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One Hundred Years of Maritime Radio

By W. D. Goodwin


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Published date:
First published 1995

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Bibliographic Notes

Radio was introduced to the maritime world in the 1890s and has since been responsible for the saving of thousands of lives. This account records the development of marine radio from the spark transmitter and coherer receiver to the introduction of valves, radiotelephony, solid state technology, radio telex and satellite communication. Ship stations need complementary shore stations and the British facilities are outlined.

Additionally radio technology has provided a means of establishing a ship's position. World War 1 saw the introduction of Radio Direction Finding. Radar was first installed aboard ships in World War 2 together with Hyperbolic Positioning Systems. Recently Satellite Navigation Systems have virtually made the sextant redundant.

Initially opposed by many ship owners as an unnecessary expense, the advantages of radio, not only in saving lives, but in providing weather reports, time signals, medical services and the efficient operation of shipping gradually became apparent. Successive legislation brought about by International Radio Conferences and SOLAS Conventions has ensured that vessels are adequately equipped. Communication facilities for passengers and crew and up-to-date news bulletins became standard.

"Sparks" became an essential member of a ship's crew making a valuable contribution to life at sea. Accounts of services rendered in peace and war are given and their devotion to duty has been shown to be exemplary. However with the introduction of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System embracing automatic warning systems and the abandonment of Morse their days appear to be numbered.