The magician who pranked Marconi’s telegraph

The magician who pranked Marconi's telegraph
 Never mess with Maskelyne –
he can control the dead.

"LATE one June afternoon in 1903 a hush fell across an
expectant audience in the Royal Institution’s celebrated lecture theatre
in London. Before the crowd, the physicist John Ambrose Fleming was
adjusting arcane apparatus as he prepared to demonstrate an emerging
technological wonder: a long-range wireless communication system
developed by his boss, the Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. The
aim was to showcase publicly for the first time that Morse code messages
could be sent wirelessly over long distances. Around 300 miles away,
Marconi was preparing to send a signal to London from a clifftop station
in Poldhu, Cornwall, UK.

Yet before the demonstration could
begin, the apparatus in the lecture theatre began to tap out a message.
At first, it spelled out just one word repeated over and over. Then it
changed into a facetious poem accusing Marconi of "diddling the public".
Their demonstration had been hacked – and this was more than 100 years
before the mischief playing out on the internet today. Who was the Royal
Institution hacker? How did the cheeky messages get there? And why?"

– Dot-dash-diss: The gentleman hacker’s 1903 lulz, New Scientist Tech>>
– Explore the New Publication "Magic, 1400s-1950s" Cultural Compass, Harry Ransom Center>>

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