Lodge in 1894. He used a parabolic reflector, so his set was little more than an electrical searchlight. He did, however, bring an alternative feature to replace the parabolic beam reflector. This was a ground connection and antenna, or aerial wire, for both sending and receiving set. This was exactly what Tesla had described in his plan published three years before.

Guglielmo Marchese Marconi (1874-1937)

Guglielmo Marconi was born on the morning of 25th of April 1874 at the Palazzo Marescalchi in the Italian city of Bologna. Guglielmo being Italian for William. Marconi was the son of a well-to-do business man called Giuseppe and his second wife, Annie. As a young man Marconi read about the work of Heinrich Hertz in an Italian electrical journal, but they had only been of passing interest to Marconi at that time.

One summer Marconi went to a hotel in the Alps with his step brother Luigi and brother Alfonso and one night, with the cent and rustle of the pine trees just outside his window, the 20 year old youth lay awake unable to sleep. For some reason his mind went back to Hertz. Suddenly, in a shinning moment of inspiration the tremendous idea was born. With the aid of Hertz discoveries he could use the Hertzian waves of the air for telegraphy without wires.

Educated in Leghorn (Livorno). He studied physics under several well-known teachers and had the opportunity of learning about the work carried out on electromagnetic radiation by Heinrich Hertz, Oliver Lodge, Augusto Righi, and others.

"The air" Wrote a man in London not long after, "is full of promises of miracles"

But that was yet to come...

By the end of 1895 using home made apparatus he sent long wave signals over a distance of 1 mile from the garden in Bologna. He received little encouragement to continue his work in Italy and was advised to go to England.He went to England in February 1896 and established the Wireless Telegraphic and Signal Co. Ltd., which in 1900 became Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co at Chelmsford, Essex Marconi was granted his first patent, number 12039 covering transmission by wireless telegraphy and by July had conducted tests from the General post office building in London covering 1.5 miles. By the 2nd of September 1896 this had already increased to 8 miles with tests at Salisbury plain.

The next step was to establish that communications was possible over water, and on 11 May 1897 tests were carried out across the Bristol channel from Lavernock point, Near Penarth to the Island of Holm, a distance of 3.5 miles. This was the first time Marconi worked with a new acquaintance, George S. Kemp who was to remain one of Marconi's closest friends and assistant until his death in 1933.

In July 1898, the Daily Express was the first newspaper in history to obtain news by wireless telegraphy and in August 1898 wireless was installed on the Royal yatch Osborne for Queen Victoria. In December 1898 wireless communication was established between the East Goodwin light ship and the South Foeland lighthouse and on the 3rd of March the following year, for the first time, wireless was used for the saving of life. Summer 1899 finally saw cross channel wireless in use and on 15 November 1899 the first ocean newspaper published bulletins sent by wireless.

The development of a great invention seldom occurs through one indervidual man, and many forces have contributed to the remarkable results achieved. Marconi’s original system had its weak points. The electrical occillations sent out from the transmitting station were relitivly weak and consisted of “damped oscillations”.The radiation of damped wave trains from a spark gap transmitter produces interference covering a wide frequency band.[1,2] A result of this was that the waves had a very weak effect at the receiving station, with the further result that waves from various other transmitting stations readily interfered with the desired signal.

It is due above all to the inspired work of Professor Ferdinand Braun that this unsatisfactory state of affairs was overcome.

Braun made a modification in the layout of the circuit of the transmitter so it was possible to produce intense waves with very little damping. It was only through this that the so called “long-distance telegraphy” became possible, where the oscillations from the transmitting station, as a result of resonance, could exert the maximum possible effect apon the receiving station. The further advantage was obtained that only waves of the frequency used by the transmitting station were effective at the receiving station. It is only through the introduction of these improvements that the magnificent results in the use of wireless telegraphy have been attained.[1]

On the 26th of April 1900 Marconi took out his patent number 7777 for "Tuned Syntonic Telegraphy". This invention introduced tuned circuits to wireless.

On 23rd January 1901 the first long distance transmission was made from the Isle of Wight to The Lizzard in Cornwall. A distance of 196 miles.

On 26th November 1901 Marconi and his two assitants, G.S.Kemp and P.W.Paget sailed on the Sardinian from Liverpool for St.Johns, New foundland to start transatlantic tests. They arrived in New Foundland on the 6th of December. On Thursday the 12th of December 1901 Marconi succeeded in transmitting and receiving transatlantic signals and the morse letter "S" was received at Signal hill, St.Johns, New foundland from Poldhu, Cornwall using a kite aerial at Signal Hill.

Marconi and Braun shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd (AWA) (1913 - 1988)

Sir Ernest Thomas Fisk, Born at Sunbury, Middlesex, England on August 8th 1886, founded Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd, and pioneered Australia’s beam wireless service.

He received his training in radio operations at the training school run by the Marconi Company, which he joined in 1906. As a result of this, he became a radio operator on the Cunard liner Campania running between Liverpool and New York.

The Marconi company sent him in 1910 to demonstrate their equipment in Australia, where in 1911 he set up branches of the company. In 1913 an amalgamation took place between Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd, Telefunken and the Australian Wireless Company. This merger formed Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd.

In 1916 he became its managing director and in 1932 chairman of directors.

On 22 September 1918 Fisk received the first direct radio message from Britain to Australia. In 1920 he established the first wireless newspaper service to British ships in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and in 1934 made the first voice contact between Australia and England when he spoke to Marconi in England.

He resigned from AWA in 1944 to become managing director of the English group, EMI, and in 1952 he became a business consultant. He died on the 8th of July, 1965, at his home in Roseville.


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