How the Titanic disaster pushed Uncle Sam to “rule the air”

In Tech, World News on July 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm

By Matthew Lassar

If you opened up The New York Times on April 15, 1912, you would have read one of the most famous news alerts of the 20th century. The Times reported that it had learned from the Marconi company’s Newfoundland station that the world’s biggest ocean liner, the Titanic, had hit an iceberg en route from Southhampton, England.

But not to worry, the newspaper assured its readers. Judging by past encounters, iceberg collisions were a survivable experience. “All Titanic Passengers Safe; Towing to Halifax,” the article quoted a wireless message as saying. The London Times cited the dispatch as well.

Almost a century later, everyone knows that it didn’t work out that way. Over the next few days, the world learned that the huge luxury vessel sank after the collision, and only a bit over 700 of the  2,223 people on board survived. For a while, even that ratio was uncertain. “ONLY 400 TITANIC SURVIVORS NAMED BY CARPATHIA” The Times reported two days later—citing a ship involved in rescue operations. “WIRELESS SEARCH OF THE SEAS FOR FURTHER NEWS.”

But the tragedy has a connection to another wireless story that has almost been forgotten—the dawn of modern radio license regulation. Historical narratives vary on this subject. Even without…

Full article…


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