Tesla Model 3 Reservations

Next week reservations open for the anticipated Tesla Motors Model 3. The Model 3 will be smaller than the Model S but much cheaper at $35,000. This car will be the first car targeted at the middle class and will likely bring the same peppy performance as earlier models.

We have no photos of the car yet which indicates they are likely still working on design and safety testing. We can only hope it has the same low center of gravity and balanced weight as the Model S. You can learn more about the motor of the Model S in our video below shot for the “Iron in our Electrical World” video.

And here’s some more about the batteries and suspension:

This is an awesome car, if you’d like to learn about the rich and long history of electric cars (~120 years) visit our site on Electric Cars here.

Hippolyte Pixii Comes Out of Obscurity

When we started our AC Power History pages a few years ago there was one figure who seems to be the “inventor” of AC power but little information was available about him.

Hippolyte Pixii was the first of the founding fathers of the electrical age (this includes Faraday, Henry, Volta, Davenport and Ampere) to focus on alternating current. Sure, others also “discovered it” but they viewed it as an annoyance because their focus was on direct current. Pixii built a commutator and was able to produce DC current.

For the next 40 years this pioneer’s work was largely out of focus. It was in the 1870s that interest in AC power came alive again in Europe.  The Ganz Company in Budapest began to use AC power and develop crude systems of delivery.  This work caught the attention of Elihu Thomson in the US and Walter Baily in London.

By 1882 there were scattered groups of talented engineers working on AC power including Ferranti, Lord Kelvin and others. Contrary to popular myth, Nikola Tesla had nothing to do with AC power development this early, his main contributions came in later in the 1880s while there was already many others racing forward to develop systems.

In the last couple years we’ve seen more pages, videos and information come out of the dusty archives on Pixii which is great. Below we’ve posted some of our pictures of Pixii’s machine. We urge you to check out the electrical history section of the Smithsonian Museum of American History which has lots of cool old replicas and artifacts from 1800s. You can see a replica of Pixii’s machine there. I have also seen some replicas of Pixii’s work at the Deutches Museum in Munich.

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More on Pixii:

Video on Pixiis Machine

More on the machine from MaLab

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ETC Page on AC Power History

 

The “Bridge of Spies” Film and Harold Chestnut Project

Having recently seen the film “Bridge of Spies” by Steven Spielberg was a reminder of one of our recent documentaries on the great story of Harold (Hal) Chestnut and the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC).

FrontCover1HalChestnutETC700It was only 4 years before Gary Powers plane was shot down that IFAC formed out of an effort to connect engineers on both sides of the iron curtain. It was amazing enough to imagine that political forces would allow any form of communication between people working on war technology, and yet even more amazing when they allowed the first IFAC congress to continue to meet just shortly after the Powers incident.

From from an insulated modern-day perspective, the first congress in Moscow doesn’t seem too unlikely, however when you watch the first half of “Bridge of Spies” you will get a better idea of the level of suspicion and espionage going on in both countries during the same period. In the Chestnut documentary when Bernard Widrow describes the extraordinary and “film-like” moment of accidentally seeing what is perhaps rows of bugging equipment in the tallest hotel in Europe (Hotel Ukraina) it seems unlikely. This description suddenly seems very likely and even almost certain once you begin to examine the life and times.

The Spielberg film is centered on the human story of Powers and Rudolf Abel (Вильям Генрихович Фишер) as well as political stresses of the time. The film does a wonderful job of illustrating the period technology and cityscapes of New York and Berlin. Tom Hanks is cast in a position he is well suited for as an insurance agent. His simple yet smart character makes the film approachable to that average US viewer in a way that “Spy Game” (2001) failed to do. I was impressed at Mark Rylance’s performance which may not have a lot of dialogue, but his command of nonverbal communication patterns of Eastern Europeans was accurate.

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Chestnut and A.M. Letov meet in Moscow at the height of the cold war. These two were giants of control engineering for their own nations.

If you haven’t already seen the Harold Chestnut film I recommend it as it tells the incredible true story of high level engineers working on various projects during a special time in history. If you like systems or control engineering I’d say the doc is a must as it talks about the origins and influence of systems theory on society. Today systems theory is practiced heavily in software engineering and is used by the architects of management systems that almost every engineer works within. Even artists and Hollywood processes for creating large films depend on principles of systems theory laid out by Harold Chestnut. Because the Chestnut documentary must move quickly to cover many decades of his life in just one hour, is a good idea to see “Bridge of Spies” beforehand in order to get a better understanding of context.

