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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, August 9, 2009

World's Oldest Wireless Postcards - Other Countries

You will remember that last week here in "Wavescan" we presented the story of the "World's Oldest Wireless Postcards", and in that feature you heard the information about wireless postcards in our Indianapolis collection that are more than one hundred years old. Each of these picture postcards was postmarked in the United States more than one hundred years ago.

In this feature presentation today, we choose another small batch of early wireless postcards, eight in number, and these show the impact of wireless way back when wireless was very young. These postcards have come from four different countries and each is postmarked more than one hundred years ago.

Even though wireless began in England, yet the oldest card we hold from countries beyond the United States was postmarked in Canada on October 27, 1903. The picture shows the Table Head Wireless Station which was located near Glace Bay in Nova Scotia, Canada. This station was established personally by Marconi less than a year before the date shown on the postcard. The antenna towers at this station stood 210 feet high, the antenna wires were strung on cables three inches thick, and mammoth steam engines were installed in the station building to generate the high voltage electricity for the transmitter.

This station was moved to a new location six miles distant during the following year and at the same time it was considerably enlarged. This station, at its new location was known as Marconi Towers, and that is the picture that is referred to on our next postcard which is postmarked in 1908. When the Morse Code key was closed, great tongues of fire shot out like lightning, and the aerial wires whipped around uncontrollably. The noise in the station, like mighty crashes of thunder, was so loud that staff members could not hear each other speak. This second station was closed in 1926 when shortwave communication proved to be more reliable and less costly.

Our next three wireless postcards, in chronological order of the dates on the postmarks that is, are all from England, where as we mentioned earlier, wireless had its earliest beginnings. Dated in 1904 and 1905, two of these cards show the Marconi Wireless Station located near Poldhu in Cornwall. This station was built originally in 1901, and after a storm blew down the antenna system soon afterwards, it was rebuilt later in the same year. Our picture postcards show the station with its rebuilt antenna system.

The first wireless transmission across the Atlantic Ocean was sent out from this station at Poldhu in Cornwall in December 1901. It is estimated that the signal, the letter "S" in Morse Code, was transmitted on 366 metres with a power output of 12 kW. The wavelength 366 metres corresponds to 820 kHz, and it is thought that Marconi received the transatlantic signal on a harmonic, rather than on the fundamental frequency.

Among the earliest wireless cards printed in England is a humor card, postmarked in 1904. This card is exactly the same as one that we mentioned in our program last week. However, the humor card mentioned last week was posted in the United Sates, whereas this was one was posted in England. It shows two ships talking to each other in Morse Code, and down in the water one fish says to another:  What are they talking about?

Before we leave England, we refer to a very old black and white postcard that is a reproduction of an old photograph showing the Marconi wireless station on the isle of Scilly. History tells us that Marconi erected a temporary station on the isle of Scilly in the year 1898. It is known reliably that this card was printed in 1902 or after, and it is postmarked in 1904. This postcard presents a four year old photograph of Marconi's temporary wireless station and so, at least in one sense, this would be the world's oldest wireless postcard.

Next, we turn to the Americas, and a 1907 postcard shows the wireless station located at Ponce on the island of Puerto Rico. This picture shows three aerial masts, the antenna wires, and the transmitter building in the middle. It was posted in Ponce and addressed to a friend in Albany, New York.

Our final postcard in today's feature shows the wireless station located at Colon in Panama with the usual tall aerial mast and the usual small transmitter building. However, though this card pictures a wireless station located in Central America, yet it was posted in the American state of North Carolina to a friend living in a neighboring town in the same state. The postmark date is October 2, 1907.

Well, there you have it; eight postcards, all picturing early wireless stations in four different countries, and all postmarked more than one hundred years ago.

In the next feature in this series of old radio cards, we will begin to tell you about the world's oldest QSL cards; so make sure you keep listening to our regular weekly DX program, "Wavescan."