Contacter l'auteur / Contact the author

Recherche dans ce site / Search in this site



The History of Amateur Radio

Birth of ITU (II)

In Europe, the first telegraph wired lines were laid down in 1848. At the beginning lines didn't run across the borders and messages had to be delivered from hand to hand to be sent further. 

The favor that encountered this useful and marvelous communication means was such that nations felt the necessity to regulate, through agreements between governments, the use of well defined type of conductors and gears, the execution of standard operating instructions, and collection of taxes and their periodical breakdown.

In 1848 for example, Prussia planning to connect its capital city to bordering localities, had to enter into not less than 15 conventions with german States to get the necessary permissions to route its telegraphic wired  lines. All these conventions were only applied inside the sole Germany.

This is in 1849 that the first convention about the "etablishing and utilization of electromagnetic telegraphs to exchange State telegrams" was concluded between Prussia and Austria. We had to wait ten years to see the setting up of true international union.

Meanwhile, in 1852 the first submarine telegraph cable is successfully laid across the English Channel, what allowed the first direct London to Paris communications.

The Austro-German Telegraphic Union (UTAG), the Berlin Convention and the Union télégraphique de l'Europe occidentale merged together and created la Convention de Berne, in 1858. This Union permitted to get a standardisation almost complete of the international telegraph service, uniformity that will be confirmed in 1859 when the UTAG joigned the Convention. Each Union continued however to develop its own activities with the Chruch's States, Duchy of Modène, Norway, Parme, Sweden and Toscana, as well as with the International Company and the Compagnie des lignes télégraphiques des îles de Méditerranée, then in 1860 with Turkey, including the danubean principalities.

Following the dissolution of the German Convention at Sadowa battle, UTAG saw gradually its importance decrease and it was disolved in 1872, after the constitution of the German empire.

In 1864, we noted the existence of two international conventions, the one concluded at Brussels, and the one of Bern of 1858. The progress of science, the extension of wired network and the development of telegraphic relationships indicated that both conventions were no more in harmony with the needs and the conditions of the time. So, to take advantage of a complete standardization of telegraphy in international relationships, the French suggested to nations, not only to the members of the previous conventions, but to all European nations to meet at a conference to negociate a general treaty. Great Britain was not invited because, at that time, the telegraph service was in hands of private companies.

The conference met in Paris between March 1 and May 17, 1865. Negociations were arduous but succeeded and the International Telegraph Union, ITU, was established. The memorable document was signed by the French emperor, the Swiss Ministery, followed by the ones of the Austrian (Hungry) representatives, Bade Grand-Duchy, Bavaria, Belgium, Denmark, Sain, Greece, Hamburg, Hanover, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Saxe, Sweden and Norway, Turkey and Wurtenburg. Those 20 Member States were the founders of the Union. Mecklemburg joigned to the Convention in the forecoming months.

The ITU was born. Its mission was to set rules and standards for the telegraph industry now mature. Today the reasons which led to the establishment of ITU still apply, and the fundamental objectives of the organization, organizing and "adjusting" the all spectrum allocation, remain basically unchanged.

In 1868, at Vienna Convention, Member States of ITU decided to give the Union a head office and a secretary. The Union office was set at Bern, controlled by the Swiss government until 1948. It had only three state employees, two of swiss nationality, and a third of belgian nationality. Although the modesty of its beginnings, the principle was put that any intergovernmental organization had to have a head office and its own employees.

The works of Mahlon Loomis

By 1860, the american dentist Dr.Mahlon Loomis was interested in electricity and tried to increase the growth of plants in buried metal plates connected to an electrical current furnished by batteries. In this same time I tried also to use the electrical charges obtainable from the upper atmosphere by throwing in the air kites carrying metal wires.

His idea was to build a telegraph circuit in using this natural source of electricity instead of batteries. According to many references he reached his objective is achieving a wireless telegraph line 600 km long.

In 1868, Mahlon Loomis demonstrated to a group of Congressmen and eminent scientists a wireless "communication", showing that a kite sent aloft affected the flow of current in another kite connected to a galvenometer located 29 km away (18 miles) from the first kite. This discovery triggered the development of wireless telegraphy for long distance communications.

In 1880, the English electrical engineer Oliver Heaviside patented in England the first coaxial cable. We will come back on his invention in the 1930s.

At left, Dr.Mahlon Loomis' wireless telegraph drawed with pencil and graphite, 1868. At right, the first coaxial cable compared to a modern cable. Such cables were laid on 1866 across the Atlantic, connecting successfully Europe to USA. Oliver Heaviside patented this invention in 1880. This style of cable was used during almost 100 years ! Documents Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institute.

At his death in 1886, Loomis was credited for the next discoveries :

- First formulation of the idea that "waves" travel out from an antenna

- First use of a complete antenna and ground system

- First experimental transmission of wireless telegraph signals

- First use of balloons and kites to raise an antenna wire

- First vertical antenna (a wood tower supporting a steel rod)

- First patent for wireless telegraphy.

1883 : Edison and the vacuum tube

The American Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor. Among the many inventions that he is credited for, name the duplex telegraph in 1864, the phonograph and the microtelephone in 1877, and the incandescent lamp in 1878, the famous bulb that we use for more than 130 years !

In 1883, Edison also discovered the electron emission of a conductor filament heated at high temperature in the vaccum, an effect that will be explained by O.W.Richardson in 1901. His invention will be at the root of the electronic tube functioning.

1887 : Hertz and the electromagnetic nature of waves

The year when Loomis died, as if he desired to continue his works, the german physicist Heinrich Hertz performed a serie of classic experiments in order to detect and measure the properties of electromagnetic waves predicted by Maxwell's equations. Among his experiments, we note the creation of sparks across a loop at a distance, the antenna being probably tuned around 50 Mc. 

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz and a view of his laboratory. Documents SINP/MSU

In 1887, Hertz demonstrated that the light, due to its wave nature, is an electromagnetic wave : like radio waves, we can attribute it the properties of an oscillating electric charge. In particular, it emits a magnetic field radially that travels in the 3 dimensions (spherical wave). If the oscillation stops, the radiation continues to travel. In other words a variable field creates an electromagnetic wave that moves independently and at the velocity of light.

But Hertz was not interested in the financial benefits that he could derive from his discoveries and accepted freely that a young italian amateur name Guglielmo Marconi and fan of electricity develops further his ideas.

Next chapter

Marconi : Time for business

Page 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 -

Back to:


Copyright & FAQ