Everyone knows that the laurels of the radio's creator are still contested. Different countries have different points of view. In Russia, the author of the idea is traditionally considered Alexander Popov, in most of the rest of the world - Guglielmo Marconi. How did it happen and what came of it? Let's figure it out.
As you know from the statements of the jokers, victory always has many fathers and only defeat is an orphan. The invention of radio was an obvious technical achievement of mankind, so it is not surprising that he has many fathers.
Heinrich Hertz himself, who experimentally proved the existence of electromagnetic waves, did not claim the inventor's laurels. Perhaps the matter was in the imperfection of his equipment, perhaps those who claim that his goal was actually to refute Maxwell's theory were right, and the confirmation of it turned out to be an unpleasant surprise. One way or another, the great German did not attach any practical significance to his work.
In 1890, the French physicist Edouard Branly proposed using a glass tube filled with metal powder in the receiver circuit. In its original state, this tube did not conduct current, but under the action of radio waves, the metal dust particles stuck together, and the tube became a conductor. The receiver loop was closed, a current passed through it, this event was already quite easy to record. To return the system to its previous, non-conductive state, it was enough to shake the tube slightly - the sawdust crumbled and again waited in the wings.
The sawdust tube had a rather long history, but we will not touch on it now. It is important for us that Edouard Branly's compatriots perceived him for a long time as the inventor of radio communications. He himself, however, refrained from further improving it. As a physicist, it seemed more interesting to him to explain what was happening in a tube of metal powder (Branly called it a "radio conductor"). He devoted a fair amount of time to this occupation, but did not achieve final success. We now know that the events are explained by the tunneling effect, which belongs to the domain of quantum mechanics, but in Branly's time, of course, they did not know about it.
The next to take part in the relay was the English physicist Oliver Lodge. Using a receiver in which there were all the same pipe with sawdust (Lodge called it "coherer", from the Latin cohaerere - "to clutch", and it was this name that later stuck) and a clock mechanism with a hammer that periodically shook the coherer, the experimenter for the first time in history passed a text message to the next room. It was in 1893, and, frankly, this moment is most similar to the invention of radio communication. Lodge, however, did not work on the radio any further. There is a legend about how, to someone's puzzled question about the reasons, he replied that he was a physicist, not a postman.
Professor Alexander Stepanovich Popov appeared on the stage in 1895. In Lodge's receiver, he replaced the clockwork with a relay that triggered (and set the hammer in motion) by the signal itself. Thus, the coherer immediately after receiving the information returned to the non-conducting state and waited for the next transmission. And everything would be fine, but at that moment Popov himself saw in his design an exclusively laboratory device for demonstrating "Hertz waves" at lectures and, a little later, for automatic registration of lightning discharges.
Guglielmo Marconi had a hand in creating a new means of communication just six months later.Unlike all his predecessors, he was not a professor of physics, moreover, there is reason to believe that the education he received did not allow him to appreciate the complexity of the problem. Physicists, starting with Hertz, understood that radio waves are the same electromagnetic radiation as light. And if so, then it should spread in the same way - in a straight line. This means that attempts to convey with its help some kind of information beyond the visible horizon are deliberately doomed.
Marconi probably did not know this, but for some reason he believed that radio waves could pass through the earth's thickness (this is not so). The most important thing is that if for all predecessors it was physics, then Marconi saw in the radio business a business that could enrich those who do it. He was young, adventurous, and he loved money.
In June 1896, Marconi filed an application with the British Patent Office for "improvements in the transmission of electrical impulses and signals and in apparatus for this." In September, he publicly demonstrated the radio station, achieving reception of messages at a distance of about 3 km. In the summer of the following year, he received an English patent, and in November built the first permanent radio station on the Isle of Wight, about 12 miles from "greater" England.
The Marconi transmitter was a slightly modified Hertz emitter, and the receiver is very similar to Popov's device. He expressed polite displeasure, pointing out that the scheme actually repeats his design. Lodge, whose receiver was similar to the development of Popov, said nothing. The word "plagiarism" was not pronounced, but it was clearly guessed.
In the late autumn of 1897, Popov added a Morse key to the transmitter and on December 18, in the presence of officials of the Naval Ministry, transmitted a radio message. The still popular version that this happened in 1896, or even in 1895, but in any case before Marconi, was born many years later, already in the USSR. It is not confirmed by documents of the 19th century.
