chapter 1 movies and money

chapter 1 movies and money - Syndetic Solutions - [Excerpt...

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Excerpt Copyright © 1997 Enigma Productions Ltd. . All rights reserved. Chapter One "An invention without any commercial future" Louis Lumiere, 1896 By the late 1880s, Thomas Alva Edison was universally hailed as the world's most celebrated inventor. In an age of increasing technical specialization he was an engineer in the tradition of the early industrial revolution, a creative and aggressive entrepreneur whose abilities seemed to encompass almost every branch of science and technology. In other respects, too, he resembled some of those early ironmasters, with an ego that more than matched his talent. He claimed sole credit for inventions as diverse as the electric lightbulb and the phonograph. He insisted that he had played a part in the conception of scores of other devices that were beginning to transform the daily lives of millions of people throughout the industrialized world, including the telephone, the typewriter, and the lead-acid battery. Many of these claims were largely the product of his giant ego, and minimized the efforts both of his own collaborators and of other inventors. Throughout his homeland and across the world, he was honored as a self-made prophet of progress, the seer of a new industrial age. Edison was the supreme representative of a group of gifted Americans who, from the early nineteenth century on, had been responsible for a series of inventions that had come to define the new industrial era. In 1807 Robert Fulton had launched the first commercially successful steamboat; in 1837 Samuel Morse had created the first electric telegraph. For many Americans such technological innovation had become a measure of national stature. As the steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie put it: "The old nations of the earth creep on at a snail's pace; the Republic thunders past with the rush of the express." For a nation founded on something as fragile as ideals rather than a shared language or a deeprooted culture, the notion of progress as epitomized by men like Edison became a means of providing the country with a tangible identity. Now, as the end of the century loomed, Edison turned to a problem that seemed to have defeated an army of inventors and scientists the world over: he set out to create a machine capable of projecting moving images. Throughout the nineteenth century, an endless array of bizarre contraptions for showing moving pictures --such as the Zoetrope and the Praxinoscope--had been registered with patent offices everywhere. But such devices were little more than toys, and had been quickly tossed aside. The true solution seemed as far away as ever None of these inventors, however, could lay claim to anything remotely resembling the reputation and influence of Thomas Edison. His life story has been encrusted with myth, much of it carefully nurtured by the man himself, but his remarkable journey from relatively humble beginnings in the backwoods of Ohio to his acknowledged position as the most successful inventor of the age was real enough. Born in 1847, the son of a timber dealer of
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This note was uploaded on 10/05/2010 for the course ARTM 360 taught by Professor Wentworth during the Spring '09 term at CofC.

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chapter 1 movies and money - Syndetic Solutions - [Excerpt...

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