by Leland I. Anderson
21st Century Books
The third of four remarkable books in which Nikola Tesla presents, in his own words, through heretofore unpublished extended interview, lecture, legal deposition and proposal discourse, his accomplishments in the fields of high frequency alternating current power systems engineering, telecommunications, X-ray/material-stream emanations, and telemechanics.
A firsthand account of original experimental work given in a 1902 U.S. Patent Office Interference on "individualization" techniques for secure wireless communications, defining the fundamental AND logic gate—an essential component of present day digital computers.
The setting was the mid 1890s, in Nikola Tesla's laboratory on South Fifth Avenue in New York City. His work was focused on the construction of independent remote-controlled devices he referred to as "telautomatons". Experiments were conducted with tuned receiving instruments that would respond to electrical oscillations carried in a loop of heavy wire suspended from the laboratory's ceiling.
Then tragedy struck when on March 13, 1895 Tesla's workshop burned to the ground, along with all of its contents. His reputation as an important inventor already established, the lab's destruction was viewed by many as a great calamity, a misfortune to the entire world. In spite of this setback, and driven by the enormous possibilities already suggested by his investigations, Tesla lost no time in establishing another laboratory. His ongoing work led to the development of methods for selectively exciting any of several wireless receivers—the art of individualization—but being severely restricted by local conditions, in June 1899 Tesla established an experimental station at Colorado Springs where he continued his studies. By the end of the year he had demonstrated to himself the practicality of his ideas. Realizing the importance of his ground-breaking techniques he gave instructions upon his return to New York that patent applications be prepared and submitted. During the review period, the Patent Office notified Tesla that another patent application for a similar concept had been received from Reginald Fessenden and the office was directing an Interference investigation to determine priority. Depositions were taken in 1902.
In this, the third book of the Tesla Presents Series, engineer-historian Leland Anderson provides the transcript of the 1902 U.S. Patent Interference investigation concerning Tesla's System of Signaling. The document, "Nikola Tesla vs. Reginald A. Fessenden," which is no longer on file at the U.S. Patent Office, contains Tesla's own depositions as well as those of his closest and most trusted associates, George Scherff and Fritz Lowenstein. In addition to describing Tesla's "individualization" techniques for obtaining secure noninterferable radio communications—the patent is today recognized as the fundamental AND logic gate, a critical element of every digital computer—the interference record reveals that essential features of the spread-spectrum techniques of frequency-hopping and frequency-division multiplexing have their roots in the resulting patents. Furthermore, there are new disclosures by Tesla on the operation of his large high voltage resonators at both the Houston Street laboratory and the Colorado experimental station.
Rarely in the history of science do we encounter such opportunities to gain deep insight into the fundamental ideas and concepts of an esteemed scientist/inventor. Only in recent years have we been able to truly understand the significance of Tesla's legacy to the electrical sciences. Between 1888 and 1899 Tesla delivered nine historic demonstration lectures presenting to audiences the fundamental aspects of his scientific endeavors. His brilliant technical displays held packed lecture halls spellbound, arousing thunderous ovations and bringing accolades from top scientists of the day. In this way Tesla opened the minds of many to new and profound ideas and concepts. After the turn of the century Tesla was forced to restrict his lecturing—a great loss—because his inventions were being pirated. As a result, we have very few direct records of his work after 1899. No motion pictures or audio recordings of Tesla's early demonstration lectures exist, but the Tesla Presents series carries readers near to recapturing the experience. Tesla's own words bring the story of his pioneering experiments to life.
About the author:
Leland I. Anderson is a technical writer and electrical engineer who lives in Denver, Colorado. His long-time interest in Nikola Tesla took root in the early 1950s, and his activities since then have resulted in his recognition as one of the world's foremost Tesla historians. His works include the monographs Priority in the Invention of Radio, Tesla vs. Marconi and Ball Lightning & Tesla's Electric Fireballs, and the books Nikola Tesla On His Work With Alternating Currents, Nikola Tesla—Lecture Before the New York Academy of Sciences, April 6, 1897, and Nikola Tesla's Teleforce & Telegeodynamics Proposals