1st Transatlantic Shortwave Broadcast Commemorated
Posted on 20th December 2016 at 16:55
December 1921 was when the first broadcast was made.
Some 95 years after Ardrossan in Scotland and the US were first connected by a shortwave broadcast, a commemorative broadcast has been exchanged between the Radio Society of Great Britain and the American Radio Relay League and the Radio Club of America.
The first-ever transatlantic shortwave broadcast is celebrated for helping to pioneer global communications, with both modern and historical equipment used to recreate the broadcasts, the BBC reports.
One of the radio amateurs involved in the recreation of the pioneering broadcast, Tom Gallagher, explained that the technology we've come to take for granted these days directly descends from groundbreaking work from nearly 100 years ago. He noted that smartphones are now the most powerful communication devices ever, with three separate receivers and transmitters that are all wireless technology - cellular, bluetooth and wifi.
You might well think that because of smartphones, amateur radio would have fallen out of use but this certainly isn't the case. Tim Peake, for example, made use of this technology to communicate live with schools across the country in order to engage students with science.
The Radio Society of Great Britain's Len Paget was quoted by the news source as saying: “The frequencies used for the transmission were thought at the time to be useless for long distance communications and were given to radio experimenters as they were thought to have little or no commercial value. The success of these experiment showed that transatlantic transmissions could be achieved using shortwave frequencies with a power equivalent to that used by your toaster in the kitchen.”
He went on to explain that the tests back in December 1921 proved that communication could be achieved on a global basis using short wave, which the BBC World Service would come to rely heavily on come 1932 when it was launched.
This kind of radio transmission uses shortwave frequencies just above the medium wave AM broadcast band. The radio waves in this band are reflected or refracted from a layer of atoms that have been electrically charged. They are directed at an angle into the sky and are reflected back at great distances, known as skywave... as such, shortwave radio can be used to facilitate very long distance communication.
It can be used for broadcasting to shortwave listeners over large areas (even entire continents!) and is also used for two-way international communication, diplomatic communication and military over the horizon radar.
Shortwave still has a number of advantages over newer technologies, such as making it hard to censor programming by governments in certain countries. For example, while the Russian coup against President Mikhail Gorbachev was going on and he was having trouble staying connected because of limited access to communications, he kept himself informed by using the BBC World Service on shortwave.
In addition, shortwave is less prone to interference from the weather than medium wave radio so is widely used in tropical regions for domestic broadcasting. And in actual fact, not much is required to enable long-distance two-way communications if using shortwave radio. All you need is two transceivers with an antenna each and a battery or a portable generator - which makes it one of the strongest means of communications still available today.
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