Patent wars and other epic battles where business and technology mix

Epic battles where business and technology mixIn the epic battles where business and technology mix, one of the most famous fights of the Industrial Age has been dubbed "The War of Currents." The war was between the famous inventor Thomas Edison who backed DC (direct current) as the preferred method to delivery electricity to your home, and George Westinghouse who backed AC (alternating current).

There are two other epic battles of business and technology that stand out as similar to the War of Currents, the war over television in the 1930s, and the browser wars of the 1990s.

The War of Currents

In the 1890s the War of Currents was a business and technology battle that started between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. Many history books and website tout the battle as Edison versus Tesla. The cult of Tesla has glorified Nikola Tesla to be the ultimate inventor of AC power distribution.  Tesla was a genius, and a major contributor to AC Power distribution, but Tesla was a part of a team put together by George Westinghouse.
 
Tesla and Westinghouse made a good team.  In areas where Tesla failed, Westinghouse excelled. Nikola Tesla was a visionary with many ideas, he could see the problems and solve them in his head. Westinghouse was a systems thinker. Westinghouse purchased various patents from European inventors Gaulard and Gibbs, and then purchased patents from Tesla, to build a system to that would distribute AC power to American homes.

Maybe Tesla understood his weakness, as he stated,  "George Westinghouse was, in my opinion, the only man on this globe who  could take my alternating-current system under the circumstances then  existing and win the battle against prejudice and money power. He was  one of the world's true noblemen, of whom America may well be proud and  to whom humanity owes an immense debt of gratitude."

When Tesla  was a forgotten man living in New York hotels in the final years of his  life, it was Westinghouse that was picking up the tab for his room and board.

Geekhistory explores who invented radio

Who invented radioAnswering the question of "who invented radio" is another example of the complexities of defining inventors of inventions. There is no one "eureka" moment where a lone inventor in a lab created something totally new that changed everything.  Radio was an ongoing evolution of an idea over time. It is not as simple as picking out a single individual, or even a single point in time, that was the turning point in the creation of radio.

I started my career in technology in the 1970s working on military communications and citizens band radios. As I studied technology I remember Guglielmo Marconi was often mentioned as the "father of radio." Over time I have come to realize that Marconi is one of many contributions to the technology of radio.

What makes that task even more difficult with radio is that the term itself does not define a simple single item.

When I say radio, do you think of music broadcast over the airwaves? When I say wireless do you think of voice communications?

The concept of radio continues to evolve. In the early half of the 21st century the term wireless could be used to describe a short-range computer networking system, with technologies such as Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN), Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. The term wireless is also applied to a mobile telephone system.

The concept of radio started as  the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires.  The etymology of "radio" or "radiotelegraphy" reveals that it was called "wireless telegraphy" which was later shortened to "wireless."   

Radio visionaries

Michael Faraday is best known for his work regarding electricity and magnetism. Faraday began his great series of experiments in 1831 on the concepts of electromagnetic induction. 

James Clerk Maxwell introduced the concept of electromagnetic field in the 1860s. Based on the earlier experimental work of Faraday and other scientists and on his own modification to Ampere's law, James Clerk Maxwell developed his theory of electromagnetism, which predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz conduct a series of experiments between 1886 and 1889 that validated Maxwell's theory.  The unit of frequency, cycle per second, was named the "hertz" in his honor.

Henry Ford creates ultimate history museum of Industrial Revolution

The ultimate geek history museum complex of the Industrial RevolutionHenry Ford created the ultimate geek history museum complex of the Industrial Revolution in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

Collectively called "The Henry Ford" the history museum complex is comprised of the large indoor Henry Ford Museum, and the outdoor Greenfield Village. The museum complex also has an IMAX movie theatre and offers the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.

Ford collects the history of the common man

In the Chicago Tribune in 1916 Henry Ford was quoted as saying that "history is more or less bunk." Ford qualified that remark by saying he was referring to written history which talked about wars and politicians, but the history taught in school did not record the history of the common man.

By the late 1920s, Henry Ford had become the primary collector of Americana in the world. Ford started with collecting antiques and household goods, but he later moved on to collecting historic structures with the creation of Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford also began collecting materials for a museum with a theme of practical technology.

The Edison Institute opened in 1929 as a private site for educational purposes only, based on Henry Ford's desire to preserve items of historical significance and portray the Industrial Revolution. The Edison Institute Museum, now known as The Henry Ford Museum, is a traditional museum reflecting Henry Ford's love of farm tools, home appliances, furniture and industrial machines. There are also large exhibits of automotive and locomotive technology.

Greenfield Village

Next door to the Henry Ford Museum is Greenfield Village, a vast array of famous homes and buildings that Henry Ford moved from their original location and reconstructed there. One of the most interesting analogies I have heard describing Greenfield Village is that Henry Ford collected buildings like some people collect stamps.

The original purpose for Greenfield Village, from Henry Ford's point of view, was for educational purposes. He felt the best way for the country's youth to learn by experiencing things first-hand. Many of the first buildings at Greenfield Village were from the life of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Ford named it Greenfield Village, after his wife's hometown.

Greenfield Village started with a loving restoration of Ford's boyhood home. When workmen recovered broken bits of his mother's dishes, Ford had her china reproduced and placed on the shelves just as it had been when he was growing up. He built a replica of the workbench where he had repaired watches as a boy, scoured antique shops to find furniture he remembered from his youth, and filled dresser drawers with shawls like those his mother had worn.

Pages

Subscribe to Geek History RSS