In 1897, Marconi opened the first ever radio equipment plant with a staff of fifty employees. Shipping companies were the first to become customers. The innovator mastered the market aggressively and toughly: in the supply agreement, he included a ban on the exchange of messages with any station using equipment from another company. However, competitors began to appear only after a couple of years, already in the next century.
Taking advantage of this, Marconi managed to make his radios the de facto standard in commercial shipping. The achieved result was reflected even in the vocabulary. At the turn of the century, radio messages were often called "marconi", and ship's radio operators were called "marconi" in nautical slang. In some places it has survived to this day.
In Germany, which was rapidly becoming a world industrial leader, two companies were simultaneously engaged in radio stations: Siemens-Halske, the development of which was headed by Professor Ferdinand Braun, the future (1909) Nobel laureate, together with Marconi, and AEG, which promoted the radio stations of Professor Adolf Slaby and Count Georg von Arko (hereinafter referred to as "Slabi-Arko"). In 1900, the firms agreed to cooperate, but quickly dispersed, accusing each other of plagiarism. Marconi joined the accusations, believing that Slaby "spied" on his radio station, sneaking into a closed demonstration in the spring of 1897. The Germans did not remain in debt, accusing the Italian of stealing the idea of a resonant circuit and some others.
All the transmitters of those years were similar to each other and to Hertz's transmitter, and all receivers to each other and to Lodge's receiver, therefore, the prospects of life-long employment with a good income opened up for the lawyers of the parties. However, in 1902, Kaiser Wilhelm II personally intervened in the dispute, who nevertheless wanted to get communications for the army and navy. Under his pressure, the radio engineering divisions of both companies merged, becoming the famous Telefunken company.
In France, an attempt to enter a promising market was made in 1898 by the manufacturer Eugene Dukret. Not having his own developments, he asked Popov about the terms of the sale of his patents. At that moment, it turned out that Popov did not have any patents - he was a scientist, not a businessman, and, in addition, an employee of the Naval Ministry. This meant that the manufacture of radio stations is not a business, but a means of serving one's country: at public expense and with appropriate opportunities to attract outside specialists.
To Ducreta's credit, he did not take advantage of the situation and called the professor to share. The trade mark was named Popoff-Ducretet. In Russia itself, Popov's radio stations have been manufactured by the Kronstadt radio workshop since 1900. The production was semi-handicraft: several artisans produced 10-11 radio stations per year. However, the production of Dukret was not much larger.
So, at the turn of the century, the "three whales" of radio took shape: German, Russian-French and … it is impossible to tie Marconi to any one nation. He patented his developments primarily in Great Britain, at first there was also production, but the concept of his business from the very beginning was planetary - he did not care who would make radio stations and who would sell them, as long as they paid for them.
Across the Atlantic
Marconi quite rightly concluded that it is necessary to start a fundamentally new business with intensive promotion. Already in the spring of 1897, his radio station broadcast from the Welsh wilderness a communiqué on the state of health of one of the most famous Englishmen of that era - the four-time retired Prime Minister William Gladstone. Tom was 88 years old, the attention of the newspaper people to his person was understandable: everyone wanted to print an obituary, ahead of competitors.
Two years later, Radio Marconi transmitted the first message across the English Channel at a distance of 50 km: from Dover, England to Wiemer, France. It remained to conquer a larger reservoir, and in 1901 our hero set off across the Atlantic. Having equipped a reception center in Newfoundland, in December 1901 he received the signal from his company's radio station from England. More precisely, he said that he accepted.
This is still a subject of discussion - could Marconi receive that signal with his equipment or he could not. This very fact is known exclusively from his words - a man was sitting in headphones and suddenly heard. The signal consisted of a single letter "s", sent, in the spirit of the times, in Morse code. Worse, Marconi knew in advance what he was supposed to hear in the headphones. And, of course, in 1901 there was no one to check it - there was no other radio station around.
These circumstances were by no means a secret 116 years ago, and a heated discussion immediately unfolded around Marconi's experiment. It served as the occasion for a series of more verifiable experiments, during which it turned out that equipment from our hero's company works properly over distances of the order of hundreds of miles. For buyers of those years, this was, in general, enough. It is not known how it actually was with the transatlantic connection, but the advertising campaign was definitely a success, everyone heard it.
