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sort-amounting to a monopoly in favour of one particular system-equally so whether cables or 'wireless' is concerned. The policy foreshadowed here appears to me, indeed, to constitute a distinct reversal of the altogether admirable policy of the same Government in the year 1907 regarding the International Radio-Telegraphic Convention. I refer to the policy of 'equality of opportunity' which I had the pleasure of strenuously advocating (for British systems generally) when giving independent evidence to the House of Commons Committee dealing with the subject. From the public standpoint there would have been the advantages of competition and comparison had the contract been split up among at any rate two vested interests.3
Moreover, there appears to be no provision in the agreement (though that is usual) to meet the contingency of an improved method being meanwhile devised by a rival inventor.
We live in an age of American Publicity Departments' for dealing with subjects in the literary columns of newspapers in place of the ordinary, straightforward advertisement. Many newspapers in this country have of late been well provided with such material in regard to this Imperial wireless scheme-often more or less in the same words. This booming' of 'wireless' has, indeed, seldom lacked extravagance at any time, and now shows signs of no diminution in outlay.*
In a recent article I read :
Submarine cables may be cut, as has just happened through the action of the Italian fleet in the Mediterranean, but the wireless service is immune from interruptions of this kind. It is also free from those weather disturbances which have such disastrous effects on overhead wires.
Shallow-water cables are, of course, cut in time of war, always will be. For this reason I have constantly argued in favour of deep-water cables in the open ocean, far removed from foreign waters and from trade routes such as the Mediterranean Sea; and it is on these grounds that I regard the Pacific route (approached from here by the Atlantic) so important for our communications with the rest of the Empire. Certainly wire
3 It cannot be suggested that the Marconi Company have any sole right in the matter; for, as already mentioned, I myself several years ago put forward such a scheme of Imperial wireless telegraphy-mainly for the simultaneous circulation of news throughout the Empire-as an auxiliary to the proposed All-British cable-chain.
The fertile imagination of the journalist has been hard at work lately. Thus, it becomes second nature to a man who builds up a great superstructure in sensational head-lines to describe in much detail how the closing piece played by the band on the sinking Titanic was Nearer, my God, to Thee.' We may next expect a head-line census of those who still find time, even under normally comfortable conditions, to say their prayers and go to church.
less antennae are not regarded by the enemy as a cable to be cut, but rather as something that forms a ready target for shooting down from a distance. The closing words of the above paragraph read very strangely immediately after one of the principal wireless towers has been completely swept away by a gale."
The writer goes on to remark: A good deal has been said and written about lack of speed on the part of wireless messages. As a matter of fact, however, as many words-about thirty per minute can be sent by the wireless agencies as by submarine cables, and the speed of the former is rapidly improving.'
The truth is that thirty words per minute is about the maximum speed by hand transmission, but long and busy cables-such as those across the Atlantic-are worked automatically at a speed of some fifty words a minute each way simultaneously, amounting practically in effect to 100 words per minute. Further, if traffic conditions warranted it, by means of a larger insulated conductor far higher speeds could be achieved-more or less closely approaching that on a land line.
Thus, wireless' flashing '-as the wireless' write-ups' usually like to express it-is, comparatively speaking, often rather a ponderous flashing; but so insistent has been the booming of wireless telegraphy lately at the expense of cables that the ordinary public might well imagine the latter were things of the past. A visit to a large cable-factory would, however, usually serve to correct that false impression.
CABLE AND WIRELESS ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
We have now arrived at a stage when we may dispassionately review the respective merits and demerits of cable and wireless telegraphy, that being, indeed, the main purpose of this article.
Sureness.-The Postmaster-General was at some pains to point to the prospects of the proposed Atlantic cable being interrupted. On the other hand, he did not appear correspondingly to contemplate the possibility of interruption to the Imperial wireless system; and it may, perhaps, be asked whether wireless' has shown itself to be less prone to interruption than cables. Further, when interrupted, is a wireless telegraphy system more speedily reinstated than a cable? So far as can be seen the reply is likely to be in the negative in both respects; for, quite recently (as was remarked earlier), the wireless station at Nauen collapsed
The degree of knowledge of the writer may be gathered from the sentence, A submarine cable cannot be laid over any great distance for less than half a million sterling.' Apparently the author imagines there is merely an indirect connection in the cost of a cable with its construction, and that the question of length is only roughly connected with this cost.
• The All-British Pacific Cable has only had one brief interruption, and that after a number of years' work.
during a gale at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds; and it has already been officially announced that the said station will not be again available for work for at least six months. Moreover, it took upwards of a year to reinstate the Marconi transatlantic station at Glace Bay. On the other hand, the repair of a cable occupies more usually something in the neighbourhood of a fortnight, while its behaviour is at any rate independent of gales.
From the strictly strategic point of view any system of wireless telegraphy should obviously have certain advantages over a cable. These advantages have, at first sight, naturally appealed to the Navy, for by wireless' the Admiralty is put into possession of a means of direct and speedy communication with outlying fleetsi.e. with the ships themselves instead of with the cable station in their more or less immediate vicinity. This, however, is on the supposition of reliability; and before altogether settling which is likely to be the more valuable in time of trouble, it will be well to consider closely (a) which is the more vulnerable to attack, and (b) which is the more readily, or seriously, affected by weather and atmospheric conditions.
