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Telefunken vs. Marconi, or the Race for Wireless Telegraphy at Sea, 1896-1914

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Abstract

At the end of the nineteenth century electrical communication systems whose development had begun some 50 years before began to unfold their deep impact on the way business and policy were made. The electric telegraph and especially submarine cables had been brought to a high degree of technical efficiency and large amounts of capital had been invested in that business. The telephone was becoming an important means for business communication over short distances. Nevertheless there was, in ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications, a "place" for radio – a gap in the existing communication network large enough to give the new mode a chance to establish itself. The invention of wireless telegraphy – as contemporaries called radio communications – allowed the fast interchange of information between ship on sea and from ship to shore. The following article gives a survey of the beginnings of radio communications and focuses on the competition of two pioneering firms Marconi and Telefunken to dominate the market in naval radio.

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