Events for the Week

THIS WEEK: 

 

Club Social:  Please join us at Meatballs Cafe on the island this Thursday, May 23rd at 5:30pm!  The address is 2412 Padre Blvd.

 

Club Meeting:  There is NO meeting this Friday, May 24th.

 
Ralph`s Corner

May 24, 1915: Thomas A. Edison invented the Telescribe....or NOT! The problem is that some internet sources say it was in 1914 and others say it was not the May 24 but May 23. Forget the obvious fact that internet sources are not always reliable, one has to wonder how the hell you could pinpoint the moment (or day) when something was “invented”.  The process of inventing can take months or years, and cannot be declared complete until after considerable testing and verification. Saying something was “invented” on a particular date is a little like saying “I’ve been eating too much for months, but I guess I’ll name last Thursday at the day I became fat!” In Edison’s case it is often difficult to know if he should actually be credited with inventing something. While there’s no doubt he was an innovative thinker full of ideas, there’s also no doubt that he was skilled at collecting patents while heading a large team of developers and creating lots of companies. Edison was more like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates than  Nicholas Tesla.  The media happily accepted the image he created of himself as “Edison the prolific inventor,” but like Steve Jobs, who did NOT invent the apple computer, old Thomas was superb at bringing products to market, products actually invented by his team of technicians, scientists and craftsmen. Edison’s greatest skill was seeing needs, recognizing promising work being done by others, buying the rights to their work, securing patents, helping his teams improve the product, then putting his name on the finished product. He was once quoted as saying, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Perhaps, but most likely it was his team’s experimenting and tinkering that found out what would and would not work. Edison didn’t invent the light bulb. He hired Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, bought his patent and created the Edison-Swan Company, then got the media to give him the credit. OK...now that I’ve burst your bubble about T.A. Edison, lets get back to this week’s subject...the invention of the Telescribe.
 
Regardless, of whether it was 1914 or 1915, it was most likely completed in May, which is enough justification for writing about it this week. But what the hell was Edison’s Telescribe? It was actually a predecessor of the pager. It combined the telephone with a phonograph machine so that both sides of a telephonic conversation could be recorded, making the telephone more useful and the phonograph more valuable. The media heaped praise on the machine before any journalists had actually seen it working. (Nothing surprising about that is there?) At the time, The Rotarian (first published in 1911) incorrectly predicted that, “Telescribing will become a custom.”

Edison believed that telephones would not reach their full potential unless conversations could be recorded for posterity. He thought that using phones for “simple conversational chit-chat” was useless for conducting business. He’d addressed the problem with an earlier invention in 1878 called the “carbon-telephone” but it took another 37 years before he introduced the Telescribe. Even then, as now, the public was suspicious about the potential for invasion of privacy and other issues. (It certainly didn’t help President Nixon, to record his phone conversations did it?) Edison idea was that after conversations were recorded on wax cylinders, a stenographer could replay them and make paper copies to be sent to both parties for verification. He thought the commercial potential would be “almost unlimited.” He was wrong. Only a few Telescribes were ever produced before it was quietly taken off the market. Time has proven that the public much preferred to use the telephone for the “chit-chat” that Edison thought “useless.” (I wonder what he’d think of tweets and blogs?)

One thing is abundantly clear. Edison was obsessed with  finding ways to record stuff. His first patent in 1868 was for a stock ticker machine, then followed: 1875 - Perforating Pen Stencil Maker (Precursor of Tattoo pens), 1877-the Phonograph, 1887 - Wireless Telegraphy (to and from moving trains), 1891 - motion picture camera and the Kinetoscope (foreunner of the movie projector), 1898 - Florescope (diagnostic imaging), 1912 - Kinetophone (talking motion picture). If he were alive today he’d probably be taking lots of selfies, no doubt standing in front of some product he claimed to have invented.

 


POSTSCRIPT:
Once, while vacationing out West, Thomas Edison stopped at the Sioux Indian reservation. He was shocked to learn that there was no indoor plumbing, and that he would have to use an outhouse. In fact, he was told, the Sioux had to use the outhouse regardless of the weather, day and night. To help the Sioux, Edison installed lights in the outhouse. With this kind act, he became the first person to wire a head for a reservation! (Groan!!!!)

 
Club Information

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Service Above Self

We meet Fridays at 12:00 PM 
Marcello's Ocean Grille
110 N. Tarnava St.
Port Isabel, TX  78578-4514
United States
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Upcoming Events
Club Social:  At Meatballs Cafe on the island this Thursday, May 23rd at 5:30pm. 
 
Club Meeting: No Club Meeting this week.
 
USA Flags Displayed: Monday, Memorial Day, May 27th