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Electrical Experimenter - May, 1919 - "The True Wireless," by Nikola Tesla (excerpt)
In the spring of 1891 I gave my demonstrations with a high frequency machine before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers at Columbia College, which laid the foundation to a new and far more promising departure. Altho the laws of electrical resonance were well known at that time and my lamented friend, Dr. John Hopkinson, had even indicated their specific application to an alternator in the Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, London, Nov.13, 1889, nothing had been done towards the practical use of this knowledge and it is probable that those experiments of mine were the first public exhibition with resonant circuits, more particularly of high frequency. While the spontaneous success of my lecture was due to spectacular features, its chief import was in showing that all kinds of devices could be operated thru a single wire without return. This was the initial step in the evolution of my wireless system. The idea presented itself to me that it might be possible, under observance of proper conditions of resonance, to transmit electric energy thru the earth, thus dispensing with all artificial conductors. Anyone who might wish to examine impartially the merit of that early suggestion must not view it in the light of present day science. I only need to say that as late as 1893, when I had prepared an elaborate chapter on my wireless system, dwelling on its various instrumentalities and future prospects, Mr. Joseph Wetzler and other friends of mine emphatically protested against its publication on the ground that such idle and far-fetched speculations would injure me in the opinion of conservative business men. So it came that only a small part of what I had intended to say was embodied in my address of that year before the Franklin Institute and National Electric Light Association under the chapter "On Electrical Resonance." This little salvage from the wreck has earned me the title of "Father of the Wireless" from many well-disposed fellow workers, rather than the invention of scores of appliances which have brought wireless transmission within the reach of every young amateur and which, in a time not distant, will lead to undertakings overshadowing in magnitude and importance all past achievements of the engineer.
The popular impression is that my wireless work was begun in 1893, but as a matter of fact I spent the two preceding years in investigations, employing forms of apparatus, some of which were almost like those of today. It was clear to me from the very start that the successful consummation could only be brought about by a number of radical improvements. Suitable high frequency generators and electrical oscillators had first to be produced. The energy of these had to be transformed in effective transmitters and collected at a distance in proper receivers. Such a system would be manifestly circumscribed in its usefulness if all extraneous interference were not prevented and exclusiveness secured. In time, however, I recognized that devices of this kind, to be most effective and efficient, should be designed with due regard to the physical properties of this planet and the electrical conditions obtaining on the same. I will briefly touch upon the salient advances as they were made in the gradual development of the system. . . .