In a remote region of Ireland last week I happened upon a monument to Guglielmo Marconi's first commercial wireless transmission: between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle in North Antrim on July 6th. 1898.
The experiments that led to that first communication were performed at the behest of Lloyds of London, who wanted a better means of ship-to-shore communications than semaphores, which aren't much use off foggy coastlines. RF communication has clear advantages.
Truth be told, it wasn't actually Marconi who carried out the experiments. They were instead carried out by his assistant George Kemp, aided by Edward Glanville, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. Read more here. Two weeks after the successful communication, Glanville stumbled to his death off a cliff on Rathlin Island and it wasn't until late August that Marconi finally visited, for four days.
But hey, it's Ireland, where the truth never gets in the way of a good story, so Ballycastle and Marconi will forever be connected.
Juxtaposition of old and new: the site of Marconi's first commercial wireless transmission in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland.
Marconi's Irish ties don't end there. He'll also be tied to Clifden, County Galway, from where the first commercial transatlantic wireless transmission was sent (to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia on Oct. 17th. 1907).
Turns out that wireless wasn't Marconi's only connection to Ireland. His mother was Annie Jameson, granddaughter of the founder of the Jameson whiskey distillery. Strange world, isn't it?
Anyway, so there I am in Ballycastle, Blackberry in hand, at the site of one of the seminal moments in wireless communication and I just had to send an email to someone. So I did.
I don't think that email will enter the annals of Ballycastle history, but after a day of visiting Dunluce Castle and the Giant's Causeway, and traversing the Carrick-A-Reide rope bridge (in the wake of a screaming German tourist), the juxtaposition of old and new and just how far we'd come hit even harder and that email was some related blather about just how plain 'cool' it was to be at the site of such a critical moment in wireless communication.
Maybe I'll start a site of famous world tech spots. A 'tech tour', if you will. Anyway, hope you're having a great summer.