On the other side of the Earth, in Vladivostok, the sailors of the Russian Pacific squadron tried the first Popov radio stations installed on ships. In August 1902, the battleship Sevastopol and the cruiser Rossiya conducted a series of test radio communications. The testers managed to achieve a range of 25 miles (hereinafter we mean a nautical mile - 1852 meters).
Disposition before the war
Here it is appropriate to move from the history of radio for a short while to history itself. Readers who know the circumstances of the Russo-Japanese War can skip this small section.
The beginning of 1904 found Russian diplomats in their last attempts to avoid war (however, they did not try too hard, being confident of success), and the military, primarily sailors, in their last attempts to prepare for it.
The Russian squadron of the Pacific Ocean (it did not formally have the status of a fleet) was based in Port Arthur (now Lushun), a port at the northern tip of the Yellow Sea. Some of the ships - four cruisers and a dozen and a half numbered (small, having a number instead of a name) destroyers - were in Vladivostok.It meant that with the beginning of the battles, the Vladivostok cruisers would begin to operate on the enemy's communications, diverting part of his forces to themselves.
The main "feature" of the Russian fleet was the ability to equip reinforcements from the Baltic to help the Arthur squadron. The disadvantage is the need to walk across half the planet. In peacetime, Russian ships have traveled this path many times. Actually, all of them, having served for some time (usually several campaigns) in the Pacific Ocean, alternated this service with a trip to Russia for repair and modernization.
Morse key test
At the beginning of the war, on the way from the Baltic to Port Arthur, there was a detachment of Rear Admiral Andrei Virenius, which included the battleship Oslyabya, the cruisers Aurora (yes, that one), Dmitry Donskoy, Almaz and 11 destroyers. The road came out very long because of the destroyers, especially numbered ones (there were four of them in the detachment). Poorly built, they constantly broke down, and the whole detachment had to wait for their repair - this was the categorical demand of the Main Naval Staff.
The governor in the Far East, Admiral Yevgeny Alekseev, meanwhile, peppered Petersburg with telegrams stating that if the arrival of the entire detachment to Port Arthur was delayed, then at least an battleship should be immediately sent there, so that it might be in time before the start of the war.
On January 14 (hereinafter, dates according to the Gregorian calendar), most of Virenius's ships assembled in Port Said, where they found the Japanese cruisers Nissin and Kassuga, just bought in Italy. Due to numerous malfunctions, the detachment entered the Red Sea only on February 4. The Japanese cruisers were already in Singapore.
At that moment, Alekseev obtained from Rozhdestvensky (then - the head of the General Music School, later - the head of the 2nd Pacific Squadron) consent to the fact that "Oslyabya" went to Port Arthur without delay. But … the Russian ships had already gone to sea, and there was no connection with them from the shore.
Chronically defective destroyers had to be towed, which is why the journey across the Red Sea took nine days. On February 13, the long-suffering detachment reached Djibouti and became the first formation of the Russian fleet, the use of radio communications in this war recorded in the available literature. A message was received from the coast that the war with Japan had been going on for three days.
And what about the Japanese?
Japanese ships from 1902 were equipped with Marconi radios. The quality of their work generally corresponded to the level of those years, adjusted for the fact that they themselves set this level. The radio communication range was usually about 100-150 miles; no adventures worthy of description happened during its establishment.
In the well-known history of the battle of "Varyag" and "Koreyets" against the Japanese detachment, there is a very characteristic prelude. The commander of the "Varyag", Captain 1st Rank Rudnev, who was clearly without communication in the pre-war days (it was carried out by wire telegraph, which, of course, stopped working), is waiting for her restoration, goes to consult with the Russian envoy and, finally, sends an urgent dispatches of the Koreets (maximum speed - 13 knots). And the commander of the Japanese cruiser "Chiyoda" standing a couple of hundred meters away, Captain 1st Rank Murakami, on the eve of the war, simply changes the anchor place to be closer to the exit. The Japanese knows what will happen next - he keeps in touch with his command by radio. So, in any case, the Japanese "Description of military operations at sea in 37-38 years. Meiji ". Historians are wary of this book, but in this case there is no reason not to believe it - what is written there is confirmed by the very course of events.
