Cylinder of the Month


See also the  Cylinders of the Month Archive.

Possibly the earliest existing recording of a radio broadcast – An interesting homemade recording of an early spark-gap telegraphic radio transmission.


Telegraphic radio aircheck
 
Company Homemade
Cylinder # None
Category Telegraphic code
Title Telegraphic radio aircheck
Performed by Unknown
Circa 1910
Announcement None
 

Prior to 1920, most radio transmissions were telegraphic messages generated using a "spark-gap" transmitting apparatus (see illustration).


[Lescarboura, Austin C. - Radio for Everybody (1922) - Scientific American Publishing Company, Munn & Co., New York, pg. 16]

It is known that during World War I some radio broadcasts were monitored (for suspicious messages) and wax cylinder "off the air" (aircheck) recordings were made.   This Cylinder of the Month seems to be just such an early aircheck.   However, with practically no way to determine when this recording was made (current estimate: 1910), or its recorded speed (played back here at 125-RPM), it is difficult to be certain if this is simply a homemade recording of an amateur telegraphic practice session, or an actual aircheck.   Two clues indicating this may be a radio broadcast are the quality of the spark-gap tone (the damped-wave buzzer sound), and the fading in and out of the signal strength.

The concensus to date is that this is not "modern" International Morse Code (used primarily after 1920), but the original "American" or "Railroad" Morse Code.  

Here is the best translation to date (September 2006) – Many thanks to all who have contributed.   The bulk was provided by Lake "Ed" Trump "AL7N" of Fairbanks, Alaska with portions provided and confirmed by several others:  

. JOE JEFFRIES OWES JACK JOHNSON A GOOD DEAL OF MONEY. THAT IS HE HAS MADE A FORTUNE THROUGH HIS RELATIONS WITH THE COLORED CHAMPION. IN FACT THE CALIFORNIAN HAS CLEANED UP $62218.28 SINCE NOV 17 ALL BECAUSE THE NEGRO FIGHTER INSISTED THAT THE RETIRED CHAMPION AGREE TO MEET HIM IN A FISTIC CONTEST. 1 235 46789 342156.

Charles Bell (chmybell@yahoo.com) provided the following reference to Jack Johnson.

Dr. Adrian M. Peterson (Adrian@awr.org) reports that an article in the August 1910 Modern Electrics magazine, which indicates that details of the Johnson-Jeffries match were transmitted progressively by radio station "TG" in San Francisco, leads him to believe that this aircheck recording could reasonably be dated to shortly before 3PM on Monday July 4, 1910.


To hear an early telegraphic radio aircheck  —

For help playing these sounds, click here.

Although the American Morse Code heard in this recording is essentially extinct, International Morse Code quite recently (on May 24, 2004, the 160th anniversary of the first telegraphic transmission) had its first new addition since World War I: a code for the "@" (at sign) character was added to the Morse character set.

To learn more, see:


— This cylinder of the month is from the Frank V. de Bellis collection at San Francisco State University —

                                       


To hear other examples of wax cylinders, see the


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