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Chestnut was one of the founders of modern control and systems theory. This work has influenced everything from marketing consumer goods to development of the International Space Station

The International Federation of Automatic Control helps foster international cooperation, exchange of good ideas and friendships. It provides a nucleus that unifies a specialized but extremely important sub-community of the engineering world. They hold classes and conferences in cities around the globe and if you work in control and would like to know more you can visit their website here.

The Edison Tech Center has outtakes from the Chestnut documentary on its YouTube channel including American Bernard Widrow talking about the invention of RAM and modern Russian pioneers Polyak and Rutkovsky talking about Soyuz, Tspkin and other topics.

IFAC has published both full length episodes of the Harold Chestnut documentary on YouTube:

Pi Day Quiz 2016

Its time for the annual Edison Tech Center Pi Day Quiz!

2016 Edison Tech Center Pi Day Quiz

1) The Marchant electromechanical calculator consists of several interlocking gears which are driven by an electric motor. If all the gears have a diameter of one unit, and each gear has ten teeth, what’s the total distance the gears travel for the following calculation:
999+1001

2) The Marchant electromechanical calculator consists of several interlocking gears which are driven by an electric motor. If all the gears have a diameter of one unit, and each gear has ten teeth, what’s the total distance the gears travel for the following calculation:
999 multiplied by 1001

3) In a Synchronous AC motor, the R.P.M.s are ideally equal to (120 X Freq) divided by the number of magnetic poles.
How fast is the outer material of a 1.5” diameter rotor traveling, when energized at 60 Hz on a synchronous, 4 pole motor?
– Question by Shane Pickett, Nidec Drive Systems Engineer

4) The Marchant electromechanical calculator consists of several interlocking gears which are driven by an electric motor. If all the gears have a diameter of one unit, and each gear has ten teeth, what’s the total distance the gears travel for the following calculation:
1001 minus 999

5) A tire company has twenty stacks of tires up to eight tires high, of seven different diameters. What is the most efficient arrangement of the tires to be able to access any tire?
– Question by Gene Bills

6) A machine to weave canvas sacks uses 6 spools of thread evenly placed around a rotating circular spindle. How much more thread is used for a canvas sack with twice the diameter?

7) How much more volume does a canvas sack with twice the diameter of a smaller canvas sack have?

 

Charles P. Steinmetz Publicity

According to some of us Charles Proteus Steinmetz is arguably the greatest unsung hero of the electrical age. Steinmetz represents the major step from trial-and-error methods of electrical invention to the modern age of engineers where math and science are necessary for innovation.

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During the 1890s and 1910s Steinmetz was respected as one of the greatest inventors of the age. He attended important scientific conferences and his inventions and opinions guided the largest of companies. Embarrassingly for Westinghouse, Steinmetz was the only one who could solve problems Ben Lamme and Tesla couldn’t figure out at Niagara Falls. Steinmetz’s mathematics drive the very heart of AC power systems design even today. So why have most people never heard of this distinct and spunky cigar-smoking dwarf?

We were pleased to hear of the new documentary by WMHT (PBS) on Steinmetz. The path to proper publicity starts with a solid documentary and hopefully we’ll see more about him soon.

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Steinmetz in his Lightning Lab

Here at the Edison Tech Center we have published several basic videos on Steinmetz and included him as part of other biographic documentaries such as Harold Chestnut, Pioneer of Automation. Our webpage on Steinmetz is one of the top when you search for him, and figures indicate thousands of people have used it to learn about his odd fellow.

The fact is we have a lot more to tell about Steinmetz that we have not published yet, so you can expect more to come from our side in the future. For now you can enjoy these free online videos from the “Divine Discontent” documentary:

Mountain Lake PBS 28 minute extension:

And here is the full 1 hour documentary on WMHT’s site:

DIVINE DISCONTENT – on the WMHT Vimeo Channel

Invention of the Microwave Oven

When the Edison Tech Center published its video with Rudy Dehn talking about how the device worked hundreds of thousands chose to watch it, however many didn’t get the full story. Yes Rudy was one of the guys who made this staple of modern kitchens available, but similarly to most other inventions it took many others to build a foundation. Notable contributors include Albert W. Hull, Kunio Yagi, C.W. Rice, Percy Spencer, and others who all contributed a bit to make the modern oven possible.

