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2005 News Releases




Radio pioneer remembered

Date : 17 / 12 / 2005
Author : Chris Jones - VK2ZDD

This month marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most significant events in the history of amateur radio. One day in December 1905, an engineer at a receiving station based at Machrihanish in Scotland was listening in when - to his astonishment - he heard the voice of Reginald Fessenden. What made this so special was that Fessenden was at the time in North America - this was the first time that a voice transmission had been copied across the Atlantic.

Remarkably, it was purely by accident. Fessenden - a talented if eccentric Canadian scientist - had actually been talking to another station in Maryland, USA but, thanks to the wonder of propagation, his signal made its way across the Atlantic.

This was not the only first achieved jointly by Fessenden and the Machrihanish station. A month later, after the Scottish station had been readied for transmission, it and Fessenden undertook the first ever two way CW radio contact across the Atlantic. In this respect, Fessenden was ahead of his great rival Marconi who at that point had only achieved a one-way crossing.

Fessenden was also in 1900 the first to use HF alternators and first to superimpose the human voice on radio transmissions. He also made the first radio music broadcast, on Christmas Eve 1906. His other achievements include inventing AM and writing over 500 patents. And yet, despite his great contribution to radio, he rarely received the credit he deserved, and died in 1932 a largely forgotten man. Meanwhile, his arch competitor Marconi had become a legend.

There was also to be a sad ending for the Machrihanish station with which Fessenden achieved his pioneering radio contacts. The station was closed down in December 1906 - less than a year after the first two-way CW contacts across the Atlantic - after severe gales blew down its mast.

To mark Fessenden's pioneering work with the Machrihanish station, the special event callsign GB1FVT will be activated during the first week in January from the Machrihanish site. Operation will be on all HF bands, CW and SSB. Another special event station - AA1A/BO - will be aired from Brant Rock in the US.


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