After the attack on the Port Arthur squadron and the battle of the detachment, adm. Uriu and "Varyag" participants in the events exchange information about the results, approaching at a distance of stable radio communication.
We see a similar picture in the future.The "Description" casually mentions facts such as the fact that Admiral Togo (commander) received a "telegram" from Admiral Dev (commander of one of the detachments). The surnames may be different, but the essence remains the same - for the Japanese, this is not an event at all. It is boring to list the mentioned episodes of successful radio communication, and there is no need at all.
This is indirectly confirmed by Russian sources, which amicably narrate about the reception of Japanese messages. For authors from the Russian side, this is also not a curiosity. And how did their own radio communications work in those months? Why not send Popov to Marconi?
By the beginning of the war, the large ships of the 1st squadron - battleships and cruisers of the 1st rank - equipped Popov with radio stations. The destroyers did not have radio equipment: it was believed that they did not need it. You can argue with that. Thus, the order of the squadron chief, Vice-Admiral Oscar Stark, issued on the eve of the war, on the procedure for protecting the outer raid, prescribed night patrols of the area by destroyers on duty. Such observation was subject to 20 miles around the raid, that is, the area that was probably covered by Russian radio stations. But, in the absence of these, the destroyer on duty, who noticed something suspicious and failed to solve the problem on his own, had to return for instructions. And 20 miles at full speed is just under an hour, provided that there is steam in all boilers.
In reality, however, this problem did not arise: the Japanese destroyers on duty did not notice (and they saw them).
It should be noted that at the time of the Japanese attack, the squadron was standing on the outer roadstead for a reason, but preparing for the campaign. One of his goals, albeit a minor one, was to test the wireless telegraph.
The squadron had two coastal radio stations - on the Golden Mountain in Port Arthur and in Vladivostok. There is practically nothing to tell about Vladivostok, and the Golden Mountain will still appear in our story. According to the plan, the station there was supposed to serve for communication of the squadron command with the port. It is difficult to say now whether there were any attempts to actually use it in this way, but, in any case, there was no everyday practice of this kind. A few months later, on May 6, 1904, the officer on duty at the signal station of the Golden Mountain, Midshipman Drachtenfels, will write in a report that the wireless telegraph cannot be moved to a safe place during shelling, since it is large and there is nowhere to put it, and most importantly, it is needed exclusively to interfere with the Japanese, which can be arranged from the ships of the squadron. However, by that time, Russian ships rarely went to sea.
The obvious difference between Popov and Marconi stations in communication range was not a secret to Russian sailors. They tried to solve the problem. The newly appointed commander of the fleet (after his death, the successors will again begin to command only the squadron), Vice Admiral Stepan Makarov, still approaching the new duty station, turned to the head of the naval ministry, Admiral Fyodor Avelan, with a telegram, which it makes sense to cite in full.
“For some military operations to succeed, it is necessary to have a wireless telegraph for at least 300 miles. Do you think it useful to send Professor Popov with one of the naval officers to talk with Siemens, Marconi and other inventors and acquire the necessary instruments? Please report the results of the negotiations. Signed: Makarov."
Let's forgive the admiral for not knowing that Wernher von Siemens had nothing to do with radio and generally died in 1892. Much more important is that the author knew that Popov's radio stations were not the best in the world. The telegram sent on March 6 from Mukden may have been the result of communication with the governor and his staff officers, representing the real balance of forces in this war.
We are not fully aware of the "results of the negotiations".The report of the Maritime Technical Committee (MTK) of March 15, 1904 reports that to Popov's inquiry, Siemens replied that it could guarantee a range of about 80-110 miles for its radio stations. It also talks about the possibility of purchasing two Fessenden radio stations in the United States, supposedly capable of transmitting messages over 750 miles, but expensive. Reginald Fessenden, one of the famous inventors of the early stages of radio history, was working on his first machine radio at this time, and of course he could use the opportunity to sell for good money, but the naval agent in the United States (now we would say "attaché") reported that Fessenden had not yet conducted communications experiments at a distance of more than 127 miles.
Summing up, the ITC stated that the communication requested by the admiral for a distance of 300 miles is not yet realizable. The corresponding experiments by Marconi were declared invalid in absentia, since they were carried out on ships specially equipped by pulling antennas. To do the same on a warship was, according to the ITC, impossible.
