November 11th, 2010

Until comes steam engine time

Small nephew, who was visiting at the weekend, on the subject of television, which somehow came up, said 'the man who invented it did it when he was 13'. Now, this is clearly Philo T Farnsworth (though Wikipedia implies he had the idea when he was 14 not 13). Now, everyone will know from Blue Peter and Ladybird books that TV was invented by John Logie Baird, so shocked am I that a British child would spout this heresy. Obviously we had to put him in the cellar straight away, without his gruel. I failed to find out exactly from where he had picked up this heresy from.

Clearly in these days of increasing globalisation it is harder for different countries to have their own origin myths for things in accordance with Popov's Law, named of course after the inventor of radio Alexander Stepanovich Popov, but even Wikipedia, which is usually pretty good at finding out bizarre and obscure antecedents for everything says that Baird was the first to demonstrate television, never mind that in the proud British tradition it was slightly before anyone else but an inferior dead-end.

Bizarrely there are only 2 links on Google as of writing for 'Popov's Law', I thought it would be better known. Also I always thought the Fort quotation is 'steam engines come at steam engine time', but the only hits on Google for this are both me. It seems that the real quote is 'A social growth cannot find out the use of steam engines, until comes steam-engine-time', from Lo! which seems to be making a different point. Hey ho.