Monday, December 14, 2015

Early Ventures in Wireless and Radio: With AT&T in New Jersey

Our records show that the main topic in the Asian DX program, Radio Monitors International, on December 6, 1981 was a Station Profile about the experimental shortwave station W3XN.  Here in Wavescan today, we present part 1 of the topic Early Ventures in Wireless and Radio: With AT&T in New Jersey, and this information will lead into the story of the important early experimental radio station  W3XN at Whippany in New Jersey.
            We go back to the beginning, and we pickup the story about early experimental wireless and radio stations that were installed under the direction of AT&T, the American Telephone and Telegraph system in the United States, together with their associated media companies, Bell Laboratories and the equipment manufactory, Western Electric.  All of these wireless and radio developments in this edition of Wavescan were centered in the American state of New Jersey, together with additional locations in nearby states.
            By the year 1912, some 600 full time and part time personnel were in service with AT&T in various forms of experimentation for the development of multitudinous forms of wireless and radio communication.  All of their many experimentations were headed up in their main building in New York which was located at the corner of West and Bethune Streets. 
            Two years later, they made plans to establish an experimental wireless station on Long Island together with an associated receiver station in Wilmington Delaware.  On April 1 of the following year (1915), longwave transmissions from their new station 2XE at lonely Montauk Point on the far eastern tip of Long Island were received successfully at their temporary receiver station in Wilmington. 
            The Montauk station was installed in a new building, and the T type center fed multi-wire aerial system was strung between two self supporting lattice towers standing 175 feet high.  The receiving equipment was on loan from the Du Pont family and it was installed on the roof top of their tall building at 1007 North Market Street in Wilmington, Delaware.   
            With the success of this original experimental venture, AT&T installed a more substantial listening station on marshy St. Simon’s Island near Brunswick in Georgia.  The island measures twelve miles long and three miles wide, with these days a permanent population exceeding 1,000 people.
            In earliest times, St. Simon’s Island was inhabited by Timucuan Indians, and during the colonial era, rice and cotton were grown on the island by new settlers from England.  Both John and Charles Wesley of reformation fame in England, served as missionaries on St. Simon’s Island.
            The specially constructed AT&T receiver station on St. Simon’s Island was installed in another new building, with four wooden masts each 120 feet tall erected in a line to support the long receiving aerial.  During the month of May (1915), many voice communications from AT&T 2XE at Montauk were received with ease on St. Simon’s Island.
            Flushed with the success of this communication venture, AT&T then constructed a special transmitter that was installed in the navy wireless station NAA at Arlington Virginia.  The huge transmitter employed   500 of the newly designed and manufactured tubes which were assembled in mainly cascade amplification, and it radiated 3 kW on 60 kHz longwave.
            Voice transmissions from the three tall towers at this Arlington location were received by AT&T personnel who were temporarily assigned to the navy wireless stations at San Diego, Mare Island and San Francisco in California, at Darien in the Panama Canal Zone, and at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu Hawaii.  Similar tests were also conducted with AT&T personnel stationed at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. 
            At all locations, the voice signal from the east coast of the United States was heard well, depending on the time of day for longwave transmission and reception.  At the conclusion of the successful international demonstrations across the United States, the Atlantic and the Pacific on October 21,1915, AT&T suspended all experimental transmission tests due to the belligerent developments in Europe during World War 1.        
            After peace was restored in Europe, and the United States lifted its restrictions on the experimental usage of wireless and radio, AT&T again took up its own experimentation in the radio arena, this time, with equipment and advanced circuitry that had been developed very rapidly during the  four years of tragic warfare.  Beginning in May 1919, AT&T began to establish a multitude of experimental radio stations, communication facilities and research laboratories in many areas of the United States, which grew to more than 30 in the New Jersey area alone.
            The new era of radio experimentation on the part of AT&T began with plans for a series of new broadcasting stations in New Jersey and nearby areas.  A new longwave transmitter was inaugurated in the AT&T building in West Street Manhattan under the callsign 2XB in 1919, and program broadcasting began over this facility early in the New Year (1920). 
            Quite simultaneously, 2XF was inaugurated at Cliffwood, 2XJ at Elberon (with subsequent name change to Deal), and 2XV at Glenridge, all in New Jersey; and we can remember that all of this radio development took place before the famous KDKA was inaugurated towards the end of that same year.
            On January 15, 1923, AT&T made a one way two hour broadcast that was beamed to London on longwave.  The American voices were on the air in the AT&T office building at 195 Broadway in New York; the transmitter was a 200 kW RCA unit on 57 kHz at Rocky Point, Long Island; and some 60 people, including the famous Guglielmo Marconi, were listening in at the Western Electric factory at New Southgate, London.     
            At the same time as AT&T was conducting experimental transmissions and experimental program broadcasting, all on longwave at this stage, they were also experimenting with the concept of shortwave radio.  According to an AT&T bulletin, their first shortwave experiments took place at their new radio station 2XJ located at Deal Beach in late 1921 with a 200 watt transmitter.  This early beginning in shortwave experimentation would therefore parallel what KDKA was doing in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
            A year or two later, the power output of their shortwave transmitter was increased to 5 kW and they began to take measurements of the received power level at many different and distant locations.   These reception levels were monitored by staff personnel at fixed locations in Cleveland and Chicago and Minneapolis, and then in North Dakota and Montana, and over on the west coast at Seattle.
            In the next stage of development, reception levels were then measured with the receiver mounted in a moving truck, beginning 50 miles west of New York and extending out to 300 miles.  Similar measurements were also taken with the receiver aboard the passenger liner “Republic” bound for Bremen in Germany, and aboard the “Minnewaska” bound for London.  The “Republic” was previously in use as a German passenger liner plying across the Atlantic, and it had been seized by the American government during World War 1.
            AT&T also conducted shortwave tests between their station 2XJ and ships in nearby Green Harbor.
            As a result of this lengthy series of shortwave tests, AT&T began to plan for the implementation of shortwave communication on an international scale.  Thus in 1927, shortwave tests began between 2XJ Deal and the factory of their English counterpart Western Electric at New Southgate in London.
            Soon afterwards, and still early in the year 1927, a one way commercial service on shortwave was implemented from Deal to London, with the return still on longwave.  However, beginning June 1, of the following year (1928) the AT&T live telephone service between the United States and England was conducted entirely on shortwave. 

            And that’s where the important shortwave station W3XN at Whippany New Jersey comes into play, and that story will come to you here in Wavescan in two weeks time.
(AWR WAvescan/NWS 354)