Radio Times/1923/11/09/Birthday Reminiscences
By Arthur R. Burrows.
The lusty infant, British broadcasting, has cut (not without tribulation) his first teeth; on Wednesday next he celebrates the first anniversary of his birthday.
Broadcasting as a regular everyday affair came into being on November 14th last year, with the unromantic business of announcing Parliamentary election results. The event was as lacking in ceremony as the means by which many old members lost their seats.
Excitement and Romance.
We have passed through exciting times, and already possess in our archives enough material, humorous and pathetic, to make a very interesting document. Looking backward to less intensive times. I feel that pre-broadcasting days were even richer in romance.
Late in the summer of 1920, whilst en route to the Imperial Press Conference at Ottawa, I had charge of long distance telephone demonstrations in the North Atlantic, special stations bring placed for the purpose at Poldhu in Cornwall, St. Johns in Newfoundland, and on the C.P.O.S. Victorian, which ship was carrying the principal British and Dominions' delegates to the conference. On the second day out, when about 400 miles west of Ireland, I volunteered, in a weak moment, to deliver "verbally" to England any despatches which the several distinguished proprietors or editors might think fit to send. Twenty-three persons took the at my word!
A Great Feat.
The ship was riding light and I am a poor traveller. During such intervals as I was not hors de combat, we called Poldhu, but without avail.
I had practically given up hope when suddenly a quite unexpected sound rang in my ears. "Hullo, Burrows, old man, you appear to be in difficulties! Can I take your messages?" The voice was that of Captain Round, one of the mystery men of the war, whose wonderful wireless observations on the German feet were largely instrumental in bringing about the Battle of Jutland. Captain Round, although 300 miles more distant than Poldhu and almost 1,000 miles away, took the messages without error.
Still later on, one morning I was asked at a few minutes' notice to give a demonstration of reception to King Alfonso of Spain. We hastily fitted up a frame aerial and tuned on Chelmsford, which in those days had a wave-length of over 2,000 metres. It was explained to His Majesty that the frame aerial was directional in its receptive powers and that in turning away the edge of the frame from the direction in which the telephony was coming, the sounds would die away. So the aerial was swung—just at the moment when the Eiffel Tower was sending her time signals.
"Wonderful!" exclaimed His Majesty. "That way telephony; this way, telegraphy." But there was a twinkle in the royal eye; the King follows keenly all scientific development.
A few weeks before broadcasting officially commented, we spent the greater part of two days broadcasting details of the air race round Britain. In those days, the terms of the transmitting licence required a three-minute interval in every ten, lest our telephony might interfere with S.O.S. or other urgent messages. Next day, we received a letter couched as follows: "Thanks as much for the air race news. Thanks equally for the three.minute intervals. They enabled me to get to the kitchen to baste the joint for dimmer!"