Business, politics and technology at the dawn of radio broadcasting: the Byrne-Bussey Marconi Lecture, Marconi Day, 2013

Gabriele Balbi (USI) delivered the 2013 Byrne-Bussey Marconi Lecture on Marconi Day, 20 April, on the subject of why the Marconi Company was apparently slow to appreciate the broadcasting option of wireless. From the first development of wireless communication, the technology had advantages over the wired telegraph. Yet wireless point-to-point communications were subject to some seeming deficiencies: a lack of privacy and the potential for disruption, as anyone with a wireless set might pick up and listen to messages, or even disrupt them, as occurred at a 1903 demonstration of wireless at the Royal Institution in London.


Some individuals in the Marconi Company recognized that this apparent failure in fact heralded a new era of mass communication: the birth of broadcasting. But the company’s business model, and political relationships with the Post Office which regulated wireless and new technologies like the point-to-point wireless telephone that the Company wanted to exploit, meant that it was the 1920s before the Marconi Company fully engaged with the broadcasting option.

Oxford and District Amateur Radio Society members making the connection on Marconi Day 2013.
Oxford and District Amateur Radio Society members making the connection on Marconi Day 2013.

Ernesto Gomez (Bodleian Library) writes:
Marconi Day 2013 was celebrated by the Oxford and District Amateur Radio Society with a special Radio Club Station set up  in the Museum of History of Science to communicate with radio amateurs around the world. The Oxford radio amateurs used the call sign GB4HMS.  Amazingly one of the earliest  contacts of the day was with Newfoundland, the historical place well remembered for being the first to receive a transatlantic message in 1901.”

This year around 63 clubs from different latitudes managed to commemorate the Marconi achievements in the field of radio transmissions.