The first practical step in the era of information technology: 125th anniversary of the invention of the radio by Alexander Popov.

The first practical step in the era of information technology: 125th anniversary of the invention of the radio by Alexander Popov.

On May 7, 1895, Alexander Popov demonstrated to the members of the Russian Physical and Chemical Society the operation of the world's first wireless telegraphy system.

07.05.2020 1082

Radio day was first celebrated in Russia on May 7, 1945, on the eve of Victory Day. The celebration took place at the Bolshoi theater.

Signal transfer over long distances has been a dream of mankind since time immemorial. The invention and development of the radio were made possible only by the revolution in ideas about electrical phenomena that are associated with the names of Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell and Heinrich Hertz.

The tasks of developing devices for building telecommunication equipment became especially relevant after the publication in 1887 – 1888 of the works by Heinrich Hertz, in which he proved the possibility of generating and registering electromagnetic waves (these waves Alexander Popov in his lectures called rays of electric force). 

Russian scientists Orest Khvolson (in 1890), Alexander Popov (1891), as well as their foreign colleagues William crooks (England, 1892) and Nikola Tesla (the USA, 1892) expressed considerations on the practical use of electromagnetic waves.

The problem of building such equipment was to find a technical solution that allows one to move from a simple indication of the presence of electromagnetic radiation to the reception and correct decoding of messages transmitted by a code combination of short and long signals – elements of the telegraph code (dots and dashes used in Morse code).

The problem of building the world's first receiver of messages transmitted using electromagnetic waves was solved by Alexander Popov (1859-1906), the physics teacher of the Mine officer class. On May 7, 1895, he demonstrated the work of the world's first wireless telegraphy system to members of the Russian Physical and Chemical Society.

How did Alexander Popov solve this problem?

In the process of researching possible options for building a receiver of signals transmitted by electromagnetic waves, Alexander Popov conducted tests of various materials in 1894 – 1895. Its purpose was to study the effect of electromagnetic waves on conducting substances with a granular structure, causing a sharp change in their electrical resistance. This phenomenon was discovered in 1890 by the French physicist Edouard Branly. In 1894, the English physicist Oliver Joseph Lodge developed an indicator of electromagnetic radiation - a coherer, which was created based on the radio conductor by E. Branly. This device was one of the prerequisites for the invention of the radio by Alexander Popov.

In the receiver of A. Popov, the receiver's sensitive element (coherer) was automatically restored immediately after receiving the next sending of electromagnetic radiation, which ensured that information was received without distortion.

Also, by the end of July 1895, A. Popov and his assistant Peter Rybkin created the first radio meteorological device based on a coherent receiver − the "thunderstorm meter," which marked the beginning of radio meteorology. The publication of an article by Alexander Popov in the first issue of the Journal of the Russian Physical and Chemical Society in early 1896 with a detailed description of the process of creating the system as a whole and the receiver circuit was his gift to the world. The publication of the article's abstracts in foreign journals contributed to the growth of interest in this area of scientific research.

One of the first universities in the world, where the radio communication system was observed, was the Electrotechnical Institute (ETI). On April 2, 1896, physics teacher Vladimir Skobeltsyn demonstrated a wireless communication system with a coherer receiver invented by A. Popov after a meeting of the Russian Physical and Chemical Society. Using this equipment, on March 24, 1896, a message with the words "Heinrich Hertz" was transmitted at a distance of 250 meters between the buildings of St. Petersburg University. The Post and Telegraph magazine published an article by V. Skobeltsyn about this demonstration.

In ETI on October 30, 1897, A. Popov made a speach on the topic "Telegraphy without Wires," thoroughly analyzing the physical processes underlying the work of the coherer, describing the stages of creating the equipment. In 1917, the successor of A. Popov,  Imant Freiman, graduate and professor of ETI and founder of a scientific school of radio engineering (1890 – 1929), identified radio as "a set of techniques that allow transmitting electrical energy without connecting wires between the source and the consumer and using such wireless transmitted electric energy."

The path from wireless telegraphy to radio engineering took only 15 to 20 years. Radio stimulated the emergence of new scientific areas related to the range of tasks solved with the help of radio equipment, the creation of new materials.

Popov's system contained all the essential elements that are inherent in the modern concept of "signal transmission radio line" in the broadest sense of the word, used either in its full form – "information source-channel-receiver of information", or in the form of its separate parts (radio broadcasting, radar, radio astronomy, etc.).

The development of radio engineering stimulated the development of the element base necessary for the practical implementation of its components: electro-vacuum technology, solid-state electronics. These and later emerging new directions related to the practical use of electromagnetic waves (in some cases in combination with electroacoustics and electro-optics) led to the emergence of radio electronics. 

"Today, radio electronics and telecommunications are among the priority scientific and educational areas of ETU "LETI." In recent years, researchers of Faculty of Radio Engineering in cooperation with specialists from the Faculty of Electronics and the Faculty of Computer Science and Technology have obtained significant results in such areas as navigation, location, generation, radiation, signal reception and processing, telecommunications networks, wireless, mobile networks and systems, information security, digital television, and others."

Viktor Malyshev, Dean of Faculty of Radio Engineering

The team, which unites the Department of Theoretical Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering and the Research Institute of Radio Engineering and Telecommunications, develops, designs and small-scale production of antenna systems of various frequency ranges with unique specifications and original design. In August 2019, ETU "LETI" was among the St. Petersburg universities that signed a Memorandum on the establishment of a world-class research and educational center in 5G networks and perspective networks 2030. The university proposed projects in most of the areas of the center activities included relevant directions in its research agenda, prepared plans for the improvement of equipment. The Advanced Wireless Technologies area is one of five priority R&D directions at the university.

The university cherishes the memory of Alexander Popov, the inventor of the radio and the world's first detector receiver, professor, and first elected director of the first European university specialized in electrical engineering Electrotechnical Institute of Emperor Alexander III. The memorial Museum-laboratory of A. Popov, opened on June 27, 1948, presents exhibits and information materials that introduce visitors to the history of the invention of the radio and the initial period of its development, the life and work of Popov. There you can learn the history of Popov's invention of his first coherer receiver, and be surprised with dimensions that devices had at the initial stage of information technology development to transmit and receive only 1 bit of information.

The Alexander Popov Memorial Museum hosts scientific conferences, meetings dedicated to the history of science and technology, and memorable dates. The Museum has a collective short-wave Amateur radio station with the call sign RK1B, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020.

Our contemporaries rightly call the Russian scientist Alexander Popov the founder of radio. It is for us today, and it will remain so in the minds of future generations.