Little did B. Franklin wot when he baited his pin hook with a good conductor and tapped the low browed and bellowing storm nimbus with his buoyant kite, thus crudely acquiring a pickle jar of electricity, that the little start he then made would be the egg from which inventors and scientists would hatch out the system which now not only encircles the globe with messages swifter than the flight of Phoebus, but that anon the light of day would be filtered through a cloud of cables loaded with destruction sufficient for a whole army, and the air be filled with death-dealing, dangling wires.
Little did he know that he was bottling an agent which has since pulled out the stopper with its teeth and grown till it overspreads the sky, planting its bare, bleak telegraph poles along every highway, carrying day messages by night and night messages when it gets ready, filling the air with its rusty wings–provided, of course, that such agents wear wings–and with the harsh, metallic, ghoulish laughter of the signal-key, all the while resting one foot on the neck of the sender and one on the neck of the recipient, defying aggregated humanity to do its worst, and commanding all civilization, in terse, well-chosen terms, to either fish, cut bait or go ashore.
Could Benjamin have known all this at the time, possibly he might have considered it wisdom to go in when it rained.
I am not an old fogy, though I may have that appearance, and I rejoice to see the world move on. One by one I have laid aside my own encumbering prejudices in order to keep up with the procession. Have I not gradually adopted everything that would in any way enhance my opportunities for advancement, even through tedious evolution, from the paper collar up to the finger bowl, eyether, and nyether?
This should convince the reader that I am not seeking to clog the wheels of progress. I simply look with apprehension upon any great centralization of wealth or power in the hands of any one man who not only does as he pleases with said wealth and power, but who, as I am informed, does not read my timely suggestions as to how he shall use them.
To return, however, to the subject of electricity. I have recently sought to fathom the style and motif of a new system which is to be introduced into private residences, hotels, and police headquarters. In private houses it will be used as a burglar’s welcome. In hotels it will take the mental strain off the bell-boy, relieving him also of a portion of his burdensome salary at the same time. In the police department it will do almost everything but eat peanuts from the corner stands.
I saw this system on exhibition in a large room, with the signals or boxes on one side and the annunciator or central station on the other. By walking from one to the other, a distance in all of thirty or forty miles, I was enabled to get a slight idea of the principle.
It is certainly a very intelligent system. I never felt my own inferiority any more than I did in the presence of this wonderful invention. It is able to do nearly anything, it seems to me, and the main drawback appears to be its great versatility, on account of which it is so complex that in order to become at all intimate with it a policeman ought to put in two years at Yale and at least a year at Leipsic. An extended course of study would perfect him in this line, but he would not then be content to act as a policeman. He would aspire to be a scientist, with dandruff on his coat collar and a far-away look in his eye.