Negotiations with Marconi, apparently, did not take place. Anyway, they are not mentioned anywhere. The reasons can only be guessed at.
In the meantime, the sailors tried to make do with the available equipment. Having assumed command, Makarov after a short time (March 20, 1904) issued an order on the procedure for using the wireless telegraph. This was the first document of its kind in the Russian navy, so its content is especially interesting.
The order draws attention to the fact that sending messages by radio unmasks the sender. Therefore, the use of radio stations for their intended purpose - as a means of communication - was prohibited by Makarov's subordinates. A different decision could be made by the commander of the ship, and when sailing as part of a squadron - the flagship, who had to report such a need using more traditional means.
At the same time, the radio stations were supposed to work on reception all the time. Noticing the Japanese dispatch, it was necessary to determine the approximate direction to the transmitter and try to understand what was at stake. It should be noted here that at the headquarters of the fleet and on the ships there was not a single person who knew the Japanese language, in connection with which (we read this in other documents) the captured Japanese papers had to be forwarded to Mukden, to the headquarters of the governor.
Makarov's logic is clear: to try to extract from the existing technology the little benefit it is capable of and, at least, not harm.
Correspondent with walkie-talkie
On April 6, 1904, the cruiser Bayan on patrol sighted the British steamer Haymun, chartered by the Times correspondent, at sea. In the meantime, we will be surprised at how luxuriously the press lived in those years, and returning to 1904, we note that a search of the steamer revealed the presence of 16 Englishmen, 39 Chinese and one Japanese on board.
The most indicative find was the ship's radio station (it can be assumed that Marconi, but this is not in the text of the report) and the just sent radiogram (nothing was reported about its reception by the "Bayan" located nearby), addressed to a certain Frazer in Weihaiwei (now Weihai, and in 1904 it was an English colony.). The message said that in view of the approach of the Russian ship, the fate of the correspondent and the ship must be reported to the editorial office of the Times, if communication is not restored in the next three hours.
Now we will not touch on the further fate of the vessel and the correspondent, but note: Weihaiwei is quite far from the place of events - more than a hundred miles. Now it is difficult to say for sure that Mr. Fraser received the message addressed to him, and even that it was actually sent, but the very possibility of sending it over such a distance did not cause any surprise among the Russian sailors. Alas, they themselves did not have such an opportunity.
The Haymun was not the only steamer used by correspondents.Or allegedly used - the Russian command suspected banal espionage here and, perhaps, was right. Orders for the squadron demanded in such cases to consider the wireless telegraph on a neutral ship as military contraband, and the ship itself, accordingly, a prize. And report to the mainland …
The pre-war plans of the Russian command assumed the possibility that Port Arthur could be cut off by the Japanese for some time, but then the mobilized army would go on the offensive and unblock the besieged fortress. Obviously, such prospects made it necessary to somehow communicate with the fortress, but attempts to solve this problem in the pre-war period, apparently, did not involve the use of radio.
The nearest Russian mission was the consulate in Chifu (now Yantai), about 80 miles from Port Arthur, on the other side of the Yellow Sea. There was a Russian colony, and most importantly, there was a telegraph office.
In the spring of 1904, Admiral Makarov telegraphed the governor in the Far East that it would be nice to install a more powerful radio station in Chifu. Apparently, this should be considered the starting point of further events.
The radio station was bought from the Telefunken company, brought to Chifu and mounted on the territory of the consulate. At that time, the American Donald Nixon was on his staff, who was actually Lieutenant of the Russian Navy Dmitry Nikitin. The change of surname was needed to avoid a formal violation of neutrality - because of him, it was impossible to send an acting officer to the consulate, and he was needed there. It was for communication with Port Arthur, which by that time was already really blocked.
Nikitin-Nixon left very interesting memories of this period of his life, included in the anniversary collection, published half a century later in New York. Omitting colorful details, let's go straight to radio communication.
“Go quickly to the Russian consulate,” one correspondent said hastily to another. "There is a conversation with Port Arthur over the wireless telegraph."
From the top of the mast at the consular house, a wire was stretched into the building itself. In the stillness of the night, the crackle of an electric spark was clearly audible. You could catch what was being passed on in Morse code.
At times, the antenna flashed with a bluish fire and a bright light stripe loomed against a dark background.
"Ah, if only we could find out what these Russians are broadcasting," one reporter said dreamily to another."
