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Communications Technology

BlackBerry Predicted a Century Ago By Nikola Tesla 253

andylim writes "According to the Telegraph, the BlackBerry was first predicted more than a century ago, by Nikola Tesla, the electrical engineer. Seth Porges, Popular Mechanics' current technology editor, disclosed Tesla's prediction at a presentation, titled '108 Years of Futurism,' to industry figures recently in New York. Recombu.com has published the original Popular Mechanics article in which Tesla predicts a mobile phone revolution."
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BlackBerry Predicted a Century Ago By Nikola Tesla

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:55AM (#32083720)

    Tesla was a freakin genius.

    Our entire modern world wouldnt exist without him. And he never got any credit while he was alive.

    Hell, theres STILL stuff he came up with that we have no understanding of. Yet.

    • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@g m a i l . com> on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:05AM (#32083794)

      Agreed [wikipedia.org]. Basically if it runs on electricity, Tesla has a hand in it.

    • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:07AM (#32083820)
      ... Stuff he completely refused to document or explain, making it perfectly indistinguishable from the rantings of once-great scientist who has slipped into mediocrity, or even insanity. It's strange how you think the 'stuff' he came up with, that you don't understand, is somehow noteworthy. Surely that is irrational, as you don't know what it is. It's as if you are worshipping at the altar of Tesla. You're not a conspiracy theorist, are you?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The tendency to worship someone, something is strong in humans, and the image of Nicola Tesla has the tendency to expand to super-human proportions in the mind of many a geek. Still, I'd rather have someone bow to the shrine of St. Nicola occasionally than to channel the irrational part we all carry into something less harmless. How about we declare a St. Tesla's Day, where everyone has to sacrifice 1 kWh of energy by doing pointless but spectacular HV experiments with lots of sparks, ozone and thunder?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by lawnboy5-O ( 772026 )
        I agree - considering that most of the things we use - are directly from the Lab of Edison, where my grandmother use to work as a close personal assistant of his. An no, I dont worship the old bastard - i do respect him. And yes his toiling and rants with Westinghouse / Tesla were probably the catalysts in competition for such and amazing inventor's streak - but its is UNDOUBTEDLY the crazy angry old Edison that out did Tesla when looking at the pragmatic and practical value of such said inventions.

    • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:28AM (#32084036) Journal

      Hell, theres STILL stuff he came up with that we have no understanding of. Yet.

      That stuff is either genius or failed experiments. How would you know the difference?

      Note that this article predicts both the Internet and wireless technology, but with no mention of the digital aspects. It also predicts wireless power, such that a ship could be sent across the Atlantic, powered by a single wireless power station on one side. It predicted all of this would happen in something like 5 years.

      So he was wrong about how long it would take, and he threw out at least one other idea in that article that we haven't seen happen, and have no evidence can happen.

      I like Tesla as much as anyone else, but I'm not sure how to call this one. Fuzzy, at best. I think Orwell had it closer.

      • by srmalloy ( 263556 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:43AM (#32084196) Homepage

        Note that this article predicts both the Internet and wireless technology, but with no mention of the digital aspects. It also predicts wireless power, such that a ship could be sent across the Atlantic, powered by a single wireless power station on one side. It predicted all of this would happen in something like 5 years.

        Tesla was, for the greater part of his life, badly hampered by a severe lack of money to carry out his more expansive projects. Some of this was due to his overgenerous nature, as when he gave up entirely the royalties Westinghouse owed him on the power-generation devices Tesla had designed, some was due to his lifelong habit of chasing ideas off in odd directions without consideration for their economic utility, and some was due to his inability to obtain funding from others -- Westinghouse, for example, refused to fund Tesla's development of a broadcast-power system after Tesla admitted that there would be no way to determine how much power any given end-user consumed, so there would be no way to bill them for it.

        • I'm also severely limited by lack of money in my attempt to create a cold-fusion machine which uses kittens as a fuel source. If every slashdot user sends me $500, I'm sure I'll have it worked out in no time!

      • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:57AM (#32084358)
        While this article quotes Tesla predicting wireless technology, it is not very similar to what we actualy have. His prediction was for central switching stations, not distributed cell towers. What Telsa was talking about is not what we have today. It bears a superficial resemblance, but it is a completely different technology.
        • by Jeng ( 926980 )

          He predicted a small communication device that could communicate in voice via transmissions that allowed you to talk to other people thousands of miles away and would also interface with normal phone lines. At least that is what I got out of the article.

