100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

The Radio Act Of 1912

At the location where the RMS TITANIC struck an iceberg and sank, another British ship, the CALIFORNIAN, is thought to be as close as 10 miles away. The CALIFORNIAN had stopped because of ice and sent an iceberg warning to RMS TITANIC April 14 at 7:00pm NYT. The RMS TITANIC’s radio had been down for almost 24 hours and the on-duty wireless operators were busy working off a backlog of personal messages. When the ice warning was sent, the relative close proximity made the CALIFORNIAN’s signal was so loud it bled with signals the RMS TITANIC operator was listening to from the wireless relay station at Cape Race, Newfoundland. The operator on the RMS TITANIC sent the message : “Shut up, shut up! I am busy; I am working Cape Race!” The CALIFORNIAN wireless operator listened until 11:30pm NYT turned off the wireless and went to bed. 10 minutes later the RMS TITANIC struck the iceberg.  The RMS TITANIC sank at 2:20am NYT. The wireless operator on the CALIFORNIAN turned on his radio at 5:30am and found out that the RMS TITANIC had sunk overnight. If they had arrived in time, they could have save every person 0n the RMS TITANIC. A US Senate sub committee was convened immediately to investigate the disaster and proposed changes to the Wireless Ship Act of 1910.


On August 13, 1912 the Radio Act of 1912 was enacted as US Federal law. It mandated that vessels have the continuing capability to receive messages on two wavelengths: 300 meters and 600 meters.  This meant that vessels would need to have an operator on duty at all times. The Radio Act of 1912 established licensing for all radio operators and station to combat the occurrence of amateurs forging naval messages and issuing fake distress calls. It prohibited amateurs from transmitting over the main commercial and military wavelengths and limited transmitting signals that were below a wavelength of 200 meters (1.5 MHz). Besides being limited by wavelength, amateurs were also limited to location and operating hours. In times of war or national peril, the President was authorized to close down any or all radio stations in the US.

1912 radio transmitter

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