Nikola Tesla was one of the finest minds of the Victorian age, a pioneer in telecommunications and energy research. Sadly, when most people hear the name, they think of a bad mid-80s Bon Jovi knockoff band or a new kind of electric sports car, not the man who dreamed up broadcast power. Yes, broadcast power: the wireless transmission of electricity. Genius.
You may have noted that we do not have broadcast power. This is due to either (a) the Tesla-stifling efforts of a century-old conspiracy created by an international cartel of fossil-fuel barons, investment bankers and politicians, or (b) broadcast power doesn’t work.
Some visionaries succeed and see their ideas come to life. Edison. Marconi. Hearst. Ford. The inventor of the television (who that was, I couldn’t say). Hughes. Hefner. Gates. Jobs. Smith. Zuckerman. Others dream and dream and try and try, but the best they get is being played by David Bowie in The Prestige.
Nicola Tesla, though, did say this in 1893:
- “As soon as (the Wardenclyffe laboratory on Long Island is) completed, it will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere. He will be able to call up, from his desk, and talk to any telephone subscriber on the globe, without any change whatever in the existing equipment. An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant. In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place …”
See that? In one paragraph, Tesla postulated global communications, including radio, television, faxing, the Internet, satellite phones, iPods … even podcasting. Sadly, Wardenclyffe did not lead to these things, and Tesla’s life spiralled into the ether, and it would be another century before his dream of hand-held worldwide telecommunications would come true.
His explanation, in 1919:
- “My project was retarded by laws of nature. The world was not prepared for it. It was too far ahead of time. But the same laws will prevail in the end and make it a triumphal success.”
You can read about Tesla with five letters’ worth of Google, or you can go to Wikipedia, which is usually a good place to start as long as you don’t have a bet riding on the facts. There’s also this interesting site.