          Sounds a lot like a cell phone to me, then again it also sounds a lot like HAM radio.

          In his head what he was predicting probably in no way shape or form come close to what we think he was predicting.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by hitmark ( 640295 )

            sounds like a car phone to me, those pre-cell phones that had a limited number of channels covering a whole city.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Any persons predictions will come to fruition if given enough time.

        I predict the world will end in a fiery death. And I am right, simply wait around a few billion years to witness the sun eating our planet.

        Predictions of flying cars will come to life the second that they can perfect the auto flying system. Because everyones worse nightmare is the current crop of idiots on our highways, piloting a "flying car" in 3 dimensions.

      • by painandgreed ( 692585 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:32AM (#32085886)

        Note that this article predicts both the Internet and wireless technology, but with no mention of the digital aspects.

        But he did. Telsa was the inventor of the AND logic gate. [tfcbooks.com] When computers started to catch on and research was done and people went to patent their inventions, some of them found out that Telsa already had the patents some more than 50 years earlier because he was already developing the same techniques while trying to control devices wirelessly. So, he did do that, it just wasn't mentioned in the article probably because it wasn't seen as important at the time and because it was quite simply beyond everybody else.

        When Tesla developed weapons for the military and displayed them at a World's Fair, he demonstrated remote controlled submarines and torpedoes and tried to explain how both the submarines and torpedoes could be controlled and guided wirelessly by operators far away. In a time where a simply wireless system that allowed ships to talk to each other reliably, submarines, or torpedoes would have been a major military breakthrough, the army and navy just couldn't even comprehend what he was talking about let alone figure out how to use remote drones effectivly.

        • by iwbcman ( 603788 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @03:30PM (#32089636) Homepage
          After having read about Tesla's demoing of remote controlled(wireless) submarine which used digital logic for navigation at he 1896 World Fair in Chicago(IIRC), I went to the head of the Physics department at the University of Louisville(circa '89), to ask him what he thought about Tesla's contributions. The man looked at me with a straight face and declared that Tesla was a raving lunatic who had contributed nothing. That day I dropped out of my Electrical Engineering major. I figured that if the supposedly brightest minds in our department were a) so utterly ignorant b) so obnoxiously arrogant and c) whose imaginative capacities were dwarfed by common ants, that I had nothing to learn from them. Haven't looked back once in all the years.

          It would not be utterly misguided to view the history of electrical engineering in the last 100 years as the attempt to document and render reproducible that which Tesla intuitively grasped and understood.

          I didn't bother mentioning to the man that if it wasn't for that raving lunatic who had contributed nothing that he would a) be working in a room powered by candlelight or b) that we would have DC power generators on every city block providing electricity .....At the rate we are going we will still need another 100 years to catch up to where Tesla was 100 years ago....He managed to pull these things off *without* a body of knowledge composed by millions of people working together, around the world, for the last 100 years-without modern theories, without modern equipment, without decent funding, etc.

          And our geniuses of today nitpick and dismiss what Tesla did, because we are oh so much smarter nowadays, give me a friggin break...

    • Tesla: Nostradamus for geeks.

  • But could he predict people associating "Blackberry" with "Phone that has a qwerty keyboard", the same way people associate "iPod" with "any MP3 player"?

    • Blackberry is one word, whereas SMS is three, and therefor far more complex and difficult to use.

      For example 'i just got a message on my blacberry ' vs 'i just received a short message service message'. You see just how complex it is?

      Clearly RIM were the ones who opened up mobile messaging to the world and deserve full credit.


      • Clearly RIM were the ones who opened up mobile messaging to the world and deserve full credit.

        Uhm, what?!? SMS had already been in popular use in Europe for years when the BlackBerry came. Or do you mean reading/sending email on the phone? Then say so.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Most normal people simply say, "just a sec, I got a message on my phone."

        What wierdos call it a blackberry? is it the same ones that say, "I dont know, let me check my IPHONE. SEE IPHONE! LOOKIE!!!!! I'm trendy..... stop mocking me...."

        disclaimer: I have an iphone. I like it because it's the best tool for a business person at the moment.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by nacturation ( 646836 ) *

          Most normal people simply say, "just a sec, I got a message on my phone." What wierdos call it a blackberry?

          The same weirdos who ask for a Kleenex instead of a facial tissue? Or who ask "Would you like a coke?" when they're asking if you'd like a carbonated beverage? Or who ask for an Aspirin instead of a tablet of acetylsalicylic acid?

