Cut to the chase: Follow this link to Chapter 20: Tranquility Base at Medium.com
On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, the world will begin commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, that improbable mission that culminated four days later with Neil Armstrong’s historic “giant leap for mankind.”
In recent weeks, there have already been recollections of the thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – of men and women all over America who made countless individual contributions to the most ambitious project of the 20th Century.
But amid all the clamor and celebration, one pivotal name will likely be ignored, as it has been for most of the past 80 years.
That name is Philo T. Farnsworth. All he did was invent the damn television.
Without his seminal contributions in the 1920s and 30s, we might have had to just listen to the moon landing on the radio. Instead, half-a-billion people watched it all unfold in real time.
The outline of the Farnsworth story goes like this:
- Farnsworth was 14 years old in the summer of 1921 when he first dreamed of transmitting moving pictures, one line at a time, on a magnetically deflected beam of electrons from the bottom of one vacuum bottle to the bottom of another;
- In the winter of 1922, he drew a sketch of his idea for his high school science teacher in Rigby, Idaho. Arguably, every video screen on the planet – including the one you are looking at now can trace its origins to that sketch;
- In 1926 – After sitting on the idea for four years Farnsworth was set up in a laboratory in San Francisco with sufficient “venture capital” to begin experimenting with his ideas and fabricating the first television tubes;
- On September 7, 1927, with his wife and a handful of colleagues at his side, Farnsworth successfully transmitted the image of a rotating line from his “Image Dissector” tube to cathode ray tube receiver in an adjoining room. If you need a date when television actually arrived on the planet, that’s a date. It should be in the annals of human evolution along with Apollo 11’s touchdown on July 20, 1969,
- In the summer of 1930, Farnsworth was granted the seminal patents for the art that made fully electronic television possible. His patents became the technical cornerstone of a new industry.
- He fought through the 1930s with David Sarnoff and the Radio Corporation of America over the ownership of those patents;
- In 1939, RCA capitulated, accepting a license and making Farnsworth the first inventor ever paid patent royalties by RCA;
- As his invention spread across the land in the late 1940s and 50s, Farnsworth went on to other pursuits: most notably, a nuclear fusion process. Prototype devices were tested in the 1960s. 50 years later, nobody with knowledge of the field can say categorically whether or not the Farnsworth Fusor showed the way toward a clean, safe, and essentially limitless supply of energy from the same reaction that powers the sun and stars;
- By the time he appeared as a mystery guest on the TeeVee quiz show “I’ve Got A Secret” in 1957, none or the panelists recognized or knew the name whose invention had made their jobs possible.
All of this is recounted in my Farnsworth biography, The Boy Who Invented Television: A Tale of Inspiration, Persistence, and Quiet Passion (Amazon),
The last part of this tale – and Farnsworth’s own experience with Apollo 11 – has been retold in the final chapter of the book, which I have posted to Medium.com in time for the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing.
Please follow this link to read that chapter and follow some additional links to web-stuff about the Philo T. Farnsworth, whose forgotten genius is rekindled every time we look at a video screen.
Like you are doing right fucking NOW.
I was scrolling through some of the Instagram posts that I’ve saved over the years and organizing then into folders when I came across this one. Seemed apropos to some things I’ve been doing and thinking about recently…🤔
adjective: a person not able to be corrected, improved, or reformed.
Back in my sailing days (Maui – 1980-88), I imagined that if I ever owned my own racing yacht, I’d call it “Incorrigible.” The name has a certain 12-meter / America’s Cup ring to it, not unlike “Intrepid” – the name of the yacht that won the Cup in 1967 and 1970.
I never did get my own racing yacht. The yachts I owned and sailed out of Lahaina Harbor were part of a business that had a brand identity that had to be preserved.
But now I’ve got this pretty cool car, and as part of this whole self-recovery process that I’ve been going through this year, I think I’ve come up with a suitable and appropriate personalized license plate – the closest I could come in just seven letters. .
The sun rises beyond the ruin of the 15th century monastery at Lindisfarne, the ‘Holy Isle’ off the coast of Northumberland, England. I got to spend two nights and days there in the late spring of 2013, when I followed John Doan and a troupe of Celtic musicians around parts of England and Scotland.
Lindisfarne is regarded as the Cradle of Christianity in northern Britain, for it is here that the Celtic Saints Aidan, Hilde and Cuthbert first arrived from the Scottish Isle of Iona to begin preaching the Gospel.
I found this while re-reading “TheBoy Who Invented Television,” which I have probably not read cover to cover since it was published in 2002. Found this epigram at the top of Chapter 15. .
While I was out on my 2-mile “Walk Before Coffee” this morning, I passed some neighbors and their four little dogs. Each of the dogs waddled up to me and I gave then a little bit of petting (while thinking, “gee, I wish I could just walk up to humans and get this kind of attention…”). As I passed, one of the neighbors said “thank you for your kindness.” And I replied, “well, that’s a pretty good way to start the day….”
Then I got home and made my coffee and plopped down on the sofa in the treehouse, and found this notification on the screen on my phone. Liz Gilbert likes my post from yesterday.
Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty good way to start my day.
…she of “Eat Pray Love” and “Big Magic,” now on tour in support of her new novel, ‘City of Girls’ – at Montgomery Bell Academy last night for Salon@615 sponsored in part by Parnassus Books.
Nobody should be THAT smart and insightful into the Human Experience. She said so many brilliant things that I’m kicking myself that I did not record it so I can listen to it again (yeah, I know, “no recordings…” When has that ever stopped me? Well for some reason it did this time…)
I did make a few notes, among them:
“There is only one reason why people (don’t do the thing they want to do), and that is because they are afraid.”
“I’m on an ‘Integrity cleanse” – that means only telling the truth.”
“98% of the work I do is research. It’s very analog, I put everything on index cards and compile the cards in shoeboxes; by the time I’m ready to start the actual writing, the book has practically written itself. “
“I keep past, present, and future versions of myself. When Present Liz finds something that Past Liz has left for her, she thanks Past Liz for sending it out to Future Liz.”
“A drunk person can run but can’t walk. Write like a drunk person.”
“The truth has legs,. It’s the only thing that is still standing at the end of the day. It’s where we’re going to wind up, so we may as well start there.”
“There is an intelligence in the universe that wants to communicate with us.”
That last one speaks directly to one of the underlying themes of the Book That I Have Yet To Finish (ttbrown.com)
She said a lot of other too-smart things that I just hope I will recall during the day(s) ahead.