Radio Silence

Guglielmo Marconi

At the end of his life, Senator Marchese Guglielmo Marconi, president of the Royal Academy of Italy, Member of the Fascist Grand Council wondered if he had done the world some good, or if he had added a menace. The Nobel Laureate invented the radio, operating a two-circuit transmitter he commanded the Italian Military radio corps which gave the Fascist movement a strategic advantage for a flicker in time. Later, working against his own party’s beliefs, Marconi shared his technology with the British government who in turn shared it with the Americans. In the end it turned out that it wasn’t who possessed the technology first, or even who held the highly contested patent which made a lick of difference. Typically, it was the people who made the more effective use of radio that prevailed.

It was Germany who developed the quintessential message which was to be transmitted over the wireless. In 1905 the SOS (. . . _ _ _ . . .) signal was agreed upon and sent into space by sinking ships, failing aircraft, lost travelers and those in distress ever since. But calling for help wasn’t enough… certainly not when there was no help to send, or the distance to travel was to great to be of any real use. In the end, the final transmissions of many an errant vessel were recorded in ledgers, replied to with prayers, and made for tidy books and nothing more.

It was Order of the White Lion member Nikola Tesla who would inevitably refine Marconi’s original untuned spark-gap radio design into a four circuit, tunable contraption which allowed for virtually unlimited numbers of radios to be in operation by allowing them to be tuned in to different frequencies. Tesla, along with Oliver Lodge, and John Stone Stone claimed rights to the unique circuits and designs, plans, and schematics for radio transmission.

While Tesla went on to become the father of modern alternating current, the transformer, and more — notably remembered for saying simply “I have harnessed the cosmic rays and caused them to operate a motive device.” — Marconi had no other ideas to offer humanity. No other ideas beyond the doubt that transmission of signals from the vast expanse of the sea, or the unseen reaches of otherness may have been, in the end, a mistake.