In 1916, virtually all radio transmissions still used the dot-and-dashes of Morse code, so audio broadcasts were very rare and attention getting. In the test broadcast reported in this article, Harold Power of the American Radio and Research Corporation (AMRAD) employed the recently developed vacuum-tube transmitter to send out a publicity music concert that was widely heard around AMRAD's Medford Hillside, Massachusetts facility.
Special thanks to Donna L. Halper for providing a copy of the original article.
Boston Globe, March 27, 1916, page 8:
MUSIC SENT BY THE WIRELESS
Mysterious Concert From Tufts' Plant
Prof Power Demonstrated His Marvel to J. P. Morgan at Sea
Radio Amateurs Overhear Strains for Three Hours
Music in the air at night has been mystifying amateur wireless operators in Massachusetts who spend some of their evenings at their receivers and up to now only a few of them have been able to explain the seeming phenomenon.
The wireless telephone is expected to transmit music, but the wireless telegraph has been weak in that line of achievement and until recently few operators have ever heard musical sounds through the radio receiver.
A week ago last Saturday night, March 18, a Cambridge citizen who has a promising boy interested in wireless arrived home in the evening to find his son in a state of exhilarated mystification.
"Come here, dad," said the youth, "and listen."
The elder was haled toward the wireless table and the receivers were clamped to his ears. He expected to hear some extraordinary croaking of static electricity, as he had before, or some particular call of ticking dots and dashes which meant nothing to him.
Great was his surprise to hear a band playing, clearly and strongly, a dashing military march. This lasted for some time. Then he heard singing by a chorus of mixed voices.
Classified as a Mystery
When the music ceased the listener was ready to confess that the marvels of radio mysteries were quite beyond his powers of comprehension. But he asked an obvious question.
"Where do you suppose that music is?" he said.
"Search me," said the young experimenter. "It may be nearby or it may be in Bermuda. I have no way of knowing. I only know that I have never heard anything like it before through a wireless installation, and I don't know of anybody who has."
After a time the subject lapsed into a classification of unsolved mysteries. Had the young operator possessed the power of tracing the direction of wireless transmitted sounds--a thing no operator as yet has achieved--he would have learned that the music came from no farther away than Medford Hillside.
Its transmission that night marked an era in radio development. A demonstration was in progress that could properly be called unique. A concert was being held in a little building at the foot of a tall wireless tower at Tufts College for the benefit of a traveler on a ship at sea, and the transmission was accomplished without the use of wireless telephony.
The traveler was one of the best-known of the world's financial giants, J. Pierpont Morgan of New York. He was on his way home from a mission to England in connection with the finances of the great war and was on board the American Line steamer Philadelphia.
As the Philadelphia neared the American coast arrangements were made by Harold J. Power, the 24-year-old professor of radio engineering at Tufts and director of the wireless station there, to give Mr Morgan a novel welcome home.
Surprise for Morgan
Mr Power, who ranks among the wizards of radio development, was formerly wireless operator on Mr Morgan's steam yacht Corsair. He has made some wonderful discoveries in methods of improving wireless transmission and one of them is a device for sending music long distances through space by means of the ordinary wireless installations.
Music had formerly been sent by wireless, but for relatively short distances, and in limited range of force and expression. Mr Power's device increases the range of sending it fourfold, also increases the clearness with which the music may be heard and has obviated the use of any special apparatus to receive it.
Eager to demonstrate his new device, Mr Power thought of his former employer, and decided to give him a surprise. Mr Power had everything in readiness as the Philadelphia drew near the coast. When the ship was about 75 miles southeast of Cape Cod a call was sent to her from the Tufts station, asking that Mr Morgan be informed of what was to be undertaken.
The millionaire repaired to the ship's wireless room and there the receivers were handed him. For the next three hours, from 8 o'clock to 11, he listened, with brief intermissions, to a concert such as no other mortal had ever before heard under similar circumstances.
In the wireless station at Tufts, on a music machine of the latest pattern was played record after record. The first one put in the machine was "America," played by a band. Then came marches, then operatic selections--choruses, duets, solos--all up-to-date selections.
Mr Power and four of his young men assistants manipulated the music machine or tended the apparatus as the concert went on.
Throughout the concert other wireless operators on various parts of the coast, who were not in the secret, were consumed with curiosity as to the origin of the concert. Like the amateur at Cambridge, they listened with all their powers, but the sweet sounds did not tell them whence they came. Neither could the operators tell whether they were listening to "fresh" or "canned" music.
Queries From Operators
Throughout the evening a running fire of questions was vibrating through the air from those listening stations.
"Where is the music?" was the chief question. Each questioner signed his query. Cape Cod, Sayville, L I, Gloucester, Portsmouth, N H, and Worcester were among the questioners. They were not answered.
Next day the Tufts station was called often on the telephone by wireless operators near Boston who suspected that the music might have come from there. The Gloucester operator said the music astounded him, for he discovered when laying his receiver on the table that it could be heard all over the room.
All inquirers by telephone were told the origin of the music, and now the Tufts station is the center of interest of the wireless world to the operators who learned of its achievement of Saturday night, March 18.
Mr Power being modest, the news of the novel concert was not permitted to reach the press, and it was only when his friends began to talk of it that information concerning it was brought to the Globe office.
As the Globe informed its readers not long ago, Mr Power has revolutionized wireless transmission by a single device which he has recently invented. This is a simple apparatus that effectually prevents atmospheric or static electricity from interfering with wireless messages. Until this was invented, interference from static electricity was the most serious drawback to radio transmission. In the warm months the interference is much greater than in Winter and at times the interruptions are so serious and continuous as entirely to break up the transmission of messages.
The elimination of this source of interruption is one of the very great achievements in the development of the wireless in recent years. Mr Power has patents pending on his device which as yet is guarded as a secret. He does not intend to bring it out until the end of the European war. He has however demonstrated it to wireless men. Last Summer he spent some time at the station at Sayville, which works with Germany, demonstrating his device. The operators there were amazed at its powers. In bad weather--that is when the air was electrically charged--they could work only two hours a day. By means of the Power device they found no limit to their hours of work, so far as static interference went.
This device, installed at the Sayville and Tuckerton stations on this side of the water and at the Berlin station, would enable Germany to get on very nicely without cable communication, the loss of which at the hands of England, her Ambassador at Washington from time to time has bitterly deplored.
Series of Bulbs Adopted
Mr Power's apparatus is said to differ from that now commonly in use in that it discards the spark system of transmitting, substituting therefore a series of bulbs, like electric light bulbs, in which the marvel of silent transmission is accomplished. It is said that this type of transmitter is used in his device for sending music.
To the nontechnical mind, Mr Power's transmission of music appears to blend the powers of wireless telephony with those of the wireless telegraph. The problem has been to introduce music or the voice into the transmitted waves. The real problem of such transmission is said to have lain in combining clear articulation with long range.
It has been claimed that Mr Power uses an apparatus owned by Louis W. Stevens of Brookline. One of Mr Power's friends explains to the Globe that this apparatus, the invention of Dr Lee De Forest of New York, is used by Mr Power merely to produce the necessary current for transmission, and that Mr Power's invention lies in a method of introducing the voice into the radiated waves. Although it is not claimed that Mr Powers' invention is fully perfected, his results, as evidenced by the reports from various stations, are considered highly satisfactory.