Radio Archaeology

“Radio Archaeology – and the Life and Death of the Marconi Wireless Station”: Article by Eric Dollard, originally printed in Journal of Borderland Research (Vol LIV, Number 1, First Quarter 1998)


IN June of 1997 Bolinas radio station KPH went silent after ninety-four years of service to the maritime industry. KPH was started in 1903 as PH (Palace Hotel) in San Francisco by famous radio experimenter and pioneer Lee DeForest. PH became a successful wireless station and was later absorbed by the American Marconi Co., as were many other stations and wireless patents. By 1913 Marconi had personally selected a new station site thirteen miles north of San Francisco, near the fishing and lumber town of Bolinas. Bolinas was and still is a geo-physical radio anomaly of exceptional power, a fact recognized by the native Miwok Indians centuries before Marconi’s arrival. It was at this new site near Bolinas that Marconi engaged in a major engineering effort – the construction of his new wireless facility, at that time one of the world’s largest.

American Marconi employed the J.C. White Engineering Co. to construct the powerhouse and related facilities. General Electric, through the efforts of Charles Steinmetz and Ernst Alexanderson, designed and constructed the wireless appliances. A pair of systems were employed by American Marconi, one was the disruptive discharge/oscillation transformer system of Nikola Tesla, the other was the alternator/multiple tuned antenna system of Ernst Alexanderson. Both systems involved transmission into the earth, which necessitated the planting of large bronze plates in the ocean, as well as many miles of wire in the soil surrounding the powerhouse. These are still present to this day, rendering powerful radionic influence to this site. The Tesla system operated at a power level of 300 kilowatts and the Alexanderson system 200 kilowatts, the alternators running at 18 kilocycles per second. This facility represented the leading edge of science and philosophy at that time, and Marconi had brought the wireless principles of Tesla and Steinmetz together in what was now called KPH. Marconi also brought electricity to the town of Bolinas.

At the height of this endeavor, Ernst Alexanderson proclaimed at an engineering convention that wireless will “forever free mankind from political slavery.” Little did he realize that decades later Bolinas would serve as an institute for the perpetuation of political slavery.

In 1919, upon completion of this grand facility, KPH Bolinas, it was seized from American Marconi by the U.S. Navy. In 1920 KPH, along with related facilities on the East Coast, as well as scientist Alexanderson, were turned over to the newly formed Radio Corporation of America (RCA), under the rule of David Sarnoff. Shortly thereafter the wireless equipment, with the exception of the 18 kc alternators, was smashed up and dumped over the ocean cliffs. By 1920 General Electric began the development of the water-cooled pliotron oscillator as the source of high frequency electric currents. The pliotron was a refined version of the DeForest thermionic triode vacuum tube. The pliotron oscillator was much more manageable than previous oscillators, the noise of which could be heard in the town of Bolinas two miles distant. Pliotrons were silent. Along with the usual bent L aerials, Alexanderson developed new structures known today as colinear-broadside arrays. These arrays remained the principal KPH antennas for the rest of its history.

By 1924, new facilities were completed to accommodate the growing capabilities of KPH. Building “2″ was constructed for new transmission equipment and Building “9″ was constructed as the power substation control. A parking garage was also erected. General Electric developed new transmitters utilizing the now standard master oscillator-power amplifier configuration. Water-cooled pliotrons called “207's” served as the power amplifiers. The oscillations were derived from a plate cut from a quartz crystal, and then amplified to high power levels through successive intermediate stages using the just developed 860 and 861 tetrode vacuum tubes. These systems were called the “B” sets, operating in the megacycle range with a power output of 20 kilowatts. The Alexanderson infinite propagation velocity principle, used in his 18 kilocycle array, was again applied in a new design for megacycle operation. These were called the Type “A” projectors and had the appearance of fish bones. The “A” was a vertical electro-magnetic broadside array that transferred no electric induction into the ground. Here was the birth of electro-magnetic radio, the radio of today.

