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I was recently with our service provider division in Hyannis, and had a little bit of time for some sightseeing on the Cape Cod coast. I didn’t know this before I arrived, but Cape Cod was one of the first places on Earth to have a wireless transmitter station. In 1903, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi established wireless stations at Wellfleet, MA, USA; Cape Race, Nova Scotia, Canada; and Poldhu, Cornwall, UK. So I stood on the site of the Wellfleet wireless station, which sent the first ever transatlantic wireless message, which was an exchange of greetings between President Roosevelt and King Edward VII, sent of course in Morse Code.
This marked the start of a new era of communication, since transatlantic communications had already been possible (via undersea cables) for perhaps 20 years before that point. But of course wireless meant also that ship-to-shore communication was possible, as well as between fixed sites. Interestingly, these wireless stations are part of the RMS Titanic tragedy in 1912, since the ship was in contact with Cape Race in the hours before it struck the iceberg and sank. Radio was then an innovation on ships, and was very much used for routing messages from the passengers. The sinking of the Titanic was one of the events that helped people to see that there was a safety aspect to radio systems also.
Now of course we take these wireless links for granted, and when I switch on my mobile phone in Cape Cod, there is a rapid transatlantic exchange of messages with my cellco’s Home Location Register that authorizes my phone to work in the USA. It’s transparent to us, and we never think about it anymore.
The Marconi station closed in 1920 (by which time many commercial wireless services existed), and today it has quite literally fallen into the sea, but there are some small pieces of evidence there of the birth of the wireless industry. I like to think that the innovation started at Wellfleet is still going strong in Cape Cod and in Dialogic. Looking out across the blue Atlantic, it felt anyhow like there was some kind of connection across the century.