Nikola Tesla, Hacker Hero

Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe lab building, seen in 1904.

Kelly Faircloth explains why inventor extraordinaire Nikola Tesla has become an icon for the new generation of hackers, for the New York Observer:

For all the modern-day desire to emulate Steve Jobs, the heroic nerd isn’t a new American trope. As long ago as the Gilded Age, scientist Nikola Tesla was a celebrity. He lived at the Waldorf Astoria and was close friends with Mark Twain.

But he was neither entertainer nor robber baron. Rather, as the inventor of an effective alternating current system of power generation, he’d helped usher in a new, electrified era. His ambitious visions of the future (and complete lack of a filter) made great copy, meaning newspaper reporters were always eager to put him in print.

In 1901, at the height of his fame, Tesla built a laboratory in the rural farmland of Shoreham, Long Island. Dubbed Wardenclyffe, the facility was designed by Stanford White and meant to be the site of his greatest achievement yet: Intercontinental transmission of wireless radio signals. But it wasn’t to be. “Wardenclyffe was a landmark as magnificent in concept and execution as America’s Golden Age of electrical engineering ever produced,” writes Margaret Cheney in her 1981 biography Tesla: Man Out of Time — “magnificent and doomed.”

Today, raccoons roam the graffiti-covered interior, which has been gradually stripped of all valuable piping and wiring. The soaring interior has been subdivided into warren-like enclosures, arched windows boarded over. The tower that formerly loomed overhead is long gone. Until very recently, it was a Superfund site, polluted with silver and cadmium.

While Marconi made it into the history books for his wireless innovations, and Edison was remembered as the great inventor of the lightbulb and popularizer of electricity, Tesla fell out of favor. By 1916, he was bankrupt. (That made the papers, too.) He died at the New Yorker Hotel in January 1943, reportedly with only a snow white pigeon as a companion. For ages, he was remembered largely as a Doctor Strange-like figure, lurking in the shadows of scientific respectability…

[continues in the New York Observer]


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13 Comments on "Nikola Tesla, Hacker Hero"

  1. Hadrian999 | Sep 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm |

    steve jobs heroic nerd……fascist control freak

  2. Marklar_Prime | Sep 18, 2012 at 10:01 pm |

    Compared to Tesla Edison, Jobs, and even Einstein were mental insects.

  3. Hadrian999 | Sep 18, 2012 at 10:34 pm |

    every time i think about edison and tesla i think of this

  4. Cockrillsmith | Sep 19, 2012 at 2:21 am |

    he is the main symbol for all the hacker.

  5. J. Pierpont Morgan pressured George Westinghouse to renege on his agreement with Nikola Tesla. He deliberately withheld funding from the Westinghouse Company, until the original agreement between Tesla and Westinghouse was abrogated, thereby stopping Tesla dead cold in his tracts. Tesla, a humanitarian, willingly tore up the original agreement with Westinghouse in order to save the Westinghouse firm. Morgan then proceeded to control the Westinghouse firm, unseating George Westinghouse from his own company, ruining Westinghouse personally and psychologically. Westinghouse died a few short years later, demoralized and completely broken.
    Such was the utter ruthlessness of J. Pierpont Morgan exposed, who was not willing that any should benefit from their own ‘novelty of fact’ discoveries, especially, if it would completely destroy J. Pierpont Morgan’s own objectives, goals and ambitions.
    Morgan had originally backed Thomas Alva Edison and his Direct Current system, he funded the entire Edison project, worldwide, he invested in the complete monopolization of the electrification system based on DC. Upon the successful completion of the Westinghouse/Tesla Niagara Falls Power Project, Morgan began his “control” paradigm, because he knew that Tesla’s power system would quickly supplant the Edison Electrification system based on DC, which was now ‘openly’ proven to be inferior to AC power generation.
    Shortly thereafter Tesla’s laboratory was burned down and Westinghouse lost control of his own company. Morgan sent his own men to sit on the board of Westinghouse, unseating George Westinghouse sending him packing, never to return. Westinghouse died a short time thereafter, completely demoralized. Edison was regarded as a ‘loose’ cannon, and he too was removed from his own company, when Morgan reorganized the Edison firm into the General Electric Company. Morgan, the monopolist, exercised complete and absolute control.

  6. CosmicAmazing | Sep 19, 2012 at 8:55 am |

    Personally, I think Tesla has done more for this world than Jesus, Edison, Jobs, and Einstein combined. Tesla’s greatest discoveries are still kept secret today. Duncan Trussell even says why, “because Tesla’s idea’s conflict with a capitalist society.” Tesla’s primary goal was to give the world truly free energy. He discovered that electrical energy had an unlimited source which could be tapped and used to create useful work. This is still true today, but our circuits and electrical principles are designed to destroy the mechanism that allows for this. And anyone who circumvents the barriers modern science has placed on electrical theory will be ruthlessly suppressed. 

    If you would like to know more about the history surrounding Tesla’s discoveries look here:

  7. Crazy Irish Dan . | Sep 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm |

    I used to be a guard at the site. Actually walked a couple of Romanian tourists around the place – they’d come so far, and I knew by that time that pretty much nobody came there during my shift. Locked the gate, showed them the Tesla plaque. Unfortunately, not a huge amount to see – man, I was hoping for just one old piece of electronic ‘junk’ from the old age still around, but nope.

    Probably have some of that silver in my lungs, though….

  8. He died as a virgin. Genius.

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