Monday, April 22, 2013

The Real Doc Brown

If you see a DeLorean car, you can't help but think of Doc Brown's rather customized one in the "Back to the Future" movies.  Who knows, the original story author might have had ahead-of-his time inventor Nikola Telsa in mind when imagining his quirky character.  He does seem to be more a creature of fevered fiction  than a real mortal.

Zach and I used to race our RC (radio-controlled) cars around outside -- we even built a twisty track in an empty lot across the street --  and had a great time with them.  Snow, ice and puddles in the winter made for more of a challenge, but, alas, a shorter life for our speeding vehicles.  Maybe Zach learned something about mature driving, though; something it took me rather longer to acquire.  Little did we know at the time that the father of RC cars was the amazing Mr. Tesla.

He got approval for his patent for "A Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vessels or Vehicles" in 1898, and successfully demonstrated two four-foot long RC steel models in an indoor pond at Madison Square Garden to a dumbfounded crowd, some of whom said they had witnessed magic.  The vessels employed electric batteries to power a DC motor, lights and the rudder.  The radio signal from the wireless transmitter in his hand went across the air to the internal receiver through the whip antenna.  In his application to the Patent Office, Tesla stated that his "invention differs from all of those systems for the control of the that I require no intermediate wires...or other form of electrical or mechanical connection."  Imagine how hard this was to believe in 1898.  While the Wright brothers' demonstration a few years later inspired the world, no one in the U.S. or foreign governments or their militaries paid much attention to wireless control until after Tesla's patent had expired.  If the old boy could use a satellite GPS device today, he'd probably say, "Yes, that's what I had in mind! But can you get a pizza delivered using a hand device?"  We sure can, and thank you.


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