Secrecy. As in the case of a letter conveyed by a third party, one of the requirements of telegraphic communication is secrecy. In this respect the cable obviously has the advantage. To illustrate the difference, indeed, I would remark on the constant reminders I receive that if the order of the two inventions had been reversed, the cable would have been regarded in the same wonderful light as that in which we all regard wireless 'coming as a boon, in fact, for confining the path of our messages direct to the individuals for whom they are intended. For purposes of analogy-but without straining the point too far-the protected (secret) message may be likened to Protection, while the free and open character of wireless telegraphy may be considered as corresponding to Free Trade. It is sometimes suggested that the use of a secret code meets all objections under this head; but, as I have already stated, the secrecy provided by codes cannot suitably be relied upon; moreover, in my opinion, wireless' has not so far reached a sufficient degree of efficiency to render it adapted to code work. I should add, however, that we can only consider things as they are to-day; and whether what I have stated will equally apply in the future is, needless to say, another question entirely.
Meanwhile, the adoption of different wave-lengths—even if it met the requirements of secrecy-would seem to have certain limitations. If, in fact, wireless telegraphy is to be enormously extended, with stations at constant intervals round our coasts, difficulties seem likely to arise.
* There are devices for obviating the necessity of high masts or towers, but these do not appear to have been turned to material practical account so far.
Speed. The cable is certainly at an advantage in the matter of working speed, though that with 'wireless' has all along been a gradually increasing figure-as with the cable. The above remarks have relation to what may be termed the gross speed; but those of us who are concerned with observing what is going on in wireless' as with cables, know the vast difference in the two services on account of the numerous repetitions found necessary in wireless '-even in plain-language messages.
Accuracy. Here, again, at the present time the cable is at a great advantage.
Disturbance and Interruption.-It is not an easy or a speedy matter to tap or cut a cable-or interrupt a message passing through it-if the said cable is laid in deep water. On the other hand, to disturb or interrupt or pick up a wireless message is a comparatively simple business: indeed, practically all the 'wireless' that is carried on may be said to be under unofficial observation daily. Thus, when it has been boasted that wireless' is a secret method of telegraphy, the opposite has been proved. Moreover, when it has been boasted that wireless' cannot be interrupted, that has been disproved. This was notably the case during a famous lecture on wireless telegraphy of some years ago, when the word 'RATS' came through on the receiving instrument (sent by an interrupter, who was forthwith termed a scientific hooligan') in place of the message that should have been received!
Another objection to wireless' as distinct from cable telegraphy rests in the fact that anyone having the requisite knowledge and facilities is in a position to send out messages without their source being readily detected-as was recently the case in the original false reports regarding the Titanic. It may be added, in passing, that the wireless' experiences connected with the Titanic tragedy, though certainly serving again to remind us of the great benefits of wireless telegraphy, have not altogether tended to greater confidence in that method of communication as compared with cable telegraphy.
The Titanic was surrounded by several ships, all within a more or less ordinary 'wireless' range; yet only some of these were in communication with that unfortunate vessel. Why was this? The answer is: (a) that some were not in any way equipped with wireless' apparatus; (b) that the power available on others was insufficient; (c) that in other cases the operator was off duty and without any understudy to look out for the very simple distress signal; (d) that in some instances, the installation. being on a different system, communication was denied. If a certain tramp-steamer, close by, had had a wireless equipment on board, it is highly probable that the entire ship's company—
1635 souls-would have been spared us instead of 705. This, however, is on the supposition of there being no difficulty about, or objection to, intercommunication.
Those that were saved certainly owe their lives to wireless telegraphy and the Marconi Company in particular. On the other hand, it will be perfectly obvious to anyone who has followed up the matter closely that maritime wireless telegraphy, as an orderly and reliable service, compares, at present, very poorly with the service afforded by a cable. At the present time, what messages shall be sent or received appears to rest with the operator, independently of what is possible or of the captain's instructions. Seeing, too, that there is usually only one man on board who is conversant with the apparatus, it also depends upon whether he happens to be on duty or otherwise. As things stand at the moment, it is open to this operator to turn to personal account-with the Press or otherwise- anything in the way of news or information that he gleans during the working of his instrument. Again, there is evidence of considerable delay and interruption-and, indeed, interception of-messages. For instance, a Marconigram' sent by Mr. Bruce Ismay on the Carpathia was intercepted by the United States cruiser Chester, the contents being communicated to headquarters at Washington. Further, in the matter of delay, the same gentleman sent a wireless message from the said ship on the 15th of April which was only received in Canada on the 17th of April. At other times there has been evidence of a perfect Babel of wireless telegraphy; and, altogether, a cable service worked under such conditions as the above would, I think, call for a good deal of comment. It is to be hoped, indeed, that wireless communication between ships, and between ship and shore, will be got under more satisfactory control and regulations in the general public interest, if it is to be of full value for saving life and property at sea. Possibly the Titanic Inquiry and the forthcoming International Telegraphic Conference may serve to bring this about. I trust so; for it is now some time since I urged on the Board of Trade that wireless telegraphy should be rendered obligatory for ships, under regulations that would certainly have obviated the sad experiences of this ill-fated vessel. To my mind, it is preposterous that one wireless system, though perfectly capable of communicating with another, should be in a position to refuse to do so; and certainly a continuous watch should be provided, subject to the Captain's direct control. Wireless' on board ship should, indeed, be recognised and regulated for with a view to the
Major Archer-Shee recently asked a question in the House of Commons in regard to these irregularities, whereupon the Postmaster-General frankly admitted that certain confusion had arisen.