The First Electronic Church of America
The Electronic Era
When? Where? Who? How? Why?
The EE didn't begin when Ben Franklin made a "key" electrical
connection while flying his kite in that famous thunderstorm in 1752.
No, not when Samuel Morse invented the electric telegraph in 1832. Nor when James Clerk Maxwell explained the theory of wireless communication with his papers on electromagnetism around 1850.
We're almost there in 1888, when 30 year-old Heinrich Hertz- teaching a physics class in Germany- demonstrates Maxwell's wireless communication theories by successfully sending a spark from a transmitter in one corner of the room to a receiver in the opposite corner, without the use of any wire or physical connection.
When a curious pupil asked professor Hertz if these electromagnetic waves could be of any practical use, he answered: "None whatsoever. It's simply an interesting laboratory experiment which proves that Maxwell was right. I don't see any useful purpose for this mysterious, invisible electromagnetic energy."
Poor Heinrich; a prophet he wasn't. One year after his untimely death in 1894 (at only 36), he was proven quite wrong.
May 7, 1895, was to become the birth day of the ELECTRONIC ERA. On that historic date, the first wireless telegraph message was successfully transmitted, received, and deciphered. Russian scientist Aleksander Stepanovich Poppov sent a message from a Russian Navy ship 30 miles out to sea, all the way to his lab in St. Petersburg, Russia.
It was an incredible feat, but the world wasn't told. The Russian Navy's desire to monopolize this powerful technology prompted them to seal off any news of it. They immediately declared Poppov's fantastic accomplishment top secret. Poor Poppov. Any chance for world fame was off by his government.
It was too big to keep secret for long. Soon, word got out about the "Russian Miracle." Everybody was talking about how the Russians could communicate over great distances with wireless telegraphy using "Hertzian Waves."
That same year, a young (only 22!) genius in Italy named Guglielmo Marchese Marconi, would also impact history. Using a Hertz oscillator, with an antenna and receiver similar to Poppov's, Marconi also successfully transmitted and received a wireless message at his father's villa in Bologna.
Marconi foresaw great commercial value in this "mysterious, invisible electromagnetic energy." He established companies in England, then the United States, eventually proving first to the military, then to the world, that messages could be sent even over the curve of the horizon, ship to ship, continent to continent.
His inventive adaptations of the electromagnetic communication would save lives, and propel him to great fame and wealth. When the Titanic sank in 1912, a boat with a Marconi transmitter sent an S.O.S. to the Marconi offices in New York; it was then relayed to other ships in the vicinity. An estimated 800 lives were saved by Marconi's genius.
A young Russian immigrant named David Sarnoff was on duty that fateful night. He instantly became famous, and was promoted to Junior Executive in the very successful North American Marconi Wireless Communications Company.
In 1916, Sarnoff memoed Marconi with a brilliant suggestion that more than private messages could be sent from point to point. The same technology could be used to transmit music and information; and it could be profitable. Money could also be made by building and selling "music boxes" which people would want, and buy for their homes. It proved to be a very brilliant suggestion. Sarnoff had come up with the concept of Radio Broadcasting!
From radio, to recordings, to movies, to television, to computers, to CDs, CD ROMs & the Internet... it's history still in the making. From it's beginning - almost simultaneously - in Russia, with Poppov; and in Italy, with Marconi, the ELECTRONIC ERA has been, and continuous to be, a period of startling discoveries and phenomenal developments.
May 7, 1997 marks year 102 of the ELECTRONIC ERA.