Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Found at Last! The World’s 1st Reception Report!

This has to be it! The world’s 1st reception report! A reception report that was written down from an unexpected wireless transmission heard back 134 years ago, and the details were also published in local newspapers at the time. This is the story.

More than 130 years ago, the noted Alexander Graham Bell ran his first telephone line from New York City to Boston, and on April 2, 1877, the first voice message was sent along this line. Soon afterwards, telephone & telegraph operators began to notice cross-talk between nearby lines, in Morse Code and subsequently in voice.

It should be remembered also that three months after this first message was transmitted between New York & Boston, the original Bell Telephone Co was organized to develop their new telephone system throughout the United States. Even the telephone itself was still very new at the time.

At another location, though still in New York state, Mr. Charles Rathbone was a member of a prominent business family that supported the Dudley Observatory in Albany New York, an observatory that now forms a part of Union University. The Rathbone family had installed their own private telephone line running from their family home to the observatory.

During the evening of Tuesday August 28, 1877, when the invention of the telephone was still
less than five months old, Charles Rathbone was startled to hear music, vocal music, coming through his telephone system. Initially, he thought that the music must be coming from a vocal group at the nearby observatory, but, as he quickly discovered, this was not the case.

Charles Rathbone made a list of the pieces of music he heard, and he sent this list to the local newspapers, giving all of the details of what he heard and the conditions under which this music concert was observed. This reception report was published in the local newspapers. As a result of this publicity, it was discovered that an experimental concert had been transmitted over a telegraph wire running between New York & Saratoga Springs.

A few days later, another musical concert in Troy was transmitted over another telephone circuit, this time running from Troy to Albany. Again, this music program was observed on another nearby telephone system. Later, during that same evening, music was placed into the telephone circuit running from New York to Albany, and cross-talk programming was heard on another nearby telephone circuit.

According to the contemporary reports, music programs were heard as cross-talk programming on six separate occasions between August 28 & September 11, in the year 1877. Mr Charles Rathbone heard all six of the programs, and in addition, two other independent observers living in Providence, Rhode Island, heard the same programming on their telephone systems on five of these six occasions.

One of the observers in Providence was Dr. Channing, and he published his observations of these music transmissions. During these events, it was discovered, music concerts were given in the Western Union Office in New York City for the benefit of telephone listeners in Saratoga, Troy & Albany.

A current map of the entire area shows that all five cities - New York, Albany, Troy, Saratoga Springs & Providence - are all spread over an area well over 100 miles wide, and all of the telephone systems were not interconnected at the time of these music transmissions. So the question remains: How did the music programs transfer from one telephone system to another?

An investigation into the circumstances at the time indicate that some of the telephone systems involved in these experiments did share a nearby grounding. However, for those circuits without a nearby grounding, it was discovered that the different telephone systems shared the same telephone poles for distances running up to many miles.

Thus these cross-transmissions were by what is called induction, rather similar to the transfer of electricity in a power transformer from one winding to another. Truly, this first reception report of a music concert from one telephone system to another was by wireless transmission, though not by radio as we understand it today. The reception report of this wireless transmission by induction was published in local newspapers at the time, and that was way back 134 years ago, in the year 1837.
(NWS145 via Adrian Peterson)