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1876 __ Natural Radio
Thomas A. Watson (1854-1934)
Comment : Natural Radio is the group of sound waves that are capable of being transmitted through the area of the electromagnetic waves that overlap with the frequencies of sound waves. They do need to have a terrestrial origin and are amplified through the ionosphere and the magnetosphere. The sounds play on VLF (very low frequency) and are commonly called “whistlers”. "Natural radio" was accidentally heard electromagnetic signals coming from the Earth's ionosphere and magnetosphere by Thomas Watson long before Marconi invented the wireless. The first person he introduced that related to listening to natural-electro-magnetic waves was Thomas A. Watson. "At nighttime Watson would sit listening for hours on end to a telephone earpiece hooked up to an iron test line that ran over the rooftops of Boston," Douglas Kahn says. "The first telephone line had become an unwitting antenna through which he heard strange and beautiful sounds." The sounds range from fragile glissandi called whistlers to noise that have been described as the sounds of "electronic bacon frying". They are generated by lightning, solar winds and auroral activity, among other sources. Watson listened to the early silence in a telephone circuit which gave an opportunity for listening to stray electric currents. Watson significance to audio communication was being the assistant to Alexander Graham Bell in the invention of the telephone in 1876. In fact, “Mr. Watson” was the first words spoken through the telephone according to Bell’s laboratory notebook. Natural radio sounds became better known during the 1990s when avid amateur Stephen McGreevy issued CDs of his field recordings.
Original excerpt : « There were no trolley car or electric light systems to send their rattling current-noises into our wire and the only other electric circuits in constant use were the telegraph wires , the currents in which, being comparatively weak and easily recognised as the dots and dashes of the Morse code, did not trouble us. This early silence in a telephone circuit gave an opportunity for listening to stray electric currents that cannot be easily had today. I used to spend hours at night in the laboratory listening to the many strange noises in the telephone and speculating as to their cause. One of the most common sounds was a snap, followed by a grating sound that lasted two or three seconds before it faded into silence, and another was like the chirping of a bird. My theory at this time was that the currents causing these sounds came from explosions on the sun or that they were signals from another planet. They were mystic enough to suggest the latter explanation but I never detected any regularity in tem that might indicate they were intelligent signals. They were seldom loud enough to interfere with the use of the telephone on a short line. A few years later these delicate sounds could no longer be heard for they were completely drowned out when electric light and power dynamos began to operate. I don't believe any one has ever studied these noises on a grounded telephone line since that time, for they could not be so studied today unless a wire were run in some wilderness far from electric light or power station. These currents were probably from the same source as the static that afflicts the modern radio, and the difference in sound may have been due to the fact they were not amplified in the telephone as static is now in a radio receiver. I, perhaps may claim to be the first person who ever listened to static currents. » (Thomas A. Watson)
Source : Watson,Thomas A. (1926), “Exploring Life: The Autobiography of Thomas A. Watson”, Chapter IX, pp. 81-82, New York & London : D. Appleton & Co.
Urls : http://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=7708 (last visited ) http://dspt.perso.sfr.fr/POPOV.htm (last visited ) http://www.lesia.obspm.fr/plasma/publications/cecconi06/cecconi0806.html (last visited )

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