The Story of Wireless

Last updated: 01 November 2011

This week Adam Walton discusses the history of "wireless waves" or radio waves, the invisible electro-magnetic waves that changed communications almost a century ago, and continue to revolutionise the world today, empowering more of the population to stay connected via digital "wireless" technology.

Broadcast Tuesday 1st November at 7pm

Listen to the latest programme online

Early BBC transmitting station

Adam chats to Peter Excell, Professor of Communications at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, who outlines the science of wireless, and how the equations of James Clerk Maxwell almost 150 years ago paved the way for future technologies.

One of the early pioneers of transmitting and receiving wireless signals was the often overlooked Welsh scientist David Edward Hughes, who experimented in the late 1870s, years before before Heinrich Hertz and Guglielmo Marconi turned their attention to radio. A new biography of David Edward Hughes, whose family came from the Bala & Corwen area, has been published called "Before We Went Wireless" by Ivor Hughes and David Ellis Evans. Science Cafe reporter Alan Daulby talks to Ivor about the achievements of this Victorian innovator.

The programme also hears from radio amateurs in North Wales who explain their enthusiasm for "taking to the airwaves" of the world, and how they overcome some of the challenges caused by storms in the Earth's ionosphere and beyond, which can have wide ranging effects on radio signals.

There's also a peek into the future with Professor Peter Excell, who ponders a world where everyone could be communicating wirelessly, and how the technology may exceed human intelligence by the middle of this century.


Professor Peter Excell

Radio Society Of Great Britain

North Wales Radio Society

"Before We Went Wireless" by Ivor Hughes & David Ellis Evans

New website

iPlayer Radio logo

Listen online

A new look for BBC Radio online: listen live on your computer - and now on your smartphone.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.