At the end of the 1920's and into the 1930's, General Electric developed larger versions of the “B” sets and the “C” sets that followed them. These operated at power levels of 40 kilowatts and began the utilization of crude amplitude modulation. They were called the Type “D” and “E” sets. RCA scientists, Beverage, Carter, and Hansell, developed the electro-magnetic wave antenna. These antennas worked on the traveling wave principle. Large self supporting towers were erected to hold the long wires hundreds of feet in the air. These antennas were called the Type “B” and “C” projectors. Out of these came the Type “D”, now known as the rhombic array. The rhombic has remained a principal HF antenna to this day.

A new station now stood with KPH, it was called KET. KPH served as the original ship-to-shore service of DeForest and Marconi, remaining in the Marconi Building, now called Building” 1″. KET, in the new Building “Z”, served as the point-to-point overseas link to the Orient, replacing the Marconi-Alexanderson 18 kilocycle system. While KET served as the principal call letters for the point-to-point operation, many had to be assigned to cover the vast number of channels the station now offered. The Morse code still used by KPH gave way to the Armstrong Frequency Shift System and Teleprinter Operation for KET.

At this point in history, the sun shone upon this system of communication with disfavor, through the dramatic reduction in solar flux. Lowered solar flux weakens the earth’s ionosphere, thereby diminishing its ability to propagate the launched electro-magnetic waves. While a major setback for HF radio, RCA forced its way through with higher power and larger antennas. The desire to override the competition, in light of the increased crowding of the HF band, forced the use of even higher power. The water could be heard to sing with the Morse code in the pliotron water jackets. Electro-magnetic radio was forever married to the cycles of the sun, undergoing disruption every eleven years. Later, in 1950, RCA scientist Nelson determined that the cycles of the planets also played a major role in radio propagation, requiring the development of radio astrology.

By 1939 RCA had contracted Westinghouse Electric Corporation to design and build the “F” set. This transmitter differed little from the “D” or “E” set of General Electric (GE), but serves as a point of departure from GE’s domination of RCA equipment supply. RCA had already made their own vacuum tubes and condensers for the GE sets, but about this time, began producing complete transmitters. The first RCA designed transmitter for Bolinas was the “S” set. It utilized the new forced air cooled triodes, the 891, and was plate amplitude modulated.

The “S” set was an AM short wave broadcast unit for voice and music, with an output of 20 kilowatts. About the same time, RCA had purchased the “U” sets from the Bunnel Telegraph Company. The “U” sets were more powerful than the “S” sets, but they had a tendency toward instability in the power amplifier. These were high fidelity, amplitude modulated transmitters with an air cooled plate modulator and a large single water-cooled triode, which required an independent distilled water-cooling system.

At this point in history, World War II was under way and the “U” and “S” sets served in propaganda broadcasting to Japan. The station was surrounded by army soldiers to protect against enemy attack. Bolinas had become a primary U.S. radio communications terminal, making it a likely target. The Japanese had already destroyed the RCA station on the Philippine Islands. The U.S. Navy reentered the scene, reenergizing the old 18 kilocycle wireless alternators and erecting a new Alexanderson multiple loaded antenna network. The Navy still needed Marconi’s wireless technology to communicate with its submarines, as RCA’s electro-magnetic radio was incapable of this task. The Navy also utilized RCA transmitters for surface communication, constructing its own Hertzian Dipole antennas for the task. Several signal corps water cooled triode (129B) transmitters were installed in the Marconi Building. With a power out of 10 kilowatts, these became the new KPH transmitters after the war.

When the war ended, so did wireless – for good. Tesla and Steinmetz were long gone, and Marconi was history. DeForest was still alive, but only Farnsworth was still inventing. Then there was Sarnoff, whose RCA had grown to be one of the most powerful corporations on earth, leaving a trail of dead inventors. The Navy left Bolinas, junking the alternators. Another layer of breakage went over the cliffs to be consumed by clay and salt. The 10 kilowatt signal corps units, called the “V” sets, remained, and there they served KPH until its final years.

In the 1950's the RCA Global Communication Facility in Bolinas underwent a massive expansion. Building Two had become overcrowded with HF transmitting equipment and obsolete antennas. The rhombic antenna exhibited outstanding performance and became the principal antenna for point-to-point radio communication. The collinear-broadside array remained the KPH ship-to-shore antenna.

