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Meissner’s generator of electrical waves: On the history of an artifact

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1 Author(s)
Blumtritt, O. ; Deutsches Museum, Munich

Alexander Meissner, an engineer at the laboratory of the Telefunken Company, prepared a patent application with regard to a 'set for generating electric oscillations' early in 1913. The history of this set, which was realized with a Lieben valve in the same year, will be investigated from its invention process over its role in the production of transmitters and receivers up to its display in the exhibits of the Deutsches Museum. Stories about the invention and development of feedback effects or regeneration circuits with valves have been told in different ways, mostly referring to the question of priority. Contributions of Armstrong, Meissner, Langmuir, de Forest, and others have been analyzed in this context, as well as the infringement processes, which were eventually decided - at least in the U.S.A. - in favor of Edwin H. Armstrong. However, the inclusion of national diversities in the research style, different technological and economic preconditions, various visions of the development of wireless technologies, and so on makes the stories a bit more complex and leads to new historical questions. Tracing the history of a specific object, the Meissner generator, helps to reveal various connections and contexts and, consequently, to find similarities and differences in the development of the early wireless technologies. For instance, Meissner's background in both engineering and physics refers to the problem of research cultures which also influenced visions of the importance of continuous-wave technologies. Although there had been obvious constraints as regards the possible output of valve transmitters, engineers and scientists dealt with them differently. The competition on both economic and political levels reinforced the differences in the evaluation of the utilization of valve circuits, especially on the transmitter side. This is also applicable to the dealing with the artifacts by historians and curators. The various historical interpretations and forms of- - displaying a feedback amplifier will provide us with new criteria in order to reflect on our approaches and, eventually, re-evaluate the meaning of high-frequency generators.

Published in:

History of Telecommunications Conference, 2008. HISTELCON 2008. IEEE

Date of Conference:

11-12 Sept. 2008