electricity

The mythical rivalry between Edison and Tesla full of misinformation

The mythical rivalry between Edison and Tesla full of misinformationThe myth that Edison stole Tesla's ideas is rooted in Edison's legacy of creating an invention factory where Edison used his staff to develop ideas and turn them into patents. Some point to the concept of the invention factory as the reason for his success, critics say Edison took his invention factory too far, and Edison took credit for any individual creativity by his employees.

Many successful inventors realize that experimentation and research takes money. Edison's first invention was the Universal Stock Ticker in 1869. Edison used the money he earned from the stock ticker to start his "invention factory." Edison had the reputation of a hard driving businessman, but he was also passionate about creating an invention factory. Edison paid workers to conduct numerous tedious experiments so he did not have to do the boring manual tasks himself.

How many inventions and innovations made in the name of Apple or Microsoft were not the direct work of Gates or Jobs? How is Edison's invention factory any different that the large number of engineers, designers, and programmers working for Microsoft or Apple, but all we hear about is the success of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

It's funny when someone asks, "Has Apple ever invented anything original?" the answers that say that Apple is an innovator not an inventor are widely accepted. People praise Apple for picking the right set of existing ideas and combining them in a new ways to make better products. When Thomas Edison takes existing ideas and combines them in new ways to make better products, he is called a thief.

Did Edison try to ruin Tesla's career?

The fable that is often told that Edison promised Tesla $50,000 and did not keep his promise. Take a minute and think about that story logically.

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Who was Nikola Tesla the legacy of the most interesting geek

Nikola TeslaNikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a Serbian born inventor who grew up in an area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is the modern-day country of Croatia.  At times the life story of Nikola Tesla flows like an epic science fiction saga. According to legend, the man known as the Master of Lightning was born at the stroke of midnight on July 10, 1856, during a lightning storm in a mountainous area of the Balkan Peninsula. Tesla's parents were Serbian, his father was an orthodox priest, his mother was an inventor of practical household gadgets.

Most of Nikola Tesla's early inventions fell into the categories of electrical power distribution or motors and generators. In 1884, at age 28, Tesla left Europe and headed for New York City in search of Thomas Edison. Tesla was interested in AC (alternating current) systems and was looking to impress Edison with his ideas on AC systems. Edison wasn't interested in hearing about AC, as Edison was developing DC (direct current) electrical power systems.

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From the War of Currents to the history of electricity in homes

From the War of Currents to the history of electricity in homesIn this section of the GeekHistory almanac we look at the history of electricity in homes from the discovery of electricity through the War of Currents.

What was the War of Currents?

In the 1890s the War of Currents was a business and technology battle between the Edison Electric Light Company and Westinghouse Electric Company over what electric power transmission system should be used. George Westinghouse and the Westinghouse Electric Company supported AC (alternating current). Thomas Edison and the Edison Electric Light Company supported DC (direct current).

The internet loves to portray the battle as one between rival inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. It makes for a good story of the hero, Tesla, defeating his rival, Edison. Both Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were well known in the 1890s and were masters at drawing attention to themselves. George Westinghouse, unlike his rival Edison, did not seek media attention, and was a very private person.

Thomas Edison was a well known inventor riding his success and media attention for inventing the phonograph. Edison leveraged his name and fame to start building DC power plants in New York City. Nikola Tesla was a genius, and his inventions contributed to AC Power distribution, but Tesla was member of a team put together by George Westinghouse.

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Thomas Edison launched the modern electric utility industry

Charles P. Steinmetz and Thomas A. Edison All major inventions were an evolution of ideas and inventors over many years. Many light bulbs were invented before Edison's that worked in the laboratory and for short-term demonstrations. There were more that twenty inventors that filed patents for various versions of the incandescent lamp before Edison, and there have been dozens of inventors that have filed patents for incandescent lamps since Edison.

In the mythology of famous scientists and inventors, there is the eureka moment, that's when some totally new idea or totally new theory is discovered. Thomas Edison's eureka moment was not in inventing the light bulb but in creating a carbon-filament lamp in a vacuum. This one improvement of the concept of the light bulb created the first commercially practical incandescent light. Edison's first attempts lasted a little over half a day, but eventually his efforts led to a bulb that could burn for 1,200 hours.

Edison's success went beyond the incandescent light bulb to developing an entire integrated system of electric lighting. Thomas Edison presented to the world a complete system of commercial electric lighting and power using a DC (Direct Current) generating station.

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