Alfred Traeger – The inventive genius who gave a voice to Outback Australia

Alfred Hermann Traeger was born on 2nd August 1895 at Glenlee, Dimboola, Victoria. He was the eldest son of Johann Hermann and Louisa Traeger. He grew up on a farm at Balaklava in South Australia.

As a young teen Traeger made a telephone receiver using a tobacco tin and pieces he found around his farm. He used it to transmit messages between the family’s tool shed and their house.
At 16 he received a scholarship to study mechanical and electrical engineering at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries.

Following school he worked in Adelaide repairing car generators and solving electrical problems. He still loved the radios and soon obtained an amateur operator’s licence and used the call sign VK5AX.

Reverend Flynn was establishing the Inland Aerial Medical Service for the remote inland of Australia. He needed an efficient radio for the outback stations to communicate with a medical base in town. He approached Traeger with a request to develop a means of communication.

Using inspiration from an concept in World War 1 , and after some trials and errors with the speed and consistency Traeger had invented the first wireless pedal radio, at a cost of £33.

The first pedal radios were introduced in Queensland in June 1929 at Augustus Downs some 320km north of Cloncurry, 13 months after the Flying Doctor Service started, and on the 19th June the first transmission was sent from Augustus Downs, by Gertrude Rothery, to the Cloncurry base.

School of the Air commenced June 8th 1951 in Alice Springs thanks to Alfred Traeger and Reverend John Flynn. It . Cloncurry had the first base in Queensland in 1960 and it was taught by Bridgette (Bid) O’Sullivan.

Traeger’s pedal radios were being sold in countries around the world for more than 30 years.
He went on to invent a variety of things including a turbine driven car and using solar power to convert salt water to fresh water.

Alfred Traeger was awarded an OBE in 1944.

Alfred Hermann Traeger died in Adelaide on 31st July 1980 at Rosslyn Park, Adelaide. A plaque was erected at an Alice Springs sports field and the Royal Flying Doctor Service added one of their planes to his memorial.