Saturday, 25 April 2015

#Blog Alert Happy Marconi Day


or how a bunch of drunk engineers gave birth to broadcasting. Back in 1920 the government and certainly the Post Master General did not want spoken radio.  They thought they could make lots of money selling frequencies for commercial (Morse code) use, things never seem to change do they?

In 1920 when The Daily Mail and The Marconi Company of Chelmsford broadcast the first advertised radio performance, featuring the famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba it was a great success. Too successful,  it worried the Government of the time so much that they refused to give out another licence for two years.

So it was in 1922 that finally a licence was given for The Radio Society of Great Britain to transmit 'experimental' radio 'broadcasts' rather than Morse Code. The Marconi Company provided the equipment.  And the Engineer in charge at that time was Peter Eckersley:

"I happened to be at the Marconi Company at the time and we inhabited a place called Writtle, a hut, a long low hut, full of long low people, and we had a wireless transmitter and we were eventually appointed by the radio society of Great Britain to do this thing called  'broadcasting.'

We had to talk into this thing (microphone) and give them signals.  It was very formal, mark you, but we went ahead nevertheless and that's probably how the first regular broadcasting station in Britain ever started.

We were, we were half an hour a week! Every Tuesday and we just broadcast, that's all.  At first of all it was terribly formal a man picked up the microphone and said: "Hello C.Q. this is two-emma-tock Writtle calling." and we will now play you a gramophone record."

So it was awfully dull until the evening when Peter himself, fortified by a trip to the local pub and with the help of the publican's piano changed those formal broadcasts into something very different:

"But one day it seemed to me to be rather fun to pick up the microphone, we went to the local and we had some 'dinner' and I started to broadcast and we went on and we talked, at least I talked and we sang and we played the fool and so-on and I think that was the first broadcasting ever in Britain."

And so it was from a small wooden hut in a village just outside Chelmsford in the United Kingdom that regular broadcasting began.  The Marconi Company were at first horrified by Peter's drunken antics, but then the post arrived.  Hundreds of letters asking them - 'to do it again,'  and 'did they have any picture postcards of themselves'  and 'could they request a gramophone record be played.'

Happy Marconi Day and thanks to David Lloyd's Radio Moments for the audio used in the Audioboom  Podcast.


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