Remote Control everything
July 1, 2005 5:37 PM   Subscribe

The first patent for remote control was submitted by Nikola Tesla 1899. Since then its been implemented in all sorts of ways. The most popular method is probably channel surfing made possible by Robert Adler, which you can now do on your wristwatch. Pranksters might be interested in remote flatulence or golf balls while musicians might like a remote ukulele. There's even a whole Yahoo category of devices hooked up to the internet. Someday most trains, planes, and automobiles might have remote control capability. But even as we take our remote vehicles to new worlds we have moved on to include remote insects, rats, and someday genes. In fact, the ultimate wi-fi may connect our brains. But perhaps the invention proposed by Tesla that will most change our world is Wireless Power Transmission.
posted by john (7 comments total)
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:25 AM on July 2, 2005

Edison couldn't shine Tesla's shoes and yet we are fed a steady diet of Edison's greatness through the years and Tesla is hardly mentioned. Why is that? Because he failed as greatly as he achieved? At least he dared to try.
posted by nofundy at 3:48 AM on July 2, 2005

Once again I find myself deliberating whether to castigate the poster for stealing more than an hour of my life or thank them warmly for their efforts in constructing a wonderful FPP and linkset. I'm on the fence so thankyou john you bastard!
"It wasn't until 1943—a few months after Tesla's death— that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Tesla's radio patent number 645,576. The Court had a selfish reason for doing so. The Marconi Company was suing the United States Government for use of its patents in World War I. The Court simply avoided the action by restoring the priority of Tesla's patent over Marconi."
I didn't know that. Telsa's life was really interesting and many of his inventions and enterprises could each easily sustain an FPP in their own right. I get the feeling that Tesla was more naturally predisposed towards novel inventions compared to Edison who, as I understand it, relied heavily on his business acumen and accumulating the discoveries of his underlings and associates rather than producing so many individually usesful products de novo himself. Certainly he accumulated an unwarranted surfeit of renown and riches, a large slice of which should have been Tesla's.
It must have been amazing to see the Chicago-Columbian World's Fair with its AC-powered light displays and demonstration later of that first remote control (my tv remote will forevermore be referred to as a 'teleautomaton') application on a boat -- I can well understand people thinking it was magic.
The Wardenclyffe (unfinished) project is really intriguing, as is the mysterious scattering of his papers.

Fascinating stuff. Strange. Impressive.
posted by peacay at 6:07 AM on July 2, 2005

"The first patent for remote control was submitted by Nikola Tesla 1899" Shortly after Nikola was seen to be digging around in the couch muttering “where is that thing?”

Nice post. I have read about Tesla numorous times but there is always something new.
posted by arse_hat at 8:53 AM on July 2, 2005


There's a good degree of evidence that Edison is responsible for Tesla's lack of recognition. It all started when Telsa was working for him.
Eventually Tesla was presented with a challenge. If he could increase the efficiency of the DC dynamos by 25% Edison would present him with a bonus of $50,000. A two-month deadline was imposed and Tesla kept to it, improving the efficiency of some dynamos by up to 50%.

Unfortunately, Tesla hadn't reckoned on Edison's notoriously tight-fisted nature. He reneged on the deal and refused to hand over the money. Tesla, infuriated at being betrayed by his idol, quit in disgust. It was at this point that he was approached by a group of investors interested in developing an arc light that he had invented. He went into partnership with them as the Tesla Arc Light Company. The arc lights sold well and Tesla expected to have enough money to develop his AC system. But, in the first of a series of business errors that were to plague his life, he found out that his 50% share did not entitle him to a 50% voting share and he was voted out of his own company. One of the finest engineers in the world was reduced to digging ditches for a dollar a day....

In an attempt to stress the dangers of AC power, Edison sponsored a minor electrical engineer called Harold Brown to travel the country electrocuting animals with both DC and AC. The frequency of AC confuses the heart, so AC electrocuted animals died but DC victims were stunned but lived. Edison used these sideshow 'experiments' to contrast the danger of AC compared with the relative safety of DC. He continued his campaign by a typically devious piece of subterfuge.

Of course, if you want to slid into the speculative arena one could imagine other differences between the two. Moving beyond Edison to the Wireless Power Transmission one could further imagine that Tesla's experiments, "were really an attempt to find a way to ride the wave distortion created by the implicate and the explicate communicating through holomovement."
posted by john at 9:52 AM on July 2, 2005

If there was one person I could bring back from the past it would be Tesla, he just did so much more for the present day than pretty much anyone else.
posted by Iax at 6:54 PM on July 2, 2005

Thank you for the excellent post and response john. I have always admired Tesla.
posted by nofundy at 12:05 PM on July 3, 2005

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