One major difference which developed between United States and British nomenclature was what to use as a generic term for Lee DeForest's three-element Audions. In the U.S. they became known as "vacuum tubes", while in Britain, "valves" was the preferred term.
Country Life, March 17, 1922, pages 381-383:
WIRELESS AND THE COUNTRY HOUSE
CURRENT FROM A WATER WHEEL AND OTHER PRACTICAL EXPEDIENTS.
BY FRANK H. MASON, R.B.A.
THE interesting articles on wireless which have recently appeared in COUNTRY LIFE have caused me to venture a short description of the installation and maintenance of a home-made wireless set and charging plant in a country house. No doubt the lead given by COUNTRY LIFE in the direction of wireless will be followed up by many readers, and it is my hope that out of my experience they may extract a hint or two of use.
The possession of an efficient receiving set is unquestionably a great source of convenience as well as pleasure to dwellers in the country, especially in the remoter districts, now that broadcasting is in full swing; for, apart from the enjoyment of musical entertainment each evening, one can receive in clear language the latest news, lectures and (above all), the correct time, the latter either announced or transmitted in the form of chimes, or by signals.
Now the time, when the domestic clocks (as is often the case in a small country residence) are under suspicion, is a source of much recrimination, and to be able to ascertain the exact hour from such centres as London and Paris is no small boon. Incidentally, it creates a kind of awe in the village!
And to receive late news up to 10 p.m. is also something that only a short time ago would have seemed outside the bounds of possibility. Add to this, market quotations and the weather forecast for the ensuing day, and the value of a radio installation will be seen to consist not only in the entertainment which it affords.
Some time ago, before broadcasting was thought of, I rigged up a receiving set expressly for the purpose of receiving time signals. Those from the Eiffel Tower were the easiest to get, and a quite simple outfit, requiring no electrical equipment, was ample for the purpose. Naturally, it soon came to my knowledge that wireless concerts could also be heard from the same source, and by the addition of valves these were soon picked up.
A problem quickly presented itself, however, which doubtless confronts many country dwellers. This is the question of how to obtain the necessary electricity to operate the valves. There are many smaller country houses and retreats which are not so fortunate as to have electric lighting plant or supply, and such was my own case, for acetylene gas, though efficient enough as an illuminant, is of no use for lighting the valves of a wireless set.
One was obliged, therefore, to take accumulators to the nearest town to be charged up for the purpose. But this involved a certain amount of bother in getting them to and fro. Moreover, during some special event constant use had to be made of them, and the batteries were liable to run down at a critical moment--probably just when they were wanted most.
It was only after reading another article in COUNTRY LIFE on the utilisation of water power that I began to contemplate the quantity of water running to waste daily before my eyes. While appreciating the picturesqueness of the spectacle, in the light of that informative article, I saw no reason why it should not show some usefulness as well. I determined to harness the water somehow, the obvious solution being a waterwheel, which I hoped would drive a dynamo and so charge the batteries for the wireless set.
There was very little information available about water wheels, I found, but it was generally agreed that a considerable "head" of water was necessary. This I had not, but there seemed to be volume in any quantity. Certainly a head of about 6ft. over the weir might have been obtained, but this meant pits and drains and tunnels, which presented a set of problems which threatened to be beyond me.
Against the most vehement advice of those who claimed some knowledge of the subject, and amidst dismal prophecies of failure, I determined to construct a wheel to work on volume alone and no "head." A detailed description of this rather laborious undertaking is unnecessary, for it was a work planned purely on the rule of thumb principle, and required only a little mechanical aptitude. Sharp tools and reasonably accurate measurements I discovered in due course to have an advantage which I did not fully appreciate at the outset!
The wheel has a diameter of about 4ft., and to eliminate friction, as I quite realised that I should not have much power to waste, I mounted the wheel on a pair of discarded ball bearings off a car. This was a big step in the right direction, and it was a great satisfaction to find that when all was set up the wheel spun round merrily at the rate of fifty revolutions a minute on quite a small supply of water.
