Crystal radio using cat’s whisker technology
Another late entry for InMon! When will I learn? Anyway, from this week’s list of words, ‘written radio’ grabbed my imagination.
(‘Bertie’ was the name his friends and family called H G Wells)
There was a gentle tap on the door of Smythe’s workshop.
“You in there, Sam?”
“Yes, come on in. You’re just in time.”
Sam indicated a knot of electrical wiring and other pieces of equipment on his bench.
Joshua knew he need not ask …
“I’ve been interested in this radio phenomenon for a while, and I think it has great potential.”
Joshua nodded, technology wasn’t really his forte.
Sam continued, “The work of that chap Morse in the United States fascinates me. Listen.”
He held up the headphones and Joshua put them to his ear.
“All I hear is blips, Sam. It is meaningless.”
“They are not just ordinary blips, there are short ones and long ones – it is a code – and messages are being sent – it is transmitted information.”
“I can’t see there is a future in it.”
“But what about this, Joshua … ?” Sam twiddled and adjusted the tiny wire touching the small piece of crystal, “ … listen again!”
Joshua held the apparatus to his ear.
“Tell me what you hear!” Sam was almost bursting with excitement..
“Just crackling …” Sam fiddle again with the device he called a cat’s whisker.
“Now what can you hear?”
“Is it a voice? It’s got a strange tone – and it’s not a language I recognise.” Joshua was non-plussed with the whole thing. All this was playing with dangerous, new fangled, electricity. The stuff was unpredictable – you couldn’t see it, unless it was leaping across the bench as a blue flash; you couldn’t smell it, until it set fire to Sam’s wires. At least you knew what was going on with gas lamps and candles.
“That’s just it!” Sam was waving his arms about – he was about to launch himself in to another project that would cost Joshua dearly. “I don’t know where the voice is coming from. Nobody is transmitting anything other than the telegraph signals!”
Joshua was getting a vague interest now there was some mystery mixed in.
Sam continued, “Oh, I’m sure it will happen in time – but there is years of research needed yet.”
“Right, let’s keep it logical.” Joshua tried to keep the matter grounded, “Who is likely to want to get ahead of the Americans?”
“Well, I know the Tzar has a whole range of scientists at work – but the voice is not Russian.”
“Pretty much likely to be them, I reckon.” Joshua looked smug, and rocked on his heels as he lit his bent briar.
“But …” Sam gave a dramatic pause, “ … what if Bertie Wells’ story about Martians isn’t a work of fiction – what if he was trying to warn us? These blighters would have technology far superior to ours.”
“No! We must locate the source of these emanations! It is of national importance, Joshua! I need your assistance, and that of your colleagues at the Ministry!”
Joshua hid his face in his hands – here we go again, he thought.
© 2016, K Patrick Moody