More than a century ago, The Buffalo Evening News was at the cutting edge of technology, boasting a wireless form of information-gathering and communication that exceeded the telegraph’s capabilities.
“Station Will be Open for Commercial Purposes, as Well as for Use as a Newsgatherer. SPEEDIER THAN WIRE SERVICE AND NOT SUBJECT TO STORMS,” the headline from Monday, May 17, 1909, read.
The headline and accompanying article referred to a newly installed wireless station – a then-modern invention capable of wresting wireless telegraph signals from all corners of the globe – signals that ultimately allowed the newspaper to break news as it happened.
By 1909 standards, anyway.
“It put them on a better leg as far as reporting the news,” said Jim Kreuzer, librarian at the Antique Wireless Association Museum, where a reconstruction of the station is now on display.
Doors to the museum, at 6925 Route 5 & 20 in Bloomfield, will open with a grand opening ceremony at 2 p.m today. Other groundbreaking items invented during the long evolution of wireless technology, including the first cellphone and Dell computer labs, also will be museum fixtures.
Kreuzer referred to an old Buffalo Evening News clipping to reconstruct the wireless station, which features a Type D crystal receiver that was used to intercept boat arrival times and signals coming in from Buffalo harbor. The station also received barometer readings in anticipation of weather fronts headed for Buffalo from locations such as Toledo and Chicago.
Unlike telegraph lines, which were useful for communication between individuals, the wireless station cast a wider net and was capable of reading signals from any of the world’s radio operators – more than 2,000 worldwide in 1909, Kreuzer said.
If a ship was in distress on the Great Lakes, The Buffalo Evening News would have monitored the calls instead of relying solely on wire services such as the Associated Press or United Press International to relay the information. The wireless station withstood rough weather conditions, operating when telegraph lines were down.
The first wireless technology was invented in 1896 or 1897, and Kreuzer estimates there are only three such stations that can be replicated in the world.
Kreuzer said the advent of radio telegraphy is on par with the invention of the camera, x-ray and automobile.
“It’s right up there in the top five inventions,” he said.