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The Marconi Legacy - Tim Wander Interview

We have a lot to thank Guglielmo Marconi for, and on the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic disaster, we caught up with Marconi historian Tim Wander for more on the father of wireless.

Listen to Show 75, which includes an extract of our interview with Tim Wander

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Tim Wander, with his books
Marconi historian Tim Wander, with his two books


Extract from Marconi Legacy Interview:

Here is a transcript of the extract of Tim's interview, as featured in Show 75 of FrequencyCast, released in May 2012

Continued from Gadget Show Live 2012 Transcript Part 2


LV 18 Light Vessel in HarwichWe're back on the LV18, here in Harwich, in Essex.


Indeed we are - this is an old light vessel, the old Trinity lighthouse vessel, which is no more in operation, but it's being used for us to do some radio experimentation, so we're stringing wires all over ships, and doing various transmissions to anyone that's interested in picking us up. How's our day going so far, Jim?


Pretty good - we've had a lot of visitors today, and we've managed to do some HF transmissions and some local two metre VHF transmissions.


Also of course, one of the reasons that boats are very fore in our mind here at FrequencyCast is, of course, this is the 100th anniversary of -


The Titanic.


Indeed, and of course radio played a very big part in Titanic, and of course without that pioneering work from Marconi, we wouldn't have things like the TV and radio that we're very familiar with.


Taking it further forward, our mobile phones as well.


Of course, yes - we're all carrying round our own little mobile transmitters these days. Now, interestingly enough, a couple of weeks ago we caught up with a chap called Tim Wander, who is a historian looking at the early days of Marconi, and we had a chat with him to find out what the history of radio was all about. Something I didn't know, and I don't know whether you know this, Jim, but something could have happened 100 years ago that could have changed the entire future of radio, and here's Tim to explain a little more about what we mean.


The RMS Titanic set sail from Ireland, a ship of dreams, virtually unsinkable. Aboard you had two Marconi operators, but what you have to remember in those days is, the Marconi operators, they were solely there to send messages for the clients, and then secondly the crew. It was a paying service. The two operators were hired and paid by the Marconi company. They wore Marconi uniforms. It was actually a great life - they lived as first-class passengers. They worked eight-hour shifts to send messages on behalf of the clients.

April 14th 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg - the story's extremely well-known, but 711 lives were saved, solely because she carried radio. She was able to send a CQD distress, or SOS, to summon assistance to some 711 people who were floating in lifeboats at the time. That one event changed the world we live in, and that's perhaps one of the reasons why the sinking of the Titanic is so well reported. Five, six years later, when the Lusitania was torpedoed, she went down with nearly 2,000 people, but today most people wouldn't know what the Lusitania was.

What is interesting is that Guglielmo Marconi was due to sail on the Titanic. He had to go to America for a legal case, and he sailed two weeks earlier on board the Lusitania, surprisingly enough, but on the day the Titanic sailed, his wife and family still held tickets to go on the Titanic. It just turned out his son went down with a very high fever, and they cancelled on the eve they were to sail the Titanic.

Now, something to think about is, what the world would have been like if Marconi had gone down on the Titanic - would he have survived? Would his family have survived? If he had gone down, would British broadcasting have been born? Would the company have survived his loss? And, of course, would we have the short-wave beam system, or even the first inklings of radar? So on such things as missing a boat, the world changes, and maybe our modern civilisation hinges.


Thanks very much, Tim, and there's a longer version of that up on our website,

Tim Wander's Books

To find out more about Marconi, the birth of wireless in the UK, and the history behind the Marconi works in Chelmsford, Essex, take a look at Tim's two books:

2MT Writtle Book
2MT Writtle - The Birth of British Broadcasting
Marconi New Street Works Book
Marconi's New Street Works 1912 - 2012


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