The pessimists were unconvinced, however, and advised me to wait and see what would happen when the load was put on. On this point I was somewhat doubtful myself, although an elementary test which I applied, resulting in a nasty jolt and a good drenching, seemed to prove that there was energy latent somewhere. I persevered, therefore, and constructed a countershaft gear which I calculated would give the necessary number of revolutions at the dynamo--about 1,500 to 2,000. This was of the small car type.
To cut the story short, when everything was assembled and started, I was delighted to find myself in possession of a plant that charged my accumulators at the normal rate quite efficiently, and would run day and night with practically no attention and no cost.
I observe that a special type of valve has been placed on the market which, by using a very small amount of electric current, reduces the inconvenience of accumulator charging. A dry battery may even be used. But these valves are somewhat expensive, and I can safely advise any resident in the country who can make use of any surplus water supply to adopt a similar scheme to the one I have outlined, if he proposes fitting up a wireless set. Experience has suggested various modifications which would, if required, give much greater power--sufficient even to obtain lights. Even as it is, my waterwheel, in addition to its wireless uses, keeps the household electric hand lamps up to pitch, and one or two small bulbs for use in outhouses are occasionally put on.
* * * * *
Your able correspondents on the subject of wireless emphasise with due authority the importance of a good aerial and earth.
There is, of course, no great difficulty in rigging a first-rate aerial and an earth, but as the average country resident will, naturally, regard a tree as a suitably high object to which to fasten one end of the aerial, a hint or two from my own experience in this direction may be of value.
My first attempt was a two-wire affair between the house chimneys; but this gave a very short aerial, and, while Paris time signals were clearly heard from it and faint sounds of music, so short a length, about 30ft., is not really adequate for wireless telephony. As one is allowed 100ft. of aerial, I decided on some other scheme, and a tall old yew near the house seemed the obvious place for the free end of the wire.
The scaling of this tree presented a problem not at all to my liking, and I wished many times for the use of Mr. Max Baker's invention for firing a line from a gun! Not possessing this, however, and indeed having only a vague idea of shot guns, I threw out hints in various quarters likely to induce a volunteer to climb. Finally, a caravan pitched in our paddock, and, on the principle that perhaps a damaged gipsy or two would not count, I expended a little backsheesh and some liquid refreshment. In a very short time a pulley and line were fixed pretty near the top of the yew.
At this point the country resident who is about to fix up an aerial in a rather inaccessible place should take note of my experience. I ought myself, in the light of considerable sea experience, to have foreseen what happened. No sooner where the block and halyard fitted securely aloft and the aerial hoisted, than, after the first good blow, the halyard jammed in the sheave and I could neither hoist it up higher to take in the slack, nor lower it down.
There the aerial hung in a graceful festoon, not at all ship-shape-looking, and, while the result in the way of radio seemed all right, the thing was always an eyesore. It swayed about so alarmingly in a breeze, moreover, that I expected to find it a tangled mass of wire in the bushes any time. Eventually a sportive villager essayed the climb and saved the situation.
It is worth while to attend to this point, for you are sure to want the aerial down from time to time, if only to clear the insulators of leaves, etc., that lodge against them, and are prolific of trouble at the instrument end.
The "earth" is just as important as the aerial. Having induced your concert to come along, you do not want it to hang about crowding what is following, but to get away to earth as quickly as possible. A water tap is the thing that is generally sought for to fasten the wire to, but such a thing is not always available in the country, or is not conveniently situated.
In my case there were several taps for use, but I found I got far better results by simply burying, a foot or so down in damp ground, two or three square feet of sheet zinc--not galvanised iron, but perforated zinc, such as is used to cover good meat safes with. To this the earth wire was well soldered.
Of the working of the instruments I need not write. Every possessor of a set has working instructions applicable to it. My own set grew from a crystal to two, and then five, valves, with a radius that enables telephony (meaning concerts and all else) to be received from Paris, The Hague, London, Manchester and Birmingham; and, while it required months of patient work and experiment to perfect, it has always been a real enjoyment to owner and friends who wish to "listen in."