Radio can be incredibly simple, and around the turn of the century this simplicity made early experimentation possible for just about anyone. How simple can it get? Here's an example:
- Take a fresh 9-volt battery and a coin.
- Find an AM radio and tune it to an area of the dial where you hear static.
- Now hold the battery near the antenna and quickly tap the two terminals of the battery with the coin (so that you connect them together for an instant).
- You will hear a crackle in the radio that is caused by the connection and disconnection of the coin.
Your battery/coin combination is a radio transmitter! It's not transmitting anything useful (just static), and it will not transmit very far (just a few inches, because it's not optimized for distance). But if you use the static to tap out Morse code, you can actually communicate over several inches with this crude device!