Thursday, May 20, 2010

Still, you gotta love the suit

Everyone say "Hey!" to Nathan B. Stubblefield, pictured here with the wireless telephone he invented a long time ago, back in the days when men wore ties without a wedding to attend.

You've heard the old song and expression "Everybody's talkin' 'bout the seventh son", right? Well. Nathan was the second son of seven born to
William "Capt. Billy" Jefferson Stubblefield (1830-1874), which is my entry for today in the Coolest Name in the World contest, which is not being held.

Old Nate grew to be a melon farmer and inventor, and there are claims made that he, not Marconi and Tesla, was the true father of radio. I worked on the radio long enough to tell you that no one should be in too big of a hurry to claim parentage for what passes as radio today, the broadcast bleatings of the ill-informed
to the unschooled ears of the uninformed.

Be that as it may, Nathan is credited with doing some early work on wireless telephones. There's no way he foresaw a day when people would text each other 127 times an hour. And look at the "cell" he posed with! Do you think it folded up and fit neatly into his vest pocket?

He also made some prophetic statements about how, one day, radio would be "capable of sending simultaneous messages from a central distributing station over a very wide territory. For instance, anyone having a receiving instrument, which would consist merely of a telephone receiver and a signaling gong, could, upon being signalled by a transmitting station in Washington, or nearer, if advisable, be informed of weather news. My apparatus is capable of sending out a gong signal, as well as voice messages. Eventually, it will be used for the general transmission of news of every description".

And this led directly to the day that a coworker of mine, coming to work the 3-11 shift, told me that the news was out that "Bill Clinton had Vince Foster killed because Hillary was pregnant with Foster's child." I asked if this was truly the "news" or someone's false claim, and with the blessed assurance that only ignorance can bring, he said, "Oh no, it's the news. It was on the radio." Pressing further, I asked which news agency - CNN, AP, NBC, CBS - was reporting this as news, and the answer came back, "A guy called in to Rush Limbaugh and said so."

At the age of 68, Nathan Stubblefield starved himself to death, living as a hermit in Kentucky. Perhaps he knew more than we realized, then and now.

No comments: