Friday, March 1, 2013


Before the advances in radio technology and wireless broadcasting, listeners were entertained by a different form of broadcasting pioneered in France and known as Theatrophone. The system set up microphones in theatre and music halls to broadcast the shows. These shows were sent down telephone lines where listeners could dial in an listen to the shows. This could be done at home, although in the latter part of the 19th century only the affluent could afford telephones or in special listeners saloons set up with multiple telephone receivers often linked to a loudspeaker system.
The first mention in Ireland of the Theatrophone system comes from an article in the Kildare Observer newspaper in 1902. The event took place at Morristownbiller House the home of William and Mabel Taylor. Country Leitrim born William was the son of another William and grandson of Moses Taylor who ran a successful tobacco business on Dublin’s Francis Street. William was married to Englishwoman Mabel, a native of Kent.
Their house was located in the parish of Morristownbiller located on the outskirts of Newbridge County Kildare. The event of the first known speech and music broadcast in Ireland took place on Thursday December 31st, New Years Eve 1901. The live music on the day came from Mrs Maria Beck and her sister Miss Eliza Gorman who both lived in Newbridge with Maria’s husband William a local brickworks manager.
The Theatrophone broadcast came from a concert in Paris of the Opera Faust from the La Monnaie theatre. The broadcast lasted ten minutes. It was probably not the first concert heard in the house but it did receive the publicity as the event was hosted for the local children.
The above drawing titled "Terrors of the Telephone" was published in the New York Daily Graphic on March 15, 1877 it shows a speaker or a singer sweating, mouth open, speaking via a transmitter that extends to a global network of audiences installed in Beijing, San Francisco, St. Petersburg, London and Dublin who are gathered around receivers whose shape resembles curiously to that of the sending device.

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