NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1914 __ Recordings of radio signals
Charles Apgar (?-?)
Comment : Earliest surviving recordings of radio signals made by radio amateur Charles Apgar using modified cylinder phonograph.Charles' first contact with wireless came while he was looking through a magazine in a stationery store in New York City. He promptly abandoned any idea of understanding what the article or it's complicated schematics were about. He laid it aside thinking, what nonsense to print such crazy stuff which only an expert can understand. " (Charles Apgar, The Electrical Experimenter, p. 337). About a month later he read in the New York Herald that an amateur had copied the Herald's wireless on the results of the 1910 election. The article stated that this amateur was an employee of a Wall Street bank so Apgar located him the next time he was in New York City. Between the cashier's (amateur) explanation and a catalogue from one of the experimental wireless supply houses, Apgar had enough information to attempt his own "try-out"--the first time you try to receive a station--about one month later Charles noted: "In less than one minute I heard Station O.H.X. and one other station. Contrasting this with the experiences of some amateurs ( who as I have read, often spend a month or more feeling around before getting a single signal) to say I was satisfied is putting it mildly. Of course, the whole family was called in--even the cat--whose 'meow' was about as near to a wireless signal as anything I had ever heard. The wireless system which Charles had just mastered had been invented in 1903 by Guglielmo Marconi and Lee de Forest. Charles became good friends with the chief engineer, Roy A. Wigan, of the New Jersey based Marconi company and through this contact was able to get a job as a researcher there. He was to work there for ten years from 1909-1921. He made many important inventions while working for Marconi. Probably his most important invention was the process for recording wireless. It took three years of work to perfect. He also invented an ampliphone circuit which amplified even the smallest noises so as to make them easier to record. In his final years there, he put his efforts into inventing the paper cone loudspeaker which was later used in every radio. Before he perfected the paper cone speaker all wireless operators had had to use uncomfortable earphones. [...] During the United State's pre World War I neutrality period, a powerful wireless station at Sayville, Long Island owned by the Germans, was suspected of sending coded messages regarding ship departures from the eastern United States. Apgar's wireless recorder which could record wireless signals onto wax cylinders and his ampliphone circuit were the two instruments that would be used to decipher messages being transmitted by the German station owned by the Atlantic Communications Company. [...] The Secret Service was called in to continue the investigation as there was no F.B.I., and they in turn inducted Charles Apgar into the Secret Service. The Chief of the Secret Service, William T. Flynn, really did not know much about wireless. He contacted Lawrence R. Krumm, chief radio inspector of New York to ask his assistance in the investigation of Sayville. By coincidence, Krumm and Apgar happened to be well acquainted. [...] Flynn asked Charles if he could transcribe messages sent from the station on to wax cylinders so that they could see if the messages contained hidden meanings which could not be detected by the censors. Since Charles was the only person in the country who could operate his invention, he gladly accepted the the challenge and started the recording process on the night of June 7. Charles recorded messages for four hours a night from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. On June 21st all of the recordings were sent to Flynn in Washington. He in turn gave the recordings to Secretaries Lansing, Redfield and David after they were decoded. (Lee Apgar, "Charles E. Apgar - "Wireless Wizard"", 1977)
Urls : http://apgar.net/eric/cea_info.html (last visited )

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