The obsolete “A”,” B”, and “C” antennas came down, and fifty rhombics went up over the postwar years, occupying three thousand acres of land. A 50 kilowatt, 500 kilocycle transmitter, called BL-10, was installed in the Marconi Building. It used a single, massive, forced air-cooled triode (the 5671), weighing over 100 pounds. A 315 foot broadcasting tower with an aviation beacon lamp was erected as its antenna. A shack was constructed at its base to house the large tuning coils. A new building was constructed to house a new 750 kilowatt, 4 kilovolt power generating set. Driven by a port engine from a Navy L.S.T. landing ship, this set could power the entire town of Bolinas. A large addition was made to Building Two, called 2A. A 2500 kilowatt electrical system was connected to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG& F.) to meet the growing station load – the electric bill was \$25,000 a month.

By the mid 1950's, Marconi and KPH had grown into a massive radio facility. The lights in the town of Bolinas dimmed when the telegraph operator pressed his key. RCA Global Communications handled virtually all radio traffic to the Pacific. RCA installed its new 20 and 40 kilowatt transmitters, called the “K” and “L” sets. The “L” sets were amplitude modulated and the “K” sets were frequency shift keying. These were refined units representing RCA’s finest designs. Some of the control equipment, such as the BA-6A limiting amplifier are still in demand to this day. Broadcasting and teleprinter operations were covered by the “K” and “L” sets.

The 1960's saw the development of a revolutionary new form of modulation called sideband, a process of amplitude modulation that allowed for greater utilization of power and larger channel capacity. Through the use of voice frequency tone group (VFTG) multiplexing the channel capacity per transmitter expanded from two to sixty-four teleprinters. The Telesignal Corp. 101 and 102 VFTG units were purchased by RCA and installed, RCA changing the name tags to the RCA 901 and 902 to make them look like their own. (This was typical of RCA.) RCA scientist Kahn developed his brilliant envelope elimination and reinsertion (EER) exciters for the AM “L” sets, rendering them powerful sideband units with no need for wasteful linear power amplification.

RCA Global continued to grow in Bolinas with numerous radiophoto, broadcast, teleprinter, and telegraph transmissions. The station load had grown to 1000 kilowatts, and the PG&F Alto Line (Mill Valley) following the Dipsea Trail was no longer able to run Bolinas and RCA at the same time. For some reason PG&E had removed the transformers that it had installed for the young RCA of the 1920's on the 60 kilovolt Lakeville Line (Petaluma), and routed it to Woodacre for the water department. PG&E had to run a new 12 kilovolt line back to Bolinas to serve the station. Two lines, the Alto and the Woodacre, along with its 750 kilowatt alternator, rendered the station a major power center. More transmitters were installed, new linear sideband units called the “H” sets. Like the “K” and “L” sets they utilized forced air-cooled tetrodes. The power out was 10 kilowatts average and 20 kilowatts peak. All modulation was performed at low power levels, thus there was no plate modulator, making for a very compact unit. Some 40 transmitters were now in operation, and over 60 antennas had risen to full glory. Its communications capacity pushed to the limit the old lead and paper telephone cable, which was put up by Chinese laborers in the 1920's along what was to become the Pacific Coast Highway.

As the 1960's came to a close, communication technology began its shift toward satellite systems, where 200,000 teleprinter channels were possible. Rumblings of the closure of KET were in the air. Again the ocean cliffs – two “B” sets, 91313 and 11 BB, went over in large chunks, soon followed by the “S” sets. This time however the clay and salt did not claim another era of Bolinas. A group of young high school science students from the Air Force town of Novato were dragging a piece at a time to their garage laboratories. RCA allowed them to freely enter the station and gather what had not gone over the side. One of these students had reassembled 111313 in his parents two car garage. The next generation of radio development was on its way.