    • There are some who believe the iPad idea was stolen from Alan Kay [conceivablytech.com], so I guess anything is possible.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by joeyblades ( 785896 )

        Kay proposed his Dynabook in 1972... but before that Gene Roddenberry and company proposed the PADD in Star Trek circa 1966. The iPad looks (and sounds) a lot more like PADD than the Dynabook.

        Hey, credit where credit is due!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:58AM (#32083744)

    So the guy predicted text messaging. Impressive. But why does everything have to be a product placement nowadays?

    This case is especially stupid, since what really enables worldwide access to messaging are $20 phones.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      what really enables worldwide access to messaging are $20 phones.

      And a messaging plan of how much per month?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I think you must be in the wrong country.
      • Mine is £free per month (or $free per month, if you only work in dollars). I don't get X free messages/minutes per month, but given the length of time that credit lasts then why get a contract? Computers do all I need, or I'm already at home with my family. Communication in those situations is already catered for.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          given the length of time that credit lasts then why get a contract?

          When I bought my handset, the pay-as-you-go carriers didn't have smartphones, and U.S. residents can't buy a CDMA handset and plan separately because U.S. CDMA carriers don't use removable CSIM cards.

          Computers do all I need

          With exorbitant tethering charges.

          • by fbjon ( 692006 )
            What's a tethering charge, and how is it different from any other data transfer?
            • What's a tethering charge, and how is it different from any other data transfer?

              In mobile phone service plans offered to residents of the United States, a tethering charge is a surcharge for the privilege to use a handset associated with a plan as a modem for an external device, as opposed to using the handset as a terminal in itself. The rationale is that an external device with a 1680x1050 pixel display will be used to initiate the transfer of a larger quantity of data than a smartphone with a 320x480 pixel display.

    • Videoconferencing was predicted way back in 1869 by cartoonist George du Maurier. [neverpedia.com]

    • So the guy predicted text messaging. Impressive.

      Western Union launched its transcontinental telegraph service in 1861. Keyboard entry and alphanumeric printing for the telegraph appears along about 1902. Frederick G. Creed [wikipedia.org]

      The only missing piece of the puzzles are direct telephone-like dialing and affordable "Telex" machines for home and office use.

  • Blackberry? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:59AM (#32083748)
    Not sure why this article claims he predicted the Blackberry. Maybe he predicted the iPhone. Or the Droid. Or just the generic cellphone. Or the walkie-talkie. It's nice that Blackberry is getting some face time but I don't really see the necessity to focus the article on a specific brand rather than the entire product category...
    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      It talks about the ability for the user of a portable device to send text message to an operator anywhere in the world.
      • A Blackberry is the only device capable of sending a text message to an operator anywhere in the world? News to me.
        • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
          Indeed, it is about text messages. I was merely pointing out why walkie talkies did not apply
    • I'll tell you once I find out. You could even go as far as claim he predicted the internet, for that matter.

      Anyway; product placement aside, it really isn't that surprising he predicted wireless communication. I mean, look at his areas of scientific interest and research.

      What I'm still waiting for is generation of energy from thin air, preferably cheaply available to anyone.
  • by MaxwellEdison ( 1368785 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:00AM (#32083750)
    I don't find it very surprising that someone obsessed with perfecting the wireless transmission of electricity would envision the wireless transmission of information. The fact that he predicted Apple would abandon flash though, was a bit of a shock.
    • That whole article was such bunk. Especially that last line? Darth_Brooks needs to take ten steps back away from desk befo%^$#^%$#^% NO CARRIER

  • Blackberry Advert (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tom17 ( 659054 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:01AM (#32083758) Homepage
    Pure Blackberry advertising to increase usage in the UK. Why should they correlate "possible to transmit wireless messages all over the world." with the BB and not, say, any phone since the mid 90's?

    • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:09AM (#32083846)
      The real kicker is BlackBerry devices, and your aforementioned "any phone since the mid 90s", can't do that. Only satellite phones can do that, and I'm pretty sure RIM don't make those.
      • by tom17 ( 659054 )
        Well that depends how you define 'transmit' I guess. Technically, you are right, and thinking about it I get the feeling that's what Tesla meant, based upon his transmitting electricity ideas...
        Hmm... Well spotted :)

      • Re:Blackberry Advert (Score:5, Informative)

        by grumling ( 94709 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:29AM (#32084040) Homepage

        TECHNICALLY, a satphone only transmits up to the closest satellite. Single sideband (PSK31 if you want data) on the HF bands can transmit all over the world.

