I assume that everyone has heard that Steve Jobs passed away yesterday (Rest in Peace). I value his work and insight, but some of things being said about him I find just a wee bit frustrating. From a facebook friend (sorry friend!):
Our parents had JFK, we had Steve Jobs. Edison gave us electricity, Jobs gave us the Jetsons in real life. We lost an icon today. You will be missed.
UGH – Is it necessary to mention JFK, Edison and the Jetsons in one facebook status? I hate this for so many reasons, but I will focus on one thing: Is Steve Jobs the Thomas Edison of our Generation?
So I was excited to see that the Los Angeles Times today had an article called “Comparing Jobs to Edison doesn’t quite capture it” (couldn’t find it online). I was hoping it would shed light on the type of businessman and so called inventor that Edison was, but it didn’t. In fact the article mentions Edison once and just uses all the stupid assumptions we learned about him in elementary school.
So, I’ll go out and just say it… Thomas Edison was an ASSHOLE. Below you will find some of the reasons why:
1. The Patent Wars
Edison holds over 1,000 patents, and is considered one of the most prolific inventors of all time. Many of these patents dealt with movie cameras and similar equipment. The Edison Film Manufacturing Company owned the majority of patents of the film equipment used in the early 20th century. It wasn’t enough that Edison would receive money for all the equipment he sold, he demanded licensing fees from all film producers, distributors and exhibitors. He formed a legal monopoly and began blacklisting or suing independent companies who didn’t follow his rules.
So-called outlaws (including the names you may recognize of Laemmle and Fox) moved out to California to avoid the legal retribution of Edison’s Trust. On a happy note, these outlaws were involved in a lot of the innovation of the time and helped form Hollywood. Edison though…He was the MPAA of the early 20th century. Anti-innovation all in the name of $$$$$.
ASSHOLE POINTS: 3.5/5 – An Anti-trust lawsuit was eventually filed against him, so he didn’t end up getting away with it. (MPAA on the other hand 4.5/5)
2. He destroyed Tesla’s Life Work and his Reputation
He had no hobby, cared for no sort of amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene. [...] His method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90% of the labour. But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor’s instinct and practical American sense.
The so-called “War of the Currents” was a scientific battle (yay nerds!) between supporters of Alternating Current (like Tesla) and supporters of Direct Current (like Edison).
How did Edison respond? A gentleman’s campaign perhaps? HELL NO.
When Tesla began to go public with the superior Alternating Current system, Edison decided to spread a publicity campaign warning of the dangers of AC current. Edison and crew would publicly kill and electrocute animals (such as stray dogs and cats) to show the dangers of electrical current. Tesla lost a whole bunch of credibility through fear tactics. There’s a video of an elephant being shocked which you can find online if you want, but I won’t link to it.
To see an amazingly funny rendition of the Tesla v. Edison feud performed by John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover as narrated by a drunk person. See this:
Asshole Score: 5/5