Nikola Tesla Is Back in Tech Fashion

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Nikola Tesla is back in tech fashion, the Wall Street Journal reports:

When California engineers wanted to brand their new $100,000 electric sports car, one name stood out: Tesla. When circuit designers at microchip producer Nvidia Corp. in 2007 launched a new line of advanced processors, they called them Tesla. And when videogame writers at Capcom Entertainment in Silicon Valley needed a character who could understand alien spaceships for their new Dark Void saga, they found him in Nikola Tesla.

Kudos to Daniel Michaels for not mentioning the hair band as an early example of Teslamania:

An early hint was “Tesla Girls,” a 1984 single from the British technopop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Performance artist Laurie Anderson has said she was fascinated by Tesla. David Bowie played a fictionalized version of him in the 2006 film “The Prestige,” alongside Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Director Terry Gilliam described Tesla in a recent documentary film as “more of an artist than a scientist in some strange way.”

By the way, that image of Tesla is of David Bowie playing Tesla.

The beauty of Tesla is that he wrote little down, and most of what he did write down was destroyed, so you can start from some of his boasts and assume he understood just about everything well before its time:

His papers suggest he stumbled upon — but didn’t pursue — lasers and X-rays, years before their recognized discoveries. He proposed transmitting electricity through the upper atmosphere. He sketched out robots and a death ray he hoped would end all wars.
Tesla’s more outlandish pronouncements stoked that mythology. He said he could use electricity to cause earthquakes and control weather. He claimed to have detected signals from Mars while he was in Colorado.

Unlike Edison, who died in 1931 with 1,093 patents to his name, Tesla left few completed blueprints. The shortcoming undercut his legacy but added to the air of mystery surrounding him.

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