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The Italian physicist had already succeeded in transmitting radio signals across the Atlantic in 1901, and this type of ‘multiple tuner’ would subsequently transmit across the stormy Atlantic the final messages from the crew of the Titanic in 1912.

The equipment consisted of two boxes, tuner no.26308, illustrated left which measured 19in wide by 8in deep by 8in high (48 x 20 x 20cm) and amplifier no.60872, to the right, which measured 19in wide by 8in deep by 11in high (48 x 20 x 28cm).

The three knobs on the tuner worked separate tuning condensers of aerial, intermediate and detector type; the two bakelite dials on the front were labelled “tuning switch wavelength” and “aerial tuning inductance”.

The tuner comprised a clockwork winder mechanism powering two bakelite surface-mounted crank wheels connected by a cord running between two vertical magnetrons – bi-electrode valves producing high-power microwave oscillations to act as radar.

The mundane-looking equipment was unearthed from a garage during a house clearance in Rough Common, Canterbury, and lumped into a job lot with a leather suitcase and an assortment of stair rods. However, it was spotted on the auctioneers’ Internet site by a number of specialist collectors, including an American collector who underbid the contraption before it eventually sold to a Sussex collector at £10,500 (plus 10 per cent premium).