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Signor Marconi's Magic Box: The invention that sparked the radio revolution (Text Only)
 
 

Signor Marconi's Magic Box: The invention that sparked the radio revolution (Text Only) [Kindle Edition]

Gavin Weightman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Review

‘Gavin Weightman brings alive the excitement and uncertainty of the early wireless experiments. His book cannot fail to spark the imagination of anyone wishing to comprehend the magnitude of the revolution brought about by wireless. It is an excellent read' New Scientist
'A fascinating story set in a fascinating period' Sunday Tribune (Dublin)
'Gavin Weightman's impeccably researched book is far more than a fact-led shunt through the Marconi story. His prose shimmers with the kind of romance that, in the mobile phone age, is quite difficult to grasp. But what a lovely story! An unassuming young chap confronts and defies the finest scientific minds in the world. It is pleasing to report that the cinematic aspect of this tale comes gloriously alive within Weightman's evocative, vividly detailed writing. Utterly captivating and, even for techno-dunces like myself, wholly illuminating' Manchester Evening News
'Fascinating…I strongly recommend this book, [and] salute Gavin Weightman for his lucid account of the radio revolution' Trevor Baylis, Daily Mail

Product Description

The intriguing story of how wireless was invented by Guglielmo Marconi – and how it amused Queen Victoria, saved the lives of the Titanic survivors, tracked down criminals and began the radio revolution.

Wireless was the most fabulous invention of the 19th century: the public thought it was magic, the popular newspapers regarded it as miraculous, and the leading scientists of the day (in Europe and America) could not understand how it worked. In 1897, when the first wireless station was established by Marconi in a few rooms of the Royal Needles Hotel on the Isle of Wight, nobody knew how far these invisible waves could travel through the ‘ether’, carrying Morse Coded messages decipherable at a receiving station. (The definitive answer was not discovered till the 1920s, by which time radio had become a sophisticated industry filling the airwaves with a cacaphony of sounds – most of it American.)

Note that it has not been possible to include the same picture content that appeared in the original print version.
Marconi himself was the son of an Italian father and an Irish mother (from the Jameson whiskey family); he grew up in Italy and was fluent in Italian and English, but it was in England that his invention first caught on. Marconi was in his early twenties at the time (he died in 1937). With the ‘new telegraphy’ came the real prospect of replacing the network of telegraphic cables that criss-crossed land and sea at colossal expense. Initially it was the great ships that benefited from the new invention – including the Titanic, whose survivors owed their lives to the wireless.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1488 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (29 Mar 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007JE8FTI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #423,271 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No wires, and not many explanations... 12 Mar 2006
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is well-paced and easy to read. The fact that it makes no technical demands on the reader is, though, a very definite weakness.
Marconi worked extremely hard throughout his life, though it is never made particularly clear what precisely he was doing. What were the experiments that he was carrying out? What were the components that he was developing and using? What were the universities and other research organisations doing to try and emulate or understand his work?
In the early part of the book, we are told how very slow it was to transmit a single character by wireless telegraphy. Towards the end, Marconi operators - working much quicker than their military and other peers - were transmitting tens of words a minute. So early problems must have been overcome and the technology developed in some key areas. But it is not made clear what precisely those developments were. Nowhere in the book is there a diagram of the components of a Marconi system and the way in which they interacted; nowhere is there even the hint of an explanation of the reason why spark transmitters produced the "Hertzian waves" which are often referred to.
The last twenty years of Marconi's life is covered very quickly. Since the story ends with his death, we are left with a number of unanswered questions. The point is made, for example, that his Italian home - now a museum to his memory, and the place of his burial - has a lump of twisted metal in the garden, all that is left of the steam yacht on which he spent a lot of time in later life, partly because it was equipped as a laboratory. But what did he actually do on the yacht? And what happened to it? As with so many things in the Marconi story, we are left none the wiser.
I do not regret reading this book, for what is here is good. But I was frustrated by the glaring technical and other omissions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feasting on Macaroni 2 Mar 2004
Format:Paperback
As a fully paid-up "grumpy old man" I should not find books as compelling as Signor Marconi's Magic Box. Within a few pages, Weightman immerses us in the fast-moving pace of the true life race for supremacy in wireless telegraphy and radio broadcasting. He skifully interveaves the technical challenges, business intrigue and family demands, which failed to divert Marconi from his single-minded quest to provide a reliable trans-Atlantic service and dominate marine radio. We live the thrills of Queen Victoria sending, perhaps, the first text messages from Osborne House to the Royal Yacht in the Solent, the first messages between England and North America and the untimely death of the Marconis' first child. However, we are not allowed to pause for breath as we travel the roller-coaster of contemporary, historical and competitive infuences on the work of Marconi. And yet, Marconi remained a relatively uneducated enthusiastic amateur, who never really understood why his magic boxes worked. With little time for his wife and family, Marconi still found time for adulation and adultery on opulant trans-Atlantic liners. As ever, Gavin Weightman has researched the subject in depth, whilst generously acknowledging those who have freely provided him with source material. Don't fail to read this gripping story of Marconi, the man who laid the major building blocks for radio broadcasting, reality television and soap operas.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating story, and well told. The sense of wonder and amazement aroused in people when they saw that the seemingly impossible was now possible is well presented. The fact that one of the principal characters, Sir Oliver Lodge, was a disciple of Spiritualism is skilfully deployed to highlight just how mystified people were - if you accepted one, then why not the other ? Marconi, by his own admission, did not understand the science ( very few did at the time ) yet he was able to turn a laboratory curiosity into a hugely successful business, despite epic skulduggery from other wireless developers and the cable companies. A remarkable man, and a remarkable story.

There is no science at all in this book, which may be a relief for some, but I found the omission irritating. It's as though the author is saying to himself, "Science is hard and only for geeks, and it's not all that important, so let's leave it out". But it seems to me that a large part of the target audience would know about inductance and capacitance and wavelength and watts and stuff like that. Just a footnote now and then to outline the problems and the solutions Marconi & his team came up with would have been very welcome, instead of the "he worked hard and he fixed it" approach taken.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The birth of wireless - and the celebrity! 30 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A well-written book that traces Marconi's life - and the work of his supporters and rivals in the very early days of wireless. I hadn't realised how much went on by others to try to copy, or to out-do, his inventions and achievements. Much of this led to patents, patent infringements, court cases and permanent stalemates - such as the refusal of Germany to use the Marconi system. But because of his successes, and the efforts of the adoring press, he was feted everywhere he went, earned huge sums of money, but remained a rather retiring and very effective inventor. All of this led to a rather sorry domestic life.

My only criticism of the book is that, at least for my interests, it is short on technical detail - no diagrams, few photos of actual equipment. But in all other respects, yes, a good and very informative read.
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