When in 1903 the Marconi Wireless Company began a public demonstration of its systems, an unwelcome message began to appear via the Morse printer: “There was a young man from Italy, who diddled the public so prettily…”

The Marconi Multiple Tuner that took £9600 at Durrants.

The source of the embarrassment was the transmitter of a business rival who was aware that Marconi's system could not distinguish between multiple transmissions issued at any one time.

For Guglielmo Marconi, the incident highlighted the need for a tuning device capable of choosing between two or more simultaneous signals.

One of his top engineers, C.S. Franklin, was assigned the problem and by 1907 a major milestone in radio development was reached with the patent for the Marconi Multiple Tuner.

Used in conjunction with Marconi's Magnetic Detector or 'maggi', the tuners were standard equipment in the ship-to-shore service for almost a decade (there was one in the telegraph room onTitanic) before technology moved on during the First World War.

The example pictured here, marked Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co Ltd, London and with the serial number 36984, was offered by Suffolk auctioneers Durrants (12½% buyer's premium) at Beccles on October 26.

 It had been found in a garden shed and was in battered but unrestored condition - just how Marconi buffs like to find them.

Pre-sale research highlighted its potential value and a confident estimate of £3000-£5000 became a selling price of £9600.