June 30, 2009

Farnsworth

It was my dream and not that Russian’s working for RCA. Well, you see, the inventing game is not an easy one. Some people have a knack for such things. All I had was a dream. I was fourteen and living on our farm in Utah, had to ride four miles each morning, and back again. We lived in an age where science was changing everything. Why, I remember seeing the Sears catalogue advertising an electronic washing machine! ‘course, my mother still hauled in water from the well, and washed our clothes in the big metal tub out back, but it seemed so bizarre that a machine could do such hard work. We lived in the possibilities, the world of Jules Verne becoming reality. I remember my father talking about the picture shows and radio programs and telling us how lucky we were to live in such a time. Thing is, God’s will is hard to predict. You never know where inspiration is going to hit. It hit me one day out in the potato field. I was plowing, turning up the Earth so we could plant some of last year’s tubers into the ground, when I looked behind me. I don’t expect you to understand the science, but I had been reading a lot on the cathode ray tube, and the manipulation of an electron stream using magnetic fields, theory your friends accept as commonplace and never think about as they watch the television. It was new then, and I had to go out of my way to find the material. So there I was in the field, and I look back at the acreage I had plowed. I thought it might be possible to transmit images sequentially through just such a pattern. The simplicity made it effective. I didn’t have the ability to see this all through, but I found people, after I dropped out of the university, that believed in me as much as I believed in the idea. They gave me money to pursue the dream. So about eight years later, after working through a lot of money and time, I had my first image, the first transmission of light sent over wires. It was a miraculous thing. One of my investors sent a telegram; people still used them, to another, saying, “The damn thing works.” The electrons were fired against the screen, igniting a beautiful dance of electrons. We were well on our way. ‘Course, the first image was just a vertical line, but it was something. We finally got all the bugs worked out just as the big war was coming up. Those jerks from RCA stole most of my idea, and took all the credit. Just railroaded me because they had the money and the power. So, when the World’s Fair was in New York in ’39, and the image projector was the biggest draw, I had to pay to get in and see the fame of the contraption. I had invested twenty years of my life to it. I had won the patent rights in ‘40, but the War Department took that away from me in ’42, as they took all patents that might have had a use in defending our freedom. No sir, not once did I ever really receive credit for all my hard work. Not until it was all in the past did any people know I was responsible for the daily break people have in their lives. I’ve been living here for ten years, and no one knows who I am. They call me the crazy guy. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I don’t own one of those god-forsaken things myself. There’s never anything worthwhile on. I look around and I wonder if maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do. Lord knows what I could have done, but he works in mysterious ways. I remember hearing what Marconi wrote, for the first transatlantic telegraph. “What hath God wrought?” I think about what it means often. It comes from the scriptures, you know.