Page 1



‘Science exists not so much to tickle the intelligences of the few as to brighten the lot of the many’ Wills’ Wanders collection of short films and publications serve to celebrate the considerable knowledge and archive of Mr A.E Wills.(1916-2011) A talented and unassuming man Wills forged an interest in engineering from a childhood brimming with a curiosity for the principles and workings of the mechanical machine. This cumulated in a vast and eclectic archive of published papers,inventions and ephemera. In 2011 it was proposed that Arthur Edward Wills’s extensive collection be utilised to instil in young and old an admiration for the skills, accomplishments and scientific ideas of our age and to urge them to ask what brought about these triumphs of our modern tecnnology.?

HEY PRESTO! The Secret of Sound Travel

This is the first in a series of fascinating companions to Wills’s Wanders series of short films. Hey Presto! explains in a fashion, refreshingly free from common sense, the primary laws of the science surrounding telephony. This accompanying pamphlet contains a little more fact.

Any technology which is suitably advanced cannot be distinguished from magic

The conjuring of sound by simple vibratory motion in the air is no doubt to most, akin to magic. The further astonishing controlling of the electron then enabled man to annihilate an existing problem of distance in communications allowing him to hear beyond the range of the human ear . So beginning the astonishing journey of the wireless soundwave.

The first apparatus transmitting sound waves conveyed a signal over a short distance of up to 15 metres. It was fashioned from an old artists easel and a simple transmitter

A conjuring trick sparked in Samuel Morse the idea for, a new method of communication. The trick demonstrated the way in which an electromagnet, a current carrying coil of wire around an iron core could pick up iron nails.Morse saw the possibility of making the electromagnet move a pencil attached to the iron.

Almon Strowger a funeral parlour proprietor, first conceived his early electromechanical telephone switching system in 1888, and patented the automatic telephone exchange in 1891. He reportedly constructed the initial model of his invention from a round collar box and straight pins.

In August 1899 telephone

signals were transmitted across the Channel By 1901 the transmitting distance was 1800 miles where sound was sent from St John’s, Newfoundland to Poldhu in Cornwall.

Agner Krarup Erlang developed the mathematical formulae that underpinned the design of telephone networks from the 1920’s finding a solution to the problem of waiting times for telephone calls. His name was given to the unit used to measure telephone traffic.

By March 31st 1948 the United Kingdom had 2,681,000,000 inland telephone calls 216,614,671, trunk calls and 1,702,600 overseas

‘Ordinarily an operator can tell a woman the moment he hears her on the wire’ claimed Western Electrician magazine in 1891. ‘Women, as a rule, telegraphers say do not touch the key of their instruments as firmly as men do’

Australian Soprano Dame Nellie Melba (1859-1931), broadcast from an early Marconi station in 1920. The microphone was an ordinary telephone transmitter with a cone added to increase efficiency.

It took a set of dots and dashes one quarter of a second to travel 900 metres. Sound waves magically bound through our dry air at the rapid rate of 768 mph or around 344 miles per second. .

The highly refined mechanism that is the human ear interprets the excited moving waves of energy and conveys them to the brain by nerve impulses, concluding the journey of a sound. The combining of its longitudinal travels with the marvel of electricity have become so much a matter of course that it becomes difficult to see the importance of those early inventions that sit

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Jayne Wilson is indebted to such indispensible sources as The Prelinger Archive and The Culture Archive,Robert Routledge’s ‘Discoveries and Inventions’(1899) and Tom Stanage’s ‘Victorian Internet’(1998) And for the assistance of Master Ben Connolly, Dr Chris Mullen, Professor DAJ and Mr Ben Russell and to Mr A E Wills without whose assistance so willingly rendered the task would have been so much greater. And Thank you to Arthur C Clark for a rousing quotation.

Hey Presto! The Sound Of Sound Travel was first screened in February 2012 Watch the film at

Š Jayne Wilson 2012

Hey Presto! The Secret of Sound Travel  

Pamphlet to accompany the first Wills's Wanders film directed by Jayne Wilson (2012)

Hey Presto! The Secret of Sound Travel  

Pamphlet to accompany the first Wills's Wanders film directed by Jayne Wilson (2012)