Wednesday, March 4, 2009
The Electrical Experimenter
In May of 1913, Hugo Gernsback, a well-known patron of wireless education and experimentation, began publishing The Electrical Experimenter magazine. This was a fantastic collection of articles about topics on electricity, magnetism, wireless technology, and telegraphy.
Electrical technologies were in their infancy and wireless had just come into being. These technologies were exciting, but, until Gernsback started The Electrical Experimenter, little information about them was available to the common person. All of a sudden, for an annual subscription price of 50 cents, anyone could purchase the key to a treasure chest of information about electricity, magnetism, and wireless technologies--and all kinds of people, young and old, became inspired to try their hands at experimentation.
Readers loved that The Electrical Experimenter was prolifically illustrated with drawings and photos of apparatus that they could build at home, and many sent Gernsback descriptions and drawings of their own home-built experimental apparatus, which he then published in The Electrical Experimenter for others to try.
One of the greatest contributions of The Electrical Experimenter was its effect on public awareness of, and experimentation with, wireless. The Titanic had gone down on April 15, 1912. As the world followed news accounts of this disaster, vast numbers of people became aware that wireless communication was responsible for the rescue of the Titanic survivors: messages had been sent point to point between the Titanic and the Carpathia using a system hardly known to most people. Ordinary people in all walks of life became very curious about what wireless was and how it worked.
Gernsback answered the call for information about the new, lifesaving, technology of wireless with his publication of the first issue of The Electrical Experimenter. The first page of the first issue of the new magazine was devoted to "A Treatise on Wireless Telegraphy," the first of a series in which Gernsback explained the history and development of the science of wireless. This subject remained a major point of interest throughout the publication of The Electrical Experimenter. To supply his readers with parts and equipment that they could use to build their own wireless stations, Gernsback established his Electro Importing Company, which offered "Everything for the Experimenter."
Thus Gernsback sparked the development of an entire amateur radio-building industry of publications and suppliers to a growing number of wireless enthusiasts. In World War I, many of his younger readers served in the field as wireless operators. By World War II, as a result of what Gernsback started, the U.S. Army Signal Corps. had a ready supply of wireless operators who had trained themselves in the essentials of wireless communication. And, of course, many young subscribers to The Electrical Experimenter went on to become the nation's communications engineers. Hugo Gernsback's publication of The Electrical Experimenter had become a major contributor to the technological superiority of the United States.
Here at PV Scientific Instruments, we are now offering reprints of early issues of Gernsback's The Electrical Experimenter, starting with a complete set of the first two-and-a-half years of its publication. We are also offering a compilation of Gernsback's best articles on wireless written between May of 1913 and October of 1915. We are certain that today's readers will enjoy and learn from The Electrical Experimenter every bit as much as those first Gernsback fans of nearly 100 years ago.