Skip to Main Content
The year 2000 was the 100th anniversary of the transmission of the first voice over radio. On December 23, 1900, Prof. Reginald Aubrey Fessenden after a number of unsuccessful tries - transmitted "words without wires" over a distance of 1600 m, between twin aerial systems employing 15 m masts, located on Cobb Island, Maryland. The quality of the received wireless-telephony transmission was reported to be perfectly intelligible, but the speech was accompanied by an extremely loud, disagreeable noise, due to the irregularity of the spark. Spark? Yes. Fessenden had not yet developed a method to generate continuous waves. The sender was a spark transmitter, operating at 10,000 sparks/second, with an asbestos-covered carbon microphone inserted in the antenna lead. In spite of the primitive apparatus-used, the poor quality of the transmission, and the short distance, intelligible speech had been transmitted by electromagnetic waves for the first time in the history of wireless. Who was Fessenden? The purpose of this paper is to touch upon his life's history, and to give some detail of his accomplishments. However, the paper begins with an account of the birth of radio, so that the reader can appreciate Fessenden's place in history.