By the early 1970's, things did not farewell for RCA Global in Bolinas – KET started to disintegrate, David Sarnoff was dead, Marconi became small letters in a history book, and Tesla who? RCA had no head and flailed like a chicken. The old employees that worked the wireless were in their graves. A single channel remained to the island of Papetee. The crew was down to two in the day shift, Jim Bourne and Ivan Neilson, both old men now. The buildings were empty at night, so a cyclone fence was put around to keep out vandals. The Marconi Hotel stood open to vandalism and its records blew away in the wind.

RCA had decided to junk everything in Buildings 2 and 2A, except the “H”,” K”, and “L” sets of postwar design. However, the local RCA administration transferred it to the new adult science students. They leased a 3000 square foot warehouse space in San Francisco, known as Project One. These individuals, as well as local Vice President Jim Hepburn, himself an avid and brilliant radio experimenter, felt that new developments were possible in high frequency radio.

The U.S. Navy again reentered, and, through the Coast Guard, constructed station NMC at the Palo Marin edge of the RCA property. This took over the vital functions abandoned by the dying RCA Global. KPH still remained functional and intact, however, being a different branch of RCA called Radiomarine Corporation of America.By 1975 RCA turned the property over to the National Park Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of the interior, for preservation. RCA leased back what it needed to run the marine operation KPH, the ships did not want satellite communications. At this transition point a group calling itself Commonweal gained access to the site through the trust for public land. Commonweal, a political organization, showed no regard for the history of the station, nor for the efforts of those operating and preserving it. In a period of five weeks, Commonweal had destroyed the entire contents of Building Two and sent all historic notes and records into the dumpster – KET vanished to the winds.

At the onset of the 1980's, only little of KPH remained. The “V” sets in the Marconi Building sat dead. BL-10 remained the only active transmitter in that building. KPH operation was transferred to the “H”, “K”, and “L” sets in Building 2A. These sets were adapted to telegraph operation, something that they were not designed for. Building 2, gutted of its shop and radio equipment, was sealed off by Commonweal and converted into office space and a party hall. Only one of the science students, who now was a professional radio engineer, remained. He operated a small research laboratory in the Alexanderson room of the Marconi Building, repairing and installing cables for RCA and Commonweal to earn his stay. Eventually he was forced out.

KPH, under the management of Ed Brennen, was allowed to decay rapidly. The aircraft beacon was dark, and rhombics crumbled to the ground. Rigging by unqualified persons caused a major electrical fire that destroyed the 750 kilowatt generator. Radio receivers were thrown from second story windows to assure destruction, despite the mandate to preserve them through science education and study at Sonoma State College.

In the mid 1980's GE returned, this time not to create, but to destroy what RCA and Commonweal had not. The “V” sets were smashed up by locals and dumped in a creek bed, except for a few scraps saved by a local fisherman. The remaining laboratory equipment vanished. A guardian of the old Marconi Building, the BL-10 remained active, electrocuting the last RCA employee, George Gieser, as ifin an act of retribution. This was the only person to be electrocuted since BL- 10 killed one of the RCA’s first employees in 1920.

KPH limped along under GE. With rigged antennas that often caught fire and transmitters that performed poorly, the station could not be heard by its own customers. A glimmer of hope appeared, however, as the up-and-coming Globe Wireless Co., whichhad grown out of KPH’s competitor, KFS of Half Moon Bay, applied to the Federal Communication Commission to takeover the Bolinas site as it had done with so many other sites around the world. The FCC denied Globe Wireless and instead it was turned over to MCI. MCI threw together a low cost system utilizing cheap 4 kilowatt transmitters made by a ham radio outfit called Henry Radio Co. The crumbling mass of rhombics were heaped into a great pile and four of the original Type “B” towers, which stood since 1938 without a spot of rust, were sold to a foreign country. MCI shabbily erected anew set of colinear broadside arrays. These required debugging by the still present, lone radio engineer and experimenter who, after having his new wireless antennas in town destroyed by Marin County sheriffs, now lived in his car in the antenna field. Perhaps his newly found radio theories could now find commercial application under MCI.