      • *shrugs* it is possible for a normal cellular phone to transmit data world-wide. In 1998 I had an Ericcson PCS phone that was able to send and receive e-mail, which could go world wide by that point. The problem was that I could only do it in an area where I had cellular reception, and the cell tower was what relayed the message through the wire/fibre network world-wide.

        So yeah, in a *literal* sense, only a sat phone can actually transmit world-wide, though even that's going through a sattelite or three as

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )
          The cellphone in question needs service in order to send. As does the satellite phone. But satellite phones, by their very nature, do not need ground-based infrastructure relatively close to the user in order to send data. Cellphones do. You can't go out into the middle of the jungle, or as Tesla says, in the middle of the sea, and expect to communicate with your Ericsson PCS phone ;)
  • by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:04AM (#32083780)

    Way back in the day when I was in high school I heard Tesla predicted the Internet, using exactly that quote. There's no arguing that Tesla did a lot of amazing things but he's no technological Nostradamus, no matter how much people try to shoehorn him into the role.

    • Well, considering the fact that when you read Popular Science articles from that era and that claim things like "in the future no-one will drink water unless it has been infused with the life-giving properties of radium", it's still a pretty good prediction, even if it is fairly general.

    • Reading Paris in the Twentieth Century, on the other hand, makes one wonder if Jules Verne might have been a technological Nostradamus:
      • Automobiles
      • World-wide electronic communications network used daily by office workers
      • Execution by electricity
      • Television
      • High speed trains

      And so forth. As I recall, Verne also prediction global electronic communications in another novel...

      • by Jeng ( 926980 )

        Jules Verne read the equivalent of /. back in the day. Almost everything he "predicted" in his books was in theory at that time.

        Not that that is a bad thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:07AM (#32083810)

    Tesla anticipating the advent of portable communication devices does not in any way equate to him having predicted the BlackBerry.

    I've found that I'm making small scornful noises increasingly often while reading Slashdot and BetaNews headlines. I have yet to determine the threshold at which I will cease reading technology news altogether, but I feel it is rapidly approaching. I don't want to stop, so please, please, for the love of Christ please stop posting this frothy nonsense.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:08AM (#32083832) Journal
    ... Tesla was preoccupied with wireless transmission of power, not information. He devoted his entire later half of his life and millions of dollars from his investors on that elusive dream. Even today wireless transmission of power, without attenuation has not been achieved.

    At the turn of the century, Marconi, Tesla and Jagdish Chandra Bose demonstrated wirelessly turning on a switch over a distance. Marconi could never get the resonance circuit working right (what he called coherer). Got the idea from Bose in a conference, (or stole Bose's notebook depending on where you hear it from). Bose was an idealist and never thought of commericializing his inventions, and was stuck in Calcutta, India anyway. Marconi went into wireless signal propagation and Tesla went into wireless power transmission.

    Despite his visionary predictions about wireless communications, Tesla's dream of wireless transmission of power has not yet been realized.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by squinty_s ( 1738438 )
      Actually, his investors pulled out, bankrupting him when they realized it was impossible to meter such wireless power. I have no doubt that if they continued, the world would be much different today.
      • Tesla was a great genius and a man well ahead of his time, but still to think he would have achieved what present day scientists could not yet achieve is not justified.

        If it is possible to beam power, we should be able to lift cell phone repeaters using balloons and power the transponders using a beamed from earth. Or launch solar power stations in low earth orbit and get the power to the ground via microwave power. We still can't do it.

        No even if his investors had continued to fund him, he would not

    • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

      He may have been preoccupied with wireless power transmission, but he was funded for wireless data transmission. After Marconi transmitted across the atlantic, his funding dried up before he could achieve either to an appreciable degree.

  • Prior Art! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rnturn ( 11092 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:10AM (#32083856)

    It appears that Tesla thought of everything. So let's just toss out all those silly mobile patents and let the real innovation -- and competition -- begin.

    What did he have to say about audio and video encoding?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 )

      What did he have to say about audio and video encoding?

      Yeah, he pretty much said to use Ogg formats. Further, to quote: "Verily, Real Audio is gash."