In reality, the Russians did not transmit anything, although they tried repeatedly. The consulate installed the newest station "Slabi-Arko" at that time, its adjustment was carried out by two specialists from Germany, transmission attempts were made many times, but to no avail. The negotiations of the Japanese ships, which were located approximately in the same place as the addressee - near Port Arthur, were clearly audible, Nikitin even believes that it was they who "hammered" the desired signal, operating at the same frequency. This is not true, since the spark transmitter (in those years all transmitters were just like that) emits radio waves in the widest range, but the end result was still disappointing - it was not possible to contact the fortress armed with Popov's radio stations even once.
It would be wrong to think that the defenders of the fortress did not expect such a connection and therefore were not ready for it. In the first days after the landing of the Japanese troops and. The chief of the squadron, Rear Admiral Wilhelm Wittgeft, by telegram (the telegraph was still working), told Vice Admiral Avelan, the manager of the Naval Ministry, the call signs for Arthur and Chief (0113 and 0158), and also gave detailed instructions on how to encrypt messages. But, alas, they were never adopted - there is no mention in the available documents that Port Arthur ever heard a radio station in Chief.
In the spring of 1904, the governor informed the commander of the fleet in a telegram that pre-war experiments with wireless telegraph made it possible to increase the transmission range by about two times: from 25 to 50 miles, and in this connection, episodes of the Golden Mountain radio station with ships located "near Chief" are directly mentioned. Obviously, this was not enough.
They tried to use carrier pigeons to communicate with Port Arthur, but, probably, the distance was too great for them - none of them flew.
The burden of communication with the besieged fortress fell on the Chinese boatmen hired by Russian diplomats in Chifu. The Japanese, catching them, cut off their heads mercilessly. The decline among the messengers because of this reached 10-15%. On the other hand, those who successfully broke through could receive the Russian Order on the ribbon, which for some reason was very much appreciated by them, so much that it paid off the risk. From an operational point of view, this meant that communication with the fortress was slow and extremely unstable.
Instead of an epilogue
Speaking quite strictly, it would be wrong to consider the above as the final "verdict" to Popov's radio stations. In addition to the design of the gadgets themselves, in a modern way, their effectiveness is influenced by the organization of use and the qualifications of those people who dispose of this technique. Nevertheless, one cannot but draw attention to the fact that the Russian Naval Ministry, with the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War, practically abandoned Popov's products.
The First Pacific Squadron, blocked at Port Arthur, retained its original equipment until the very end. During the war, the Vladivostok cruiser detachment was rearmed with Telefunken radio stations. It is extremely significant that in the hands of the same sailors at first they showed very modest results - communication was possible at distances of the order of several miles. Visible changes for the better - up to more than a hundred miles - were achieved after the war, with the return of "Russia" and "Thunderbolt" to the Baltic Sea.
The second squadron, which left Libava for Tsushima in the fall of 1904, was equipped with German radio stations from the very beginning. Popov's radio stations were installed on destroyers, on which radio equipment was considered, in principle, redundant six months earlier. The squadron's flagship, the battleship "Prince Suvorov", received a Marconi radio station rearranged from the "Korea" transport - specifically so that it was possible to speak with oncoming ships, which were forbidden by the contract with the monopoly firm to answer calls from other transmitters.
Opinions about the Slabi-Arko stations, which were in the 2nd squadron, were divided: the naval officers rather praised them, the staff officers scolded them. The flagship miner, Lieutenant Leontyev, who was in charge of organizing radio communications, declared after the war that Telefunken stations were generally useless. His colleague, junior flag officer, Warrant Officer Demchinsky, testified that the German radio stations were good, but the radio operators, selected "for training in wireless telegraphy" a few weeks before the campaign, were forced to master the technique, "twisting screws and nuts at random." Before the war, the reserve midshipman was an electrical engineer of the Siemens-Halske ship radio station, but he had nothing to do with communications in the squadron, and having unauthorizedly repaired the transmitter of the battleship Oslyabya, he got a reprimand.
However, the design and quality of the 2nd squadron's radio stations had no practical consequences. The head of the squadron, Vice-Admiral Rozhestvensky, saw in the radio only a means of his own unmasking and, to put it mildly, did not encourage its use. Under Tsushima, the Russian radios were silent.