Under MCI, KPH traffic dwindled to nothing. KPH could never get business from American ships due to the lingering hatred of David Samoff, the murderer of wireless. MCI announced impending closure, and the remaining customers bailed to Globe Wireless. Station manager Jack Martini courageously rode his ship to the bottom in the maritime tradition.

Finally as Hong Kong fell to China, KPH died, its frequencies sold to Globe Wireless. BL- 10 was wrecked by vandals and the Marconi Building stripped of its power source. The building deteriorated rapidly under Commonweal stewardship. Marconi’s once great radio facility by in ruins, and one of the earths most significant radio hot spots sits Went with the exception of NMC. I, however, am the lone radio experimenter and am far from silent. The underground wires of Alexanderson are still present, waiting to sprout into a new form of wireless.

At present, in 1997-98, wireless transmission is considered a prehistoric technology, replaced by a vastly superior one of electromagnetic radio. But is radio really superior, or is it a mere shadow of a wider reaching science? When one looks back in history, as recently done by Mr. Vassilatos in his compendia, it is found that early wireless systems not only exhibited significantly less propagation loss and deviation, but also required no batteries or power supply. In fact, it can be seen that some exhibited the properties of energy producing rather than energy consuming systems. Such were those of Nikola Tesla. Is this why KPH and similar stations are forced to close and new laws rendering radio illegal are in the making?

It must be remembered that the first wireless detectors involved mechanical force between coils, the welding together of metal chips, or the heating of fine wires, all of which require the reception of substantial quantities of electric energy. There were no batteries. Modernistic radio requires amplification of millions to render the feeble electro-magnetic waves powerful enough to produce the same result. The amplifier of course requires batteries or some other source of energy. It was found in the early years that direction finding systems utilizing wireless impulses exhibited little or no deviation, whereas those systems utilizing electro-magnetic waves suffered from scatter and propagation disturbances. Wireless impulses obviously travel a more direct path than do the dispersive electromagnetic waves utilized today. It is further found that the emanations from wireless coils and condensers were utilized by medical doctors to abate a variety of diseases, whereas electro-magnetic waves are an acknowledged hazard to health.

It is instructive to examine certain technical distinctions existing between wireless technology and the radio technology of today. It is also instructive to examine the efforts to block the scientific research and experimentation (at locations like KPH Bolinas) required to revive an important technology.

In electric wireless systems there exists a reciprocal relation between the energy of the antenna network in contact with the space and the utility that supplies power to the wireless transformers. Thus the reactance of the antenna network appears as a reactance to the power company, if the wireless system is so adjusted. Therefore, it is theoretically possible for the wireless system to become a supply of electrical energy to the power company without burning fuel. In contrast, the load offered by contemporary radio systems is a pure resistance to direct current, the very archetype of the destruction of electric force – nothing is returned to the power company.

Another distinction is that wireless networks such as the Tesla oscillation transformer, Alexanderson multiple loaded antenna, or the Marconi coaxial antenna, all exhibit frequencies and wavelength of higher order than those of electro-magnetic radio. These factors exist as complex quantities or conjugate pairs. Their propagation involve factors beyond distance and velocity, thus transmission without travel through intervening space. Electro-magnetic radio waves are inexorably tied to the effective velocity of light and the impedance of distance.

Ultimately it must be stated that the distinction between electric wireless and electronic radio is that wireless engineering is a science of the aether and radio engineering is a science of physical matter. Wireless theory considers space to be filled with an all permeating aether, this aether possessing the capacity to store and transfer energy in the form of a pair of conjugate fields of induction. These are called the magnetic field and the dielectric field. An alteration of the field intensity at one location results in an alteration of the field at another location, irrespective of distance. From cosmic forces and not human artifice, wireless networks ultimately are self powering.

In contrast, modernistic electro-magnetic radio theory considers space to be empty and distorted. Propagation is effected by a forced spray of photonic particles, traveling at the aforementioned effective velocity of light. Magnetic and dielectric actions are ignored, and instead the actions of physical particles like electrons serve to store and transfer energy. Distance and velocity are the principal factors, and the continuous consumption of energy is required, supplied by an artifice such as a battery or engine driven generator.

