Nikola Tesla was one of the great inventors of the 19th century … although he never became as famous as his archenemy Thomas Edison, who, in addition to being his greatest rival, was also his boss.
However, the work of Tesla – a Croatian engineer (then, the Astor Hungarian empire) of Serbian parents emigrated to the United States – was vital to develop the electrical systems we use today.
Both geniuses staged an epic battle of technology known as “the war of the currents . “
Edison bet on direct current (CC), which worked at a power of 100v and was difficult to convert to other voltages. But Tesla thought that alternating current (AC) was better, because it was easier to transport.
And although Tesla won the battle, it was Edison who went down in history as “the father of electricity.”
Today, thanks to the South African entrepreneur Elon Musk , his name is associated with electric cars, since Tesla is the name of the company of which he is executive director and is specialised precisely in that product.
But the truth is that Tesla, in addition to inventing electricity, predicted some technologies that would become reality in the decades that followed.
These were some of his most notable predictions:
Tesla’s obsession with wireless technology led him to develop several inventions and theories focused on data transmission.
Guillermo Marconi was the first to send letters in Morse code across the Atlantic, but Tesla wanted to go further.
The inventor even wrote that one day it would be possible to transmit telephone signals, documents, music files and videos all over the world using wireless technology . Today, it is possible through wifi.
And although he himself never achieved such a thing, his prediction was fulfilled in the 1990s, with the invention of the World Wide Web.
Tesla revealed another of his futuristic forecasts in an interview with the American magazine Colliers, in 1926.
Developing his idea that a technology capable of transmitting images, music and even video all over the world, he coined the phrase “pocket technology” , coming to predict the invention of smartphones almost 100 years before they came true.
“We could witness and hear events as if we were present,” he explained.
But did Tesla imagine that the mobile telephone would come to occupy such an important place in our lives?
In 1898, Tesla demonstrated a remotely controlled “automaton” without wires . Today, we would call it a toy ship with remote control … or a drone.
Making the most of wireless communication, robotics and logic gates (integrated circuits on a chip), astonished its viewers with this new technology, and many people thought there was a small monkey that controlled the system from within.
Tesla believed that one day remote controlled machines would occupy an important place in people’s lives … and it was not far from the truth.
Commercial high-speed aircraft
Tesla imagined aircraft capable of going around the world at high speeds and commercial routes between countries where there would be capacity for many passengers.
“The most valuable application of wireless power will be the propulsion of flying machines without fuel, free from any limitations of current airships, we can travel from New York to Europe in just a few hours, ” said the inventor.
At that time, saying such a thing might seem crazy. But Tesla, again, was right. At least when it comes to speed … The issue of electric planes (without fuel) is still a futuristic dream.
The empowerment of women
His 1926 interview with Colliers was titled When Woman Is Boss ( ” When Woman is the Boss ” ) and focused on what the scientist, then 68, thought about women.
Tesla assured that women would use wireless technology to obtain better education, employment and, ultimately, to become the dominant sex .
Although it is difficult to directly relate technology to the emancipation of women in the social and political life of the last century, it is evident that they have become world leaders within the technological sector.
Some examples are the executive director of Yahoo – and computer engineer – Marissa Mayer, or the current operational director of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg.
And women like them use technology, among many other things, to raise awareness about global feminist movements, like the #metoo campaign .