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Ed suggests that a very interesting Victorian world might be created if Nikola Tesla had had the chance and backing to make more of his plans reality. Tesla was interested in many things, but one of the most interesting were his experiments with remote power transmission.


Let us assume a world of Tesla technology set between 1890 and 1910. What would such a Victorian/ Edwardian world be like? Here are Ed’s suggestions.

A lot like our world technologically, but of course not using our materials. Tesla, just for an example, invented—and demonstrated—radio well before Marconi.

If you were anywhere on the surface of Earth, Mars, or the Moon and needed electric current, you’d just set up an antenna, stick a wire in the ground, and have 240 volts at your service, say for lighting your tent in the African bush.

Dwellers in sidelobe areas would mutate into interesting if troublesome life forms. A sidelobe is a nasty effect of high-voltage, high energy transmissions, currents that don’t follow the path you hoped. Powerful microwave stations generate sidelobes, and can heat tissue dangerously. The phenomenon is one of the principal stumbling blocks to really useful energy transmission. Tesla’s main goal was global energy transmission, and he never had a clue (nobody else did either back then) what he was creating.)

There were also claims that some device of Tesla’s was responsible for the Tunguska incident

Tesla could put on a terrific show when he had the money, and some of his effects are still to be duplicated: lighting a large room brightly from no discernable source, the ball lighting stunt, and some others.

Nighttime travel would be lit by captive ball lightning (Tesla could actually do this in his lab) magnetically tethered to a fob worn on your waistcoat.

Super-dirigibles 3,000 feet long would circle the world perpetually, their airscrews driven by electric motors using high-voltage, high frequency power beamed up to them from generating stations (coal-burning, I suppose) located on man-made islands in the sea a safe distance from land.

That last one is not my idea; it’s one of Tesla’s. He also claimed he could demolish any building by inducing sympathetic vibrations in the structure using a small oscillation device clamped to a pillar—and did one or two damned scary demonstrations in New York.

Maglevs are possible too. Piece of cake, said Tesla, and if you could use the voltages and frequencies he did, so it would be. Probably a cross between maglev and beam riding: a train that needs no tracks and requires no engine. I think a world lit up by Nikola Tesla would be a damned weird one.

If we extend it to 1909, Tesla’s technology may have effected the outcome of the Boer war. Would depends on who got the death rays up and running first. Tesla had no great interest in them (he was a constructive man), but he realized they could be made to work, and constructed something that was effectively a laser. Cooling the coils (in Tesla’s world copper would be in demand far beyond gold) would pose a problem for the Boers, but if they stuck to the rivers and lakes nobody could oppose them. But the British would easily win the propaganda war, sending room-sized images of Boer dastardliness around the world, with commentary written by that Churchill chap.

Oh, didn’t I mention TeslaVision (TV for short)? It was two-way, full-color, 3-D, life-sized, and instantaneous. Every moderately successful professional man could afford a TV room in his house, usually off the Conservatory. There was some risk that the children might attempt to run into the scene being presented, to play croquet with their favorite aunt, say, not realizing that she was transmitting from Ootchaterrie or Fort Wayne or some such place. This required children of tender years to be supervised by Nanny during TV hours. Next time I’m at a Club smoker, I must regale the chaps with the time the Gov General of Inner Burma chose his TV room for dalliance with a native maiden! Never noticing, don’t you see, that the ruddy thing was running and tuned to his chief secretary’s lawn party!

Space 1889 Page

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