This extract comes from the 1904 "Roosevelt Board" report on the governmental use of radio. Report of the Inter-Departmental Wireless Telegraphy Board, 1904, pages 33-35:
[From the New York Herald, Thursday, July 14, 1904.]
hy the Herald stopped wireless Nantucket news--Requested by the United States Light-House Board to take its Marconi plant from the light-ship at that place--Germany asked that its system be used.
Those who acclaimed the Herald's enterprise in establishing a wireless signal station on the Nantucket light-ship, and all of the numerous interests which have been benefited by the service which gave the first news of westward bound craft and the last word from the eastward going, will be interested in knowing why this important station has been abandoned.
The story which tells of its discontinuance begins with a letter which the German ambassador addressed to the Secretary of State and ends with a resolution adopted by the Light-House Board requesting the Herald to remove its wireless plant from the Nantucket light-ship.
In his letter to the Secretary of State Baron von Sternburg, acting under the direction of the imperial chancellor, called the attention of the State Department to the fact that German vessels fitted with German wireless telegraph systems were precluded from communicating with the wireless station on the Nantucket Shoal.
"As far as known to the Imperial Government," wrote the ambassador, "the Marconi Company has no right in the United States of America to refuse to communicate with vessels by means of other systems. * * * I have the honor to bring this matter to your excellency's notice and to ask, if existing legislation permits of such step on the part of the Government of the United States, that proceedings be instituted against the Marconi station at Nantucket."
SECRETARY CORTELYOU'S REPLY.
This letter was referred to the Secretary of Commerce and Labor, who wrote:
"I have the honor to state that this Department recalls no law requiring the station to receive messages according to German wireless system. By courtesy of the Light-House Board the New York Herald has been permitted to conduct wireless telegraphy according to the Marconi system from the Nantucket Shoals light-ship to the Nantucket shore."
To the Herald Secretary Cortelyou wrote, saying his Department would be glad "if you will have the kindness to do what conveniently can be done in receiving and transmitting messages written according to the German system of wireless telegraphy." The correspondence was referred to the general manager of the Marconi Company, Mr. W. H. Bentley. In his reply Mr. Bently said that it would be practically impossible for operators of the Marconi system to communicate with other systems with the slightest degree of certainty.
WHY INTERCHANGE IS IMPOSSIBLE.
"Attempted operation," he explained, "would merely mean almost hopeless experimenting, with the inherent necessity for either the Marconi or the other company to change its entire method and system to make the two mutually operative. At this date the Marconi company could hardly afford to overturn its system and undo the work of years for sentimental reasons. Furthermore, we hardly need remind you that there is not a single transatlantic liner equipped with wireless apparatus other than the Marconi.
"As there is no transatlantic vessel equipped with the Slaby-Arco apparatus, the issue raised by the German Government is academic rather than real, and shows the intent of the German Emperor to attempt to accomplish through diplomatic channels what could not be accomplished in business competition.
"The Herald shipping reports have become almost indispensable to marine and other business interests, as well as to transatlantic travelers and their friends, and if the reports are discontinued serious inconvenience and trouble will be caused to those interests."
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES DESCRIBED.
Mr. John D. Oppe, vice-president of the Marconi company, described technical difficulties of the operation of two systems within the same area, and in an interview said:
"Not a single Transatlantic liner trading to the United States is equipped with any apparatus other than the Marconi. The basis of the German ambassador's request that proceedings be instituted against the Marconi station at Nantucket is therefore not apparent in considerations necessary for the ordinary protection of German shipping and commerce in the United States.
"So much confusion of thought exists generally in regard to wireless telegraphy that it may be well to state, briefly, what the position is. In order that navigation may derive the fullest benefit from wireless telegraphy, especially from the point of view of safety, it is essential that only apparatus suitably designed for efficient communication should be adopted at shore stations and on vessels. To render this practicable, all ship and shore stations intended to communicate with each other must carry apparatus suitably adapted for such intercommunication. If each ship carries a differently designed set of apparatus it can not communicate efficiently with other ships, and if each shore station is differently equipped the value of wireless telegraphy for navigation would, of course, be enormously reduced.
"Although intercommunication between apparatus of different systems is impossible without reducing the scope and utility of the more advanced system, the operation of two systems within the same area results, generally, in mutual perturbations--called interferences--which evidence themselves through the conversion of intelligible messages into unintelligible signals, and it is therefore of the utmost importance to navigation that one system in general use should be adopted throughout.
QUESTION OF REAL IMPORTANCE.
"The question, however, of greatest importance is not whether interferences are possible, but whether different circuits can be operated within the same area simultaneously without interferences. In other words, is it possible for naval stations and commercial stations to work simultaneously within the same area with apparatus designed for different purposes and communicate independently without mutual interferences? That is the question which faces the Government of the United States of America to-day, and which has been faced by Governments of other countries.