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      He didn't mention Theora ONCE! The bastard!
  • by benwiggy ( 1262536 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:12AM (#32083874)

    From Francis Bacon's "New Atlantis" of 1623:

    We represent also all multiplications of light, which we carry to great distance, and make so sharp as to discern small points and lines.
    We find also diverse means, yet unknown to you, of producing of light, originally from diverse bodies.We have also houses of deceits of the senses, where were present all manner of feats of juggling, false apparitions, impostures and illusions, and their fallacies.

    We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds and their generation. We have all means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.

  • by AndyS2 ( 1654687 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:37AM (#32084134)
    Nowhere does he say that we will use a complex network of machines to send and receive messages. He thought that you could easily transmit stuff directly to other devices even if they are hundreds of miles away and even if there are millions of them being used at the same time. This isn't true, just like the other things in the article are not possible with our current understanding of physics. I'm not very knowledgable about science, but I even doubt that this is at all possible in the way he described it.
    • Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't Sat Phones exactly this? Also Walkie Talkies meet much of what he was talking about. Additionally, he predicted the transmission of pictures, music, speeches, etc. wirelessly from a central station. Isn't this what Television and Radio does, and don't we have wrist watch TVs and radios? Radio (AM) can reach the entire world with the proper frequency and proper weather conditions. While he may not have directly predicted the cell phone, and certainly didn't predict t

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      He thought that you could easily transmit stuff directly to other devices even if they are hundreds of miles away and even if there are millions of them being used at the same time. This isn't true [..]

      Actually, it is very true. There are ways to have several radio-devices communicating to each other directly using various multiplexing methods such as time division, frequency or just have packets collide and then detect the collision, like in Ethernet. And yes, the devices can and often are, hundreds of miles apart.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      Do you not even feel ashamed for the amount of straw-man fallacies you use in there?

      As I did already said somewhere up there:
      He specifically talks about handheld devices “not bigger than a [wrist]watch” (last paragraph of the first column), used for communication. Which is exactly what mobile phones are. The BlackBerry that was stated in the title of the /. story, is a mobile phone. QED.

      Everything else in your comment is a made-up hallucination of your mind and fallacy over fallacy, too many to

  • Tesla would've invented it too, had he not been disrupted by ladies' emotions (and underwear) [harkavagrant.com]. It's just as well though, somebody would have just stolen it anyway. [harkavagrant.com]

  • Partially right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OneAhead ( 1495535 )

    Reading the New York Times column as reproduced on recombu.com, it seems that Mr. Tesla was more interested in the wireless transmission of power, and that he saw the wireless transmission of speech, pictures and other data as a trivial side-effect. His article implicitly seem to address the question: how to give a handheld device enough power so that it can transmit radio signals that have a practical range, and his answer is wirelessly transmitted power. This is somewhat ironic because his obsession with

  • Didn't Nikola Tesla predict the invention of the tractor? Penicillin? A cure for the common cold? The difference engine? The Triumph of The Third International? Popular entertainment that consisted of nothing more than the daily life of boring members of the audience (now that one was wierd. How did he know it woulld be more popular than the obsession with forensic science?).


    It was - people who were famous for being famous..?

    No it wasn't that.

    Dang! It was microwave food. MMM!

  • IMHO we should all be pushing for a FOI request for all of Tesla's papers that were taken from his hotel room after he died. I'll bet the coolest stuff is kept secret.

  • Classic bias error (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @11:51AM (#32086162) Homepage Journal

    He did some amazing stuff, and figures out AC. No real argument there.
    But he also predicted a ton of stuff, was a little mad, and everyone ignores the crap that didn't seem to pan out.

    At this point he is becoming Nostradamus of technology.
    Did some really advance stuff, but people only talks about his wild ass guess that may or may not have claimed with the person reading them says that claim.

  • Stupid Humans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @01:04PM (#32087528)
    It's not just that the tendancy to worship someone. There's that that tendancy to choose a devil as well. It's human nature to always find a good vs evil struggle in something. Tesla and Edison both contributed greatly to the technological world we enjoy today. Yes, Tesla was a little insane. Yes, Edison was a businessman. Yes, they didn't like each other. They still both made great contributions. Without them progress would have been delayed. Someone would no doubt have made their discoveries but it would have been some time later. I couldn't say if it would be a long or short time but given most major inventions and discoveries in history have at least a little controversy as to who was actually first my bets are on shorter. Still, the other discoveries and inventions which built on there's would also be delayed. We would probably be living in a world equivalent to 1 to 3 decades in the past.

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson