Enrico Marconi


QUESTION:  What is one meaning derived from the word "radius," from which the word radio comes, in its original Latin?
A). Tall grass
B). Beam of light
C). Communicate
D). High tower

Radio today is completely unlike its predecessor a mere one hundred years ago. Back then, signals were weak and the transmitters were not especially impressive. They had poor sound quality at best - many people listened to them through headphones since speakers were pretty horrible.  There was certainly no music on them and no entertainment to speak of, really. Today, of course, radio is everywhere. You can listen to it over the airwaves or in smart devices, with or without commercials.  There is talk radio, news radio, and of course there are stations that play music: pop, rhythm and blues, country, rock 'n roll, rap, classical, jazz, world, you name it and there's a station out there playing it.  But it all had to start somewhere.

What makes telling the story of radio challenging is that no one person can be given complete credit for its development.  It took decades of experimentation during the nineteenth century by people whose names have been absorbed into the modern vocabulary of technology before there was such a thing as radio:  Hertz, Watt, and Volta were just three.  Eventually, though, wireless transmissions were successfully sent over the airwaves. Enrico Marconi's name has become deservedly and indelibly linked to that major accomplishment, but so is that of Nikola Tesla - two great innovators of their day, but only one of them also an accomplished marketer. 

So, why is the American Treasure Tour blog talking about radio, when we are best known for our automatic music collection?  It has to do with a new addition to our happy family - the John O'Malley Collection of Radios.  Join us over the next few days as we talk about some of the wonderful new pieces you can see in our Music Room, brought to us from the family of Mr. O'Malley, whose life work of assembling together this wonderful array of radios dating between the 1930's and the '50's is now permanently a part of the Treasure Tour.

ANSWER:  B). Beam of light.  


QUESTION:  BY what other name is Excaliber referred in the legend of King Arthur?
A). The Sword in the Stone
B). Caliburn
C). Blue Steel
D). Monmouth

Having spent a week honoring the women associated with the legend of King Arthur, it stands to reason that we would dedicate a blog entry to the sword given to Arthur by the Lady in the Lake, Excaliber. Although it definitely stands to reason, it is not exactly the same Excaliber we will talk about today. Today's Excaliber is a remote control drag racing car. Anyone with any appreciation for video games and electronics has to love the idea of remote control. The American Treasure Tour has a wonderful collection of remote control airplanes suspended from our ceiling. We also have remote control cars, including the Excaliber that inspires this blog. One thing we do not have displayed is a remote control boat, which is notable because the first remote control device ever demonstrated was a boat.

The year was 1898.  Technological advances were rapidly changing the world. Edison had harnessed electricity and had already begun wiring houses with lighting. Automobiles were on the road, competing with horse-drawn carriages to get from place to place. And a man named Nikola Tesla was experimenting with things most people couldn't even fathom at the time. One such item was remote control. His understanding of radio waves was way ahead of his time (some scholars argue that he beat Enrico Marconi to wireless radio communication, but the bottom line is that Marconi was more efficient at marketing than Tesla so, true or not, Tesla definitely lost that race). He created a tiny radio transmitter that could receive exactly one frequency. He attached it to a model boat and demonstrated it at Madison Square Garden. His remote control box had a lever and a telegraph key (normally used to convey Morse Code) to send a signal to the boat and control the propeller and rudder and make the boat go. Like so many of Tesla's amazing innovations, it was not a huge success during his lifetime, but it would continue to be worked on. For example, the German military used remote control technology during World War I to steer boats filled with explosives into enemy ships.  Check in next week for more on this fascinating - and highly fun - form of technology.

ANSWER:  B). Caliburn.  The word is a Welsh composite of the words for "hard" and "breach."  Although some storytellers have accidentally confused Excaliber with the Sword in the Stone, they are widely considered different weapons that King Arthur had at different times in his life.