"In addition to the technical difficulties there are considerations of a commercial nature which are opposed to the adoption of the German Government's proposal. In the first place, the Marconi company claims that it has received advice from patent lawyers of the highest standing in the United States, in England, and in Germany that it holds the fundamental patents controlling wireless telegraphy, and that it has further been advised that, in some countries certainly, an agreement to work with apparatus which it is contended represents an infringement of its patents would deprive it of any chance of success in an action for infringement of patents with respect to the installation in question.
"In the second place, it is claimed by the Marconi company that it would be a commercial injustice to that company were it compelled to put at the disposal of every ship or shore station equipped with other wireless telegraph apparatus, which may be in direct competition with its business, its organization, which it has been enabled to develop by the ownership of the Marconi inventions and the expenditure of large sums of money.
"So far as the Marconi company is concerned, it does not claim that its wireless telegraph system can not be interfered with. It merely claims that by virtue of Mr. Marconi's more recent inventions the apparatus is capable of communicating reliably over long distances and of communicating within the same area between stations equipped with apparatus designed for different purposes without interference.
"The Marconi company communicates with the Campania throughout her voyage crossing the Atlantic; and while vessels equipped with apparatus designed for that purpose communicate within the same area with shore stations and each other, they do not receive the Campania's messages, nor is there any mutual interference. Other Marconi circuits are also operated simultaneously without interference.
"It is therefore not surprising that the Marconi company is disinclined to adapt its apparatus for the purpose of communicating with other systems, when by so doing it reduces enormously the scope and utility of its entire organization and renders interferences possible within its own circuits.
NO OBLIGATION TO JOIN OTHER SYSTEMS.
"The German ambassador refers to the common-carrier law, apparently as indicating an obligation on the Marconi company to connect with other systems. The Marconi company does not discriminate in favor of or against any private persons, and takes all messages handed to its proper officers in the proper manner without discrimination. No law exists which requires one telegraph company to make a physical connection between its system and that of another company, or which requires one railway company to give running facilities to another railway company.
"If manufacturers of German apparatus desire to establish stations for the purpose of wireless telegraphy, it is open to them to put up stations on the United States coast for that purpose.
"The result of the German ambassador's action will bring to the attention of the United States Government the fact that communication will be severed between Nantucket light-ship and about forty vessels constantly trading to New York, and that if it is decided to equip the light-ship with apparatus other than the Marconi, interferences will be caused between vessels attempting to communicate with each other and with other Marconi shore stations when in the neighborhood of the light-ship. It will be seen that a convenience and factor of safety to navigation will be removed, and that the interferences resulting from the operation of another system will be disastrous to communication and dangerous to shipping."
A resolution adopted by the Light-House Board concludes the chapter:
"On motion it was ordered that the proper measures be taken to suggest to the Herald the propriety of discontinuing further experiments (sic) with wireless telegraphy on the Nantucket light-vessel, and that it be suggested to the Department of Commerce and Labor that the German ambassador be informed of what we propose doing under the circumstances."
The Herald has therefore discontinued its wireless reports from Nantucket.
VIEWS OF MARITIME ASSOCIATION.
The subjoined letter, which Capt. C. B. Parsons, president of the Maritime Association, had addressed to Secretary Cortelyou before it was actually known that the Herald had been asked to discontinue its service from the light-ship, shows the views of that body:
"We learn that your Department has under consideration the possible withdrawal of the privilege under which the Marconi wireless telegraphy system is operated on board the United States light-ship on the Nantucket shoals, but we hope that our information is incorrect. The entire shipping world is deeply interested in the development of this new system for the transmission of news and the station at Nantucket shoals is one of the utmost value to the maritime interests of the country in general and of the port of New York in particular, the cessation of which would cause a loss in the prompt transmission of valuable information that would be annoying to many people.
"We are unaware of any objection to the continuance of the station in question. In any event, should it be your purpose to withdraw the privilege now enjoyed by the Marconi system, we beg to request that, in advance of final action, the commercial and maritime interests that would be affected be permitted to be heard more in detail by you. Pending such a hearing, we would respectfully ask what objection, if any, has been lodged with you to the privilege enjoyed by the Marconi company on board the light-ship on the Nantucket shoals."
Mr. Vernon H. Brown, general American manager of the Cunard Line, said:
"In this age of advancement it seems a step backward to curtail or discontinue the use of the Marconi wireless telegraph system at Nantucket, which has for the last two years been of such inestimable convenience and value to all shipping interests, and especially to all patrons of the great transatlantic liners. We always look forward to and receive with wonderful promptness and regularity the first report of the Herald showing that it is in communication with vessels from twenty to fifty miles away, which information is generally received some twelve hours before it would be possible to get it through any other channel. And it always was a great relief to the shipowner as well as to those having friends on board.
"The abandonment of this service is greatly to be regretted, and its discontinuance might be the cause of calamity which would be provided against by the receipt of prompt notice of any ship in distress.
"When I say that I hope the Government officials will reconsider their decision and renew this privilege to the New York Herald, I believe that I voice the sentiment of all American and disinterested interests."