Nikola Tesla the legacy of the most interesting geek in the world

Nikola Tesla the most interesting geek in the worldWithout a doubt Nikola Tesla was one of the most interesting geeks that ever lived. The passion for Tesla by his fans and the stories about Tesla's scientific accomplishments has elevated Tesla to the status of mythological geek folk hero.

When the names of Edison and Tesla come together it appears that some people look at their relationship as a life long battle. Their great feud over the use of AC (alternating current) versus DC (direct current) known as the War of Currents lasted only about a decade. Tesla's career went on for many more years beyond his battles with Edison and the War of Currents.

Tesla's Early Days

At times the life story of Nikola Tesla flows like an epic science fiction saga. According to legend, the man known as the Master of Lightning was born at the stroke of midnight on July 10, 1856, during a lightning storm in a mountainous area of the Balkan Peninsula. The area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where Tesla grew up is the modern-day country of Croatia. Tesla's parents were Serbian, his father was an orthodox priest, his mother was an inventor of practical household gadgets.

The stories of Nikola Tesla growing up tell of a young man constantly craving knowledge. He had a powerful imagination and a photographic memory. Tesla was always the geek growing up, he learned to speak 8 languages and was known to recite books from memory. According to popular stories Nikola Tesla's dream to go to America one day also started when he was young. Upon seeing an engraving of Niagara Falls, Tesla told his uncle he would someday capture the energy of Niagara to produce electricity.

There is even a good story to explain how Tesla would go to college. Tesla's father expected young Nikola to follow in his foot steps and become a priest. Nikola was passionate about mathematics and science. At the age of 17 Nikola Tesla had a brush with death from Cholera. While on his death-bed from Cholera, Nikola was promised by his father he could go to college to study science if he survived. Nikola made an amazing recovery. He went on to study electrical engineering at the renowned Austrian Polytechnic School at Graz.

Urban legend: I think there is a world market for maybe five computers

Geekhistory urban legend: I think there is a world market for maybe five computersAn internet search of the phrase "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers" will produce dozens of websites claiming those were the words of IBM Chairman Thomas Watson.

The quote is often listed as one of the biggest epic fail statements of all times. We searched the net trying to find the source of the quote, and the verification that the statement was made by IBM Chairman Thomas Watson.

Many websites often have the date 1943 attached to the quote, as was the case of a slide we found on the Microsoft website, and as it is presented on a page for the PBS television show Nova. For all the dozens of websites that list the quote attributed to IBM Chairman Thomas Watson, none of the websites have any information on the source or circumstances of the quote.

Searching IBM websites and online IBM documents turned up an IBM history document that attributes the quote to a misunderstood statement made at a stockholders meeting in 1953.

From a question on the history of IBM on their website, "Did Thomas Watson say in the 1950s that he foresaw a market potential for only five electronic computers?" IBM offers the following explanation:

Pages

Subscribe to Geek History RSS