By Greg Clark, March 4, 1922
Hundreds of People in Toronto are Now Using This Latest and Greatest of the World’s Marvels.
Music Travels 1,000 Miles Instantaneously
Sound Is Much Clearer Than by Ordinary Telephone and by Amplifier Much Louder Than Phonograph.
Darius, the king of the earth, standing in dismay upon the bank of the swift Danube, with his mighty army back of him, summoned a certain Egyptian, who had a voice louder than any other man in the world…
And Darius commanded him to call across the river, a mile broad, to the King’s allies on the further shore, to come with ships and rescue him.
And lo, the shout was heard!
A boy of sixteen, sitting at a sort of telephone switchboard in his attic den, in Toronto, turns a black knob on the board —
“– number on the program,” says a man’s voice, suddenly. “Miss Jane English will sing, ‘Caro Nome’ from Rigoletto.”
The boy turns from the instrument board:
“Chicago!” says he.
A piano strikes a few chords. Then a smooth soprano voice sweeps into the attic room, singing the famous aria.
You don’t believe it?
Neither would have Darius, king of kings, with his loud man who could yell a mile.
For that piano and that voice, from a room in Chicago, are sounding through five hundred miles of space into this wireless amateur’s den in Toronto. And it is coming so fast through space that the time between the striking of the piano keys in Chicago and your hearing it in Toronto is too small a part of a second for the human mind to grasp. Rap your table twice in succession as swiftly as you can. That is ten times slower than this girl’s voice leaping five hundred miles through the starry night.
The young fellow at the instrument board turns the black knob, fiddles with some switches.
The room is filled with crackling, whistling sounds. Then silence; and clearly, staccato, come Morse signals, dot, dash, dot –
The boy listens:
“International code: that’s a ship on the Atlantic ocean calling a coast station.”
Turning and tuning; again whistles rising and falling, again rushing, crackling sounds as this Toronto boy searches through the vast night sky with his miraculous antennae; then a sudden silence; and out of it, the clear sound of a jazz band playing one of the latest popular dance tunes. You can hear the saxophone doing its fancy tooting, the trick drummer, and all –
“Chicago again?” you ask.
“No,” says the young operator, “Newark, New Jersey. I think.”
You listen. The band stops. A man’s voice, clear, quiet, remote as in a phonograph or telephone, but lacking both the rasp of the phonograph and the metallic buzz of the phone, announces that the next number on the program will be so and so.
“No,” says the boy. “That’s Springfield, Massachusetts.”
What is all this?
Reader, it’s the most astonishing thing in the world. It is the wireless telephone. It is the sending of the human voice and of instrumental music or any other sound through hundreds of miles of space at instantaneous speed.
You stick up a wire in the air. With an intricate electric apparatus, you shoot electric waves bearing your sound into space. And anybody else with a wire in the air, by tuning their apparatus to receive your waves, which are of a particular length, can hear your sound. Wireless started with the dot-dash system. By adding the telephone principle, you can hear a hundred times better than by telephone. For there are no metal wires to foul the sounds: Just clean, limitless space.
And what is the music?
These are wireless concerts put on every day and night of the week by the Westinghouse Electric Company at Pittsburg, Chicago, Newark. N.J., and Springfield, Mass., for any who wants to, to hear.
At these points, musical artists, public entertainers of all kinds, are brought together, and perform in front of a transmitting device which “broadcasts” the performance over the whole of the eastern half of the American continent. Public speakers also give short addresses on educational themes. There are said to be 20,000 amateur wireless operators in the States. There are, at a conservative estimate, 300 in Toronto, all of whom can hear these concerts in the distant American cities.
G. W. McClain, son of T. W. McClain, of 342 Brunswick avenue, allowed The Star Weekly representative and artist to attend concerts in four distant cities of America the other night. First, Pittsburgh, then Newark, then Springfield and Chicago. As quick as thought.
Young Mr. McClain has one of the most advanced amateur sets in Canada. With it he has heard signals from Nauen, Germany; the Eiffel Tower, Paris; from the Hawaiian Islands, and he frequently is in connection, not by voice, but by straight signals, with amateurs in Chicago, and points as far away as Kentucky. The night the Weekly was present, he got in touch with a man in Indiana, and they exchanged greetings, the Toronto man informing the Indiana man that he was just letting some astonished newspapermen hear concerts in cities a thousand miles apart.
It is all just in the beginning. Every month sees improvement. Young Mr. McClain attended the Dempsey-Carpentier fight by wireless. He heard the bells ring. He heard the crowds shouting and cheering, and the voice of the operator at the ringside, telling of each move in the fight.
The Marconi Company in Toronto puts on a concert in their King street office every Tuesday night. On that occasion, locally, the listener can not keep the head-set on his ears, it is so loud. And the amplifier (Mr. McClain uses an ordinary wooden phonograph horn), fills the house with the Marconi music by local musicians, louder than any phonograph.
Mr. McClain, Sr., had a euchre party at the house one Tuesday evening, and he ran a wire down to his drawing room, attached the amplifier horn, and had the Marconi concert during the card party, as no phonograph ever performed; as if the musicians themselves were in the next room.
Editor’s Note: Early radio was not unlike early home computing of the 1970s. It was dominated by amateurs, who were doing their own broadcasting and listening (with few regulations, so that transmissions could travel large distances with no concern of overlap). Professional stations would develop during this time. There would be no indications of when or what might be playing, hence the need to “search” for whatever you could find. Some stations might only broadcast once a week, or during certain hours. It would not be until the mid-1920s that radio would move away from hobbyists with homemade kits, to radios sold in stores for easy purchase.
Jack Dempsey fought Georges Carpentier on July 2, 1921 for the heavyweight championship boxing title. It was called “the largest audience in history,” as 300,000 people were estimated to have heard it on the radio, and it was considered one of the first radio broadcasts of a special event in history.