Here is a timeline for the microwave oven:

  • 1921 Albert W. Hull at the GE Research Lab in Schenectady, New York develops the magnetron
  • 1924-28 European engineers explore the magnetron oscillator. Zacek (Czech) and Haban (Germany) do work on the subject but don’t apply for any patents
  • 1928 Kunio Yagi works on multi-anode oscillators in Japan. The same year C. W. Rice demonstrates a magnetron transmitter at GE in Schenectady.
  • 1930 General Electric offers type FH-11 magnetron for sale, then later discontinues production due to lack of customers
  • 1937-40 Oliphant develops multi-cavity magnetrons in England, this becomes the first true microwave magnetron
  • 1940-45 Magnetrons were the key components of radar systems
  • 1945 Percy Spensor at Raytheon proposes a microwave oven as a peacetime spin-off of radar. The Radarange is sold to commercial and institutional users.
  • 1945-1950 GE develops magnetrons for industrial processing
  • 1950-1953 GE Range Department developed full size oven using 915 MHz.
  • 1960s GE engineers continue to work on making the power supplies smaller for the microwave oven (as well as many other applications). GE engineers including Rudy Dehn work on making the microwave oven smaller so it can be the modern countertop device we know today.
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Rudy Dehn holds two generations of magnetrons at the Edison Tech Center. The large device on the left is from the 1950s full sized oven. The device on the right is the compact version used in most today.
  • 1960s Japanese companies buy rights from GE and develop the 2450 MHz oven
  • 1970s Japanese manufacturers dominate the field of microwave ovens due to automated production which reduces overall cost for the consumer

Here are a few of our videos on the microwave oven:

 

 Photos:

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This beast of capacitors and tubes was just the power supply for the 1960s era microwave ovens.
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A new HF power supply in a modern microwave oven
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A happy housewife of the 1960s enjoying the fruits of engineering.
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Magnetrons and other tubes on display at the Edison Tech Center
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Microwave ovens from all decades on display at the ETC
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The back of the 915 MHz oven model from the 1950s. The magnetron pokes into the oven cavity directly unlike modern ovens which use a waveguide to bounce waves into the cavity.
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The 1953 GE oven model. The microwave oven is on the bottom. There are also calrods in the oven under the turn-table.

Universe of Instrumentation Project Testing

The Edison Tech Center begins phase two of testing on the new Universe of Instrumentation project. We will be monitoring use over the next month to see how people are using the program and formulate how to improve it in the future.

In phase one of testing we published a few articles on Ammeters, Voltmeters, Oscilloscopes and other topics on our static site. We used our older long page format. In this current phase we broke content down into smaller chunks with a simple “previous” or “next” button so users can navigate through in the proper order.

Our mission is to tell the balanced story of innovation, and so naturally we’d like if users would progress from the most primitive technologies up to more recent devices. Even if many of our users are already engineers familiar with how the older technologies work, we usually provide unique information on back stories and the human side of the early devices. In the end each user finds a way to have our pages work for them, whether that is a quick look up of a name of fact, or an hour session researching the complete history.

You can check out the current state of our program here:

Universe of Instrumentation Program

Edison Tech Center opens up new program site

In the beginning of 2016 the Edison Tech Center launched a new site “EdisonTC.org” to host new program content. Many of our older program pages will continue to operate undisturbed in our former static site, but newer content well be published under our new framework.

Giving our own volunteers a voice:

The effort to launch the new site is a response to the growing needs of our users who need a more responsive design for mobile and smaller screens.  A great new feature however will be to streamline the publishing process and empower our volunteers to contribute more material. Our content contributors hold a passion for engineering and history and we want to make it easier for them to express themselves and share the lifetimes of knowledge they have worked hard for.

More Readers Helping Readers:

In addition to internal improvements EdisonTC.org will allow users to interact and give useful comments under articles. We will continue to enforce a standard for comments similar to the BBC News website: There will be no offensive or personal attack language permitted and comments that are political or promote conspiracy theory or personality cults will be removed. Overall our goal is to engineers to help comment on topics and contribute towards other readers understanding of the topic, and possibly refer them to other good articles on the subject.

We’ve started the new site with our latest project on engineering tools called “Universe of Instrumentation”.  You can check out the new UI program here.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

 

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