We’ve come a long way in our understanding and use of wireless telecommunication. And so too our understanding of the components that make it all work.
You may have the transmitter, the receiver, the power source. But nothing happens without the antenna.
The very first time the word “antenna” was actually used, it was a description of some length of wiring hanging from a pole. It’s inventor called it, l’antenna centrale. It was an aerial Guglielmo Marconi used to send messages in the summer of 1895 in his father’s estate at the outskirts of Bologna, Italy.
This experiment by Guglielmo led to the very first transatlantic radio signal transmitted in 1901 in morse code. It was also the very first demonstration of a crude omnidirectional antenna sending low radio frequency signals that can cross an ocean.
Other inventors in other parts of the world were right there with Guglielmo, ushering in the era of wireless communication. Inventors like Roberto Landell de Moura, a Brazilian priest who actually transmitted the very first human voice wirelessly. A local newspaper, Jornal do Comercio, wrote of this first breakthrough on June 3, 1900, in front of other journalists and the General Consul of Great Britain, C.P. Lupton while in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Not much was needed to physically make adjustments for any transmission except to raise the wiring. That was the extent of any antenna alignment at that time.
Enter the first directional antenna in the 1920s.
These early directional antennas were a modification of the early single metal rod antennas that morphed into the Yagi-Uda Antenna Array. They were the first application of aligning the shape of the antennas to the surface of the Earth for clearer signal reception. These Yagi antennas had additional metal rods protruding from the main middle rod aligned horizontally to the ground.
It was the first antenna whose form aligned to improve its function.
And then came the Horn Antennas of 1939.
These Horn Antennas were shaped like quadrilateral cowbells that flare out to receive microwave signals above 300 MHz. Just like any other directional antennas, they demonstrated far better quality of signal reception than any omnidirectional.
From the 1940s to today came the Antenna Array, the combining of antennas into a single antenna, and the proliferation of the Parabolic Reflectors.
These reflectors are the very same satellite dishes we see everywhere today.
Antennas today come in many forms, including rectangular boxes allowing a 90 degree high gain directed coverage. They are manufactured for ease of installation, weatherproof and near no-maintenance. Antenna alignment today uses a dongle for digital precision, an alignment app and a wrench.