It would have been like the release of a new Apple product, or a talk on the future of Facebook now. An auditorium full of the great and the good, the press and other interested parties, all clamoring to see unveiled the latest in technology.
This was the scene on the afternoon of June 4th 1903, at the Royal Institution lecture. In front of a packed hall, Marconi had set up his equipment.
Wireless technology was so new that many were incredulous at the fact it could exist at all. Marconi had only made it work across the Atlantic a year previously! To bolster his case, he had a star witness, the respected Physicist John Ambrose Fleming standing alongside him.
The brass gleamed. The woodwork shone. The people watched and waited, while Marconi spoke from the lectern. He brought on Fleming, whose distinguished reputation added credibility to his claims. And then the apparatus sprang into life.
"Rats! Rats! Rats!" It spelled out in Morse Code to the shock of Marconi and Fleming, and the interest of the audience. Many of those understood the code very well. It wasn't the language that was being introduced here, but the method by which it was relayed.
For even those slow on the uptake, the expression of Marconi on the stage must have told the rest of the story. It was the equivalent of a mobile 'phone ringing at the wrong moment, then being answered on loudspeaker.
Fleming didn't react. He was deaf and therefore had no idea that anything untoward was happening. He continued to speak in support of Marconi and the system.
"There was a young fellow of Italy," tapped out Marconi's machine for all who would listen, "who diddled the public quite prettily." The limerick was completed in sentiments, which the only Edwardian witness to chronicle it described as en suite. That's toilet humor to me and you.
The transmissions slid off into quoting scathing tracts from Shakespeare, before ending in personal insults. This was all printed off on the recorder beside them.
For a man who'd claimed that his wireless technology was utterly secure for private messages, this was highly humiliating. Marconi had already been speaking for three quarters of an hour, and his focus had been on the security of his system and the privacy of messages transmitted upon it.