The loss of the aetheric science of wireless and the supplanting of radio can be attributed to a pair of causes, conflict between the various pioneers of wireless and the subjugation of science and philosophy by corporate force. DeForest vs. Fesseden vs. Armstrong vs. Marconi vs. Tesla vs. etc. was the way that wireless developed. Not only did these individuals not completely understand their own discoveries, but a comprehensive science did not exist to unify them. The situation was further compounded by corporate moguls entering the science with capitalistic forces that fueled the conflict, and by institutions that favored dysfunctional theories. Names like Sarnoff, Morgan, and Rockefeller were the principals of this factor, a historicexample will serve to illustrate the condition. Long distance cable telephony was set back many years by the British Royal Society’s firm denial of the dielectric factors involved in the transmission of impulses through the long undersea cables and telegraph impulses were smeared, thus limiting the speed of transmission to slow rates. The brilliant Scottish theoretician Oliver Heaviside demonstrated in his archetypal telegraph equation that the dielectric term RC had to be brought into accord with the magnetic term LG to facilitate the undistorted transmission of electric impulses.

The Physics Institute declared Heaviside a fool and forced the cable business to labor under an unbalanced understanding of the electric forces involved. Later electrical scientist Michael Pupin, a contemporary of Tesla and Marconi, developed a physical realization of the Heaviside Theorem known as the “PupinCoil.” This development was quickly bought up by the young American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). AT&T holding patent rights to the Pupin, or loading coil as it became known, gained absolute control over the long distance telephone business. Oliver Heaviside, who can be given credit for establishing the entire ground work for electrical engineering mathematics, died in poverty and was promptly forgotten. AT&T grew into a company of great wealth and power. If not for the effort of Charles “Proteus” Steinmetz, much of Heaviside’s work may have been forever lost.

The exact same condition exists today with regard to radio and the more generalized wireless, except with a less favorable outcome. As shown by the Heaviside in his electrical equations and further developed by myself in the tradition of Steinmetz, wireless transmission can be shown to involve a conjugate pair of propagations, the electromagnetic and the magneto-dielectric. Electro-magnetism and the adulteration of its theories by Einstein and the like has become the accepted element of the propagation of electric forces. The conjugate magneto—dielectricity, and the brilliant presentation of its dimensionality by Rudolf Steiner and his followers is denied by the corporate cable institutes. But, as with the cable long distance case, electricity plays no favorites, and radio transmission suffers from analogous distortions. The archetype of conjugate pairs exists everywhere, however, and some examples will illustrate.

A very simple analog is the male and female of a given species. The species can only propagate as a conjugate pair, the male being the dielectric and the female the magnetic. Likewise, the branch and root of a plant work together as a conjugate pair, the sunlit branch as the magnetic and the root in darkness as the dielectric. An excellent example in symbolic representation is the final choral movement of G.F. Handel’s Alexanders Feast- “The Power of Music.”

The learned doctors’ physical science will hear none of this heresy, and continues to labor under the delusive mathematics of chaotic uncertainty. Modernistic music serves analogously with its painful screeches and howling, empty of spiritual content. Popular music is reduced to a computer generated sado-masochistic march. This pathological social condition is brilliantly analyzed in the writings of Wilhelm Reich under titles such as The Mass Psychology of Fascism and The Murder of Christ. Needless to say Dr. Reich died in a federal prison. Modernism accepts no criticism.

Galactic Life in a light bulb?

Galactic Life in a light bulb? Cosmic forms appear in plasma discharges inside glass bulb.

Created by Eric Dollard at the old BSRF Laboratories, Santa Barbara, California, 1988.

A final illustration exists right here at Marconi’s KPH in Bolinas. In a simple laboratory made from so called obsolete radio equipment salvaged from the hammer and axe of the “lehmed” doctor, a remarkable discovery has been made. Through the application of wireless: principles, cosmic superimposition was effected on the work bench Suns and stars in stunning Galactic form burst forth, creating matter and energy on the spot, yet across the bay at Livermore Lab, with billions of kilowatt-hours and dollars no such thing seems possible, but the kilowatt dollars continue to flow. After all, you pay for it.