The Wardenclyffe Tower was an audacious attempt to give the world wireless communication. It was nearly complete before the funding was lost, so the "Radio City" on Long Island, which should have arisen, didn't happen, or the second tower that was planned for England. Nor, of course, did any of Tesla's tower-related predictions:
As soon as it is completed, it will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere. He will be able to call up, from his desk, and talk to any telephone subscriber on the globe, without any change whatever in the existing equipment. An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant. In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place. Millions of such instruments can be operated from but one plant of this kind. More important than all of this, however, will be the transmission of power, without wires, which will be shown on a scale large enough to carry conviction.
On the Wardenclyffe Tower, in "The Future of the Wireless Art" in Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony (1908)*
Read that again. In one paragraph, Tesla predicted: speech recognition; email/instant messaging; international phone calls without satellites; portable radio; the internet; and a global information revolution. In 1908. With wireless electricity and radio waves.
We didn't get email, or the internet until 1988, or IM until the 1960s. We didn't have portable radios until 1947. We didn't have speech recognition until 1952 and it was incredibly rudimentary. We still can't always make international calls without satellites, unless we factor in web-based or digital phones, and not everyone has web-connectivity. We hit the global info revolution in the '00s.
We could've had this by 1920. Among the things that would've changed with this technology (though I don't know how, not being an expert in these fields):
- the Great Depression
- World War II
- the Korean War
- the Vietnamese War
- the Cold War
- the Third World
- the USSR's dissolution
- the space race
- nuclear power
- the progression of technology (of course), including computing
- the layout, demographics, and economic power of New York City (viz. the Radio City)
There would've been less of a lag before everyone knew of news events, so anything dependent on news (economics, politics) would have been affected. We'd have developed mass media faster, had a completely different approach to Hollywood and superstardom. We'd probably have seen multicultural awareness happening much faster, because anyone with a tower could've transmitted. Fashions may or may not be more unified across the globe, and they may or may not've been Teslapunk in nature.
I definitely see the youth of the Roaring Twenties latching onto this "instant" communication (a flapper with a cell phone?). I see scientists running with it and pushing its boundaries—the same scientists and aficionados who started Golden Age SF and comics. I see the Classic American Family of the 1950s with Web 2.0 and color TVs. I see something very, very cool happening in the materialistic 1980s. I see pirated movies in 1940. I see conglomerates by 1960. I see Gernsback having a heyday. I see The Jetsons.
Note that I haven't mentioned Tesla coils, motors, force fields, particle beams, electric submarines, death rays, man-made earthquakes, the "dynamic theory of gravity" that predated Einstein, or the electric aircraft.
Steampunk's a crazy right now, so why not Teslapunk? I'd love to see someone with a physics degree run with that alternate history.
Yes, if you're wondering, this does tie in somewhat with that post I wrote at the start of February. Theme-wise, anyway.
* yanked wholesale from Wikiquote