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Mission X CollectionThe Invisible Web

In this program we discover how the epoch-changing development of radio technology came about. Even at the beginning of the 20th century ships could only communicate with each other by means of flags, when they were within visual contact. The Italian electro-engineer Guglielmo Marconi hoped to change that, and he succeeded in taking out a patent for his invention of wireless telegraphy in Great Britain, the dominant seafaring nation of the day. However, almost immediately powerful opponents of Marconi‘s scheme appeared, led by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had realised the military applications of this revolutionary invention. After a dramatic and adventurous series of successes and defeats Marconi finally achieved the decisive breakthrough with one of the greatest tragedies in maritime history: the sinking of the Titanic.

When it was publicly announced that the survivors had only been saved "thanks to Mr Marconi and his wonderful invention" - because the radio signals sent out from the Titanic before she sank summoned other vessels to the rescue - it became abundantly clear that nothing could stop the further development of wireless telecommunication.

Marconi's invention heralded a new era of communications and paved the way for the development of intercontinental, global contact – instantaneously. In the year 1909 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in acknowledgement of his contribution towards the development of wireless telegraphy. When Guglielmo Marconi died at the age of 63, on 20 July 1937, the world held its breath in his honour: for 2 minutes all radio traffic, everywhere, was halted.


1 × 50′
Produced by
Engstfeld Filmproduktion, Köln für ZDF in Zusammenarbeit mit ZDF Enterprises, Arte und Discovery Communications
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