Radio waves were first identified at the end of the 1800's but it was Marconi that turned

them from a scientific curiosity into a commercial success. The first transmitters simply

consisted of a very powerful spark generator connected to an aerial. This system generated

a signal similar to that produced by lightning. It was used to transmit Morse code, a series

of dots and dashes that represented numbers & letters of the alphabet. With the development

of the valve, a single frequency waveform could be transmitted, rather that the wideband

signal generated by a spark. This signal could be then be modulated with an audio signal

allowing speech and music to be sent.

The first commercial radio stations appeared in the early 1920's. Many of the first wireless

sets were made by amateurs due to the high cost of commercial sets. Many early engineering

and wireless hobbies magazines carried plans for building your own sets and due to the

simplicity of these early sets construction was well within the capability of DIY enthusiasts

of the day. Crystal sets were very popular even though they could only drive a pair of

headphones. They used no batteries (which were very expensive in those days) deriving their

power directly from the aerial. They could be made with only a few simple components and a

piece of crystal (Galena) that was capable of rectifying or changing the high frequency

radio waves into the audio component of the signal that could be heard on the headphones.

The Vintage Radio Room has exhibits that cover the whole spectrum of early radio up to the

1950's together with photographic and household electrical items.

The first experimental television station appeared in the 1930's, using the Baird 30 line

mechanical apparatus. Baird continued with his experiments when in 1935/36 two standards

were transmitted, one the Baird 240 line and the other the Marconi 405 line. Due to an

unfortunate fire and the more advanced Marconi system, the Baird one was dropped and the

Marconi system became the black and white standard adopted until colour arrived. The

museum has a rare and unusual 1936 receiver that could be switched between the 240 line

baird and the 405 line marconi. It is in working condition but of course there are no

commercial stations now transmitting those signals.

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