The more I read of Tesla, that wunderkind inventor and experimenter of the early Electric Age, the more I am fascinated by the immense scale of his vision.
For example, in 1900 he had an idea for what he called his "World System". Keep in mind that this was when wireless telephony was still in it's very early stages. Tesla's description of what his system could achieve is striking in its scale and depth. It is also very prescient and although we do not use his "World System", which was based on wireless power transmission through tuned resonance between the Earth and its Atmosphere and Magnetic field, the results of our developments have come very close to his predictions.
Below is a description of his "World System" in his own words.
Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.
From My Inventions By Nikola Tesla
At the age of 63 Tesla tells the story of his creative life.
First published in 1919 in the Electrical Experimenter magazine.
This invention was one of a number comprised in my "World-System" of wireless transmission which I undertook to commercialize on my return to New York in 1900. As to the immediate purposes of my enterprise, they were clearly outlined in a technical statement of that period from which I quote:
"The 'World-System' has resulted from a combination of several original discoveries made by the inventor in the course of long continued research and experimentation. It makes possible not only the instantaneous and precise wireless transmission of any kind of signals, messages or characters, to all parts of the world, but also the inter-connection of the existing telegraph, telephone, and other signal stations without any change in their present equipment. By its means, for instance, a telephone subscriber here may call up and talk to any other subscriber on the Globe. An inexpensive receiver, not bigger than a watch, will enable him to listen anywhere, on land or sea, to a speech delivered or music played in some other place, however distant. These examples are cited merely to give an idea of the possibilities of this great scientific advance, which annihilates distance and makes that perfect natural conductor, the Earth, available for all the innumerable purposes which human ingenuity has found for a line-wire. One far-reaching result of this is that any device capable of being operated thru one or more wires (at a distance obviously restricted) can likewise be actuated, without artificial conductors and with the same facility and accuracy, at distances to which there are no limits other than those imposed by the physical dimensions of the Globe. Thus, not only will entirely new fields for commercial exploitation be opened up by this ideal method of transmission but the old ones vastly extended.
The 'World-System' is based on the application of the following important inventions and discoveries:
1. The 'Tesla Transformer.' This apparatus is in the production of electrical vibrations as revolutionary as gunpowder was in warfare. Currents many times stronger than any ever generated in the usual ways, and sparks over one hundred feet long, have been produced by the inventor with an instrument of this kind.
2. The 'Magnifying Transmitter.' This is Tesla's best invention, a peculiar transformer specially adapted to excite the Earth, which is in the transmission of electrical energy what the telescope is in astronomical observation. By the use of this marvelous device he has already set up electrical movements of greater intensity than those of lightning and passed a current, sufficient to light more than two hundred incandescent lamps, around the Globe.
3. The 'Tesla Wireless System.' This system comprises a number of improvements and is the only means known for transmitting economically electrical energy to a distance without wires. Careful tests and measurements in connection with an experimental station of great activity, erected by the inventor in Colorado, have demonstrated that power in any desired amount can be conveyed, clear across the Globe if necessary, with a loss not exceeding a few per cent.
4. The 'Art of Individualization.' This invention of Tesla's is to primitive 'tuning' what refined language is to unarticulated expression. It makes possible the transmission of signals or messages absolutely secret and exclusive both in the active and passive aspect, that is, non-interfering as well as non-interferable. Each signal is like an individual of unmistakable identity and there is virtually no limit to the number of stations or instruments which can be simultaneously operated without the slightest mutual disturbance.
5. 'The Terrestrial Stationary Waves.' This wonderful discovery, popularly explained, means that the Earth is responsive to electrical vibrations of definite pitch just as a tuning fork to certain waves of sound. These particular electrical vibrations, capable of powerfully exciting the Globe, lend themselves to innumerable uses of great importance commercially and in many other respects.
The first 'World-System' power plant can be put in operation in nine months. With this power plant it will be practicable to attain electrical activities up to ten million horsepower and it is designed to serve for as many technical achievements as are possible without due expense. Among these the following may be mentioned:
(1) The inter-connection of the existing telegraph exchanges or offices all over the world;
(2) The establishment of a secret and non-interferable government telegraph service;
(3) The inter-connection of all the present telephone exchanges or offices on the Globe;
(4) The universal distribution of general news, by telegraph or telephone, in connection with the Press;
(5) The establishment of such a 'World-System' of intelligence transmission for exclusive private use;
(6) The inter-connection and operation of all stock tickers of the world;
(7) The establishment of a 'World-System' of musical distribution, etc.;
(8) The universal registration of time by cheap clocks indicating the hour with astronomical precision and requiring no attention whatever;
(9) The world transmission of typed or handwritten characters, letters, checks, etc.;
(10) The establishment of a universal marine service enabling the navigators of all ships to steer perfectly without compass, to determine the exact location, hour and speed, to prevent collisions and disasters, etc.;
(11) The inauguration of a system of world-printing on land and sea;
(12) The world reproduction of photographic pictures and all kinds of drawings or records."