Posts belonging to Category All About Tom



Thomas Edison – Impact on the Music Industry

1903 ad for the Edison phonograph

1903 ad for the Edison phonograph

Back in the 1870s, if you wanted to hear music, it was basically a communal experience. You went to hear a concert, attended a school auditorium or show hall to hear and see a production, or perhaps you gathered around a gazebo on a warm summer night to hear popular tunes of the time.

Along comes Thomas Edison who makes a practical, affordable, and portable device to record and play music, and allow you to enjoy it all by yourself if you so desire. For all purposes, the great inventor “decentralizes” music, decoupling it from a group experience. Does this sound vaguely familiar? It should.

iPods and other personal listening devices do this too, decoupling people from radios that are electromagnetically linked to broadcasting stations, and allow you to store huge amounts of songs for play on demand…without the need to carry tapes, discs and other old bulky forms of storage media.

To this day, in his legendary West Orange labs, Edison’s original recording studio can be seen—the world’s first recording studio. It sits directly above his iconic library/office. There the great singers of the time, operatic and popular, came to record their music for sale by Mr. Edison. [see photos below]

Edison recording studio today

Edison recording studio today

Invention factory with location of recording studio indicated by blue lines

Invention factory with location of recording studio indicated by blue lines

It was truly an art form to situate the instruments and singers around a recording horn for optimal sound reproduction, with lots of trial and error. No way to change the volume of sound like we do today via simple electronic controls; and certainly no mixing consoles to blend sound tracks. Sound mixing would have to wait until musical innovators like Les Paul [the man who also gave us the electric guitar] came along…100 years later.

Take a look at the photo below of a large group of musicians crowded around a recording horn to get the instrument sounds all into the small horn. It was a tough way to make music back then. Today, 140 years later we have a robust industry we all enjoy…..but it all started with a recording studio on the third floor of Thomas Edison’s magic invention factory, an entrepreneur’s dream come true.

A private off-site recording session-with musicians crowded in close to recording horn

A private off-site recording session-with musicians crowded in close to recording horn

“Of all my inventions, I liked the phonograph best….” -Thomas Edison

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison’s Cars Get a Needed Lift

Visiting the Thomas Edison garage at the Glenmont home estate is a treat for many visitors each year. On a good day, over 200 members of the public enjoy the vintage cars-in particular, the electric cars that used Edison’s famous nickel-iron alkaline storage batteries. Recently these cars were conserved and given much needed cleaning and primping.

Shown below is the 1914 Detroit Electric Model 47, the preferred vehicle of Mrs. Edison. Folks marvel at its “teapot” shaped appearance. In the day, this well-recognized vehicle was seen traversing Essex County on various philanthropic and social missions as Mrs. Edison “gave back” to her fellow citizens. She often served on many committees and working groups engaged in charities, education, and other important issues of the day. She and her vehicle epitomized the independent “home executive”.

1914 Model 47 electric vehicle

1914 Model 47 electric vehicle

Behind the vehicle, to the left as shown above, is the battery charging station Thomas built in 1908—and today, perhaps the oldest garage-based charging station in existence (and we think charging a modern electric vehicle in a garage is something new)! The Model 47 has three on-board battery compartments; one forward, one rear and one underneath for auxiliary applications like headlamps, clock and perhaps some heating for the interior. It was advertised as having a range of 80 miles, at a speed of 20 mph.

Below is the 1911 Detroit Electric L-1 vehicle, the forerunner of the Model 47. Many photos exist of Thomas being driven in this vehicle by either Mrs. Edison, his then young sons, or laboratory assistants. The great inventor was a not a very good driver, often making contact with ditches and trees! He soon became content with sitting peacefully and thinking up new ideas, while being driven around safely by others.

1911 Model L-1 electric vehicle (front and side view)

1911 Model L-1 electric vehicle (front and side view)

Notice the absence of a steering wheel (the same for the 1914 model too). Dual “tillers” were used: the lower one for steering the front wheels right or left; the upper tiller for acceleration. This took some getting used to, and may have been what caused Mr. Edison trouble when he drove. The upper tiller is an adaptation of the “Johnson Bar”, borrowed from locomotive design.

