Thursday, January 05, 2006

Fessenden Festival in Scotland - Finally!

This lump of concrete stands near Machrihanish (The Pans), a small village situated on the Kintyre Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. Its all that remains of a 450 foot radio mast used to receive the world’s first voice transmissions across the Atlantic. Whilst Marconi had succeeded with Morse Code transmissions via wireless, the Canadian scientist Reginald Fessenden is credited with being the first to broadcast the human voice. In fact, the first transmission across the Atlantic consisted of a reading from the Bible and Fessenden playing Holy Night on his violin. I suppose the wireless telegraphy operators in Scotland had been expecting something a bit different. Fessenden was the son of a protestant preacher, so his choice of programming is perhaps not quite so surprising.

Local radio operators in this beautiful part of Argyllshire have decided that this important milestone in broadcasting needs to be commemorated. They have plans to reactivate the original site with a special amateur radio station in the next few days. On the broadcast side, a link is being planned between Argyll FM and local commercial radio station WATD near Brant Rock Massachussetts, USA, the site of the original broadcast. The local authority plans to put a permanent memorial up at the site. In the meantime, some commemorative buttons and notepads have been created on the CafePress service. It is great that Fessenden is finally getting the credit he deserves.

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