Radio enthusiasts try to debunk Marconi

Nov 06, 2006 6:25 am
From Canadian Press via The Globe and Mail by Tara Brautigam:

It was a technological milestone that laid the groundwork for today's cellphones and BlackBerrys. On Dec. 12, 1901, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi made history by announcing he had used a kite and some copper wire atop Signal Hill in St. John's to receive a wireless signal from across the Atlantic Ocean.

More than a century later, a group of radio scientists in Newfoundland are conducting a series of tests that could debunk Marconi's claim to fame. "We're essentially setting out to prove it wrong," said Joe Craig, a physicist and director of the Marconi Radio Club.

Mr. Craig and several other researchers are using a combination of modern computer technology and vintage equipment to determine whether the inventor actually heard three faint, electromagnetic clicks -- the letter S in Morse code -- that were transmitted from 3,470 kilometres away in Poldhu, England. "We can never recreate his exact equipment, because to do that would be to interfere with all sorts of essential radio communication that's going on all the time," said Len Zedel, a physics professor at Memorial University who is also working on the tests. A station has been set up in the St. John's area, using a 150-metre antenna attached to a receiver the size of a pocketbook. A transmitter station in Poldhu began sending its call letters, GB3SSS, in Morse code Wednesday at 15-minute intervals.