Full steering wheel capability becomes evident in the 1922 Ford Model T, also on display in the garage; and shown below alongside a beautiful 1936 Ford-Brewster owned by Thomas’s son Charles when he was Governor of NJ. Notice the incredible technology and styling changes between the 1922 Model T and the 1936 Brewster.

The Brewster has a 65 Hp, V-8 engine [the famous flathead Ford V-8], and with its rejuvenated internals is capable of 100 mph. The Model T had a 4 cylinder, 20 Hp engine with a top speed of about 45 mph; but it also had a multi-fuel surprise built in….the little engine could burn gasoline, kerosene, or alcohol!

1922 Model T (right) alongside a 1936 Ford Brewster

1922 Model T (right) alongside a 1936 Ford Brewster

The entire first floor of the garage, walls and ceiling, have been freshened as well to show the Edison concrete used to build this magnificent structure. The same Edison concrete formulation used here is what was used to build the original Yankee Stadium in the 1920s.

The Edison Innovation Foundation www.thomasedison.org is now raising money to convert the second floor of this building into an educational facility for the many students and teachers who visit to learn about Edison and his role in creating the very popular STEM educational philosophy and team-based problem solving.

Did you know?
In 1914:

  • 38% of all the cars on the road were electric; 22% gasoline, 40% steam powered.
  • Average annual wage was about $625. Cost of Model 47 was about $3,700.

Thomas Edison said, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison – Home Schooled by his Mother

All you technology/engineering teachers, educators and STEM facilitators…listen up!

Down through the years, the wisdom of Edison’s mother (Nancy Elliot Edison) still rings true to us today. Here are the simple truisms she urged young Tom to keep uppermost in his mind. She home-schooled him when the local one-room schoolhouse could not motivate him. Young Tom was certainly a different kind of learner.

Fortunately, Mrs. Edison was a formally education normal school teacher, but was not practicing at the time, busy with raising her family. Here are the four maxims she taught young Tom…so relevant to your classrooms today.

Samuel and Nancy Edison - Tom’s parents

Samuel and Nancy Edison – Tom’s parents

Do not be afraid to fail. Keep trying, learn from failure; and try again. This later gives birth to the old Edison adage …  “fail your way to success”. Empower young minds to look at the world as an intellectual challenge-often composed of iterative cycles that improve solutions or even the development of new products. Empower students to fail, not be ashamed or overwhelmed by it. That is why erasers are on the backs of pencils!

It is OK to work with your hands and your head. Not everything important comes from books. Experience the world and learn from it. There is a world beyond the classroom that is brimming with learning opportunities. Take advantage of all this information and knowledge-just as valid as what books my teach you. Bring experts from the world of work into class to show the relevancy of school work to life –on-the-job. Every company is a learning campus, filled with on-the-job experts and leaders who can inspire young employees to reach for the stars. Help your students learn early the value of head and hands learning. After all … isn’t this what STEM, technology education and maker spaces are all about?

Young Tom Edison

Young Tom Edison

Read across the entire span of literature, not just what you like. Reading and studying literature brings new ideas into your mind acting as a catalyst for mental stimulation. Throughout his life, Edison read and memorized poetry, prose and literature. This made him a great communicator, able to draw on the great lessons of written culture and history. One of his great historical heroes was Thomas Paine and his writings leading to the Revolutionary War.

Never stop learning, keep improving yourself. This can be seen in the great Edison library and office from which he ran his legendary West Orange Labs. Probably 10,000-20,000 volumes were there at his fingertips to support his enormous appetite for information and knowledge. He knew to lag behind in his constant quest to learn meant competitors would soon catch up. He may have been the first great corporate innovator to consider retaining a corporate library for himself and his staff to use. With the Internet at our fingertips, continuous learning is a snap. Promote this important life lesson.

The Edison home in Milan, Ohio

The Edison home in Milan, Ohio

Throughout his life, Edison credited his mother’s love and patience with giving him a firm footing in the world as a precursor to his great success.

Keep all this in mind when school once again resumes in September. Draw inspiration from the great inventor. Check out this website often, especially its webpage dedicated to free resources for the classroom teacher. Also, check out our sister website at thomasedison.org.

Thomas Edison said, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

 

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