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— Responses to Your Questions —
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... December 20 Postings ...

Question
If Tesla was alive today, what would be the one question you would ask him?

Response
by Robert Uth

Did he transmit wireless power?

Response
by Bernard Finn

How did your interest in poetry affect your technical activities? Was it simply mental relaxation, a release from tension? Or did it focus your mind in some way that helped the process of invention? Do you see these as compatible features of one part of the brain, or as quite different aspects that may sometimes complement and sometimes conflict with each other?

Question
In reading Tesla's thoughts about mans actions being controlled from the outside, not the inside, I was strongly reminded of the ideas of GI Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. Do you know of any contact between these contemporaries?

Response
by Margaret Cheney

Writings and ideas of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky affecting Tesla? Tesla's belief in man as a machine, sans free will, seemed to change over the years. He later wrote that his willpower had been fundamental to his achievement. But the mechanistic view was for a time accepted in European philosophy and undoubtedly he was aware of this. He claimed for a time to trace everything he did to external events. Later he believed that thought would one day be projected directly onto a screen. And he became captivated by the eastern philosophy of Swami Vivikendanda, which he considered consonant with his theories of science.

Question
Where can I get some details on the demise of the Tesla Museum formerly located in Colorado Springs, Colorado? I seem to recall reading an article that said, I think, the artifacts sort of disappeared. Is that really what happened?

Response
by Robert Uth

The Tesla Museum in Colorado Springs was part of the Tesla International Society. This society disbanded several years ago and so did the museum. The displays in the museum did not use actual Tesla devices.

Question
in the special you said that he was never able to transmit power yet I remember reading in one of the books that he had lit about 100 light bulbs around 20 miles away from his Colorado Springs laboratory. Isn't that true? Also, you should mention the museum there in Colorado Springs, it's small but very well worth the visit for those who are Tesla fans.

Response
by Robert Uth

This is one of the many unanswered questions about Tesla's experiments at Colorado Springs. First, the only comment Tesla made was that he illuminated lamps in the earth at a distance of two miles from his transmitter. The comment about twenty miles and one-hundred lamps originated from an early biography on Tesla by John J. O'Neill called, "Prodigal Genius." Some suggest that at a distance of two miles, with an extremely powerful transmitter, the lamps could have illuminated by induction rather than the radio transmission of power. Other's disagree.

... December 19 Postings ...

Question
Do you know if there have been any recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to either the FBI or the Department of Defense (DoD) for release of the Tesla papers that these two entities currently hold? If so, what is the disposition of the requests: successful or unsuccessful?

Response
by Robert Uth

You can get FOIA requests from the FBI, the DOD, the State Department, and the CIA. The agencies are very responsive to requests, but the information supplied does answer many of the questions about the location and use of Tesla's technical ideas after his death.

Question
Do you think that this controversy has to do with a point of view that says recognizing foreign-born Tesla would make Thomas Edison (America's homegrown genius) look bad? Or perhaps to honor Tesla would be perceived as to diminish the contributions of so many others? What is it that has made Tesla more of a "cult figure", rather than a universally recognized genius?

Response
by Robert Uth

I think in traditional science and technology circles there has been a concern that in praising Tesla you diminish Edison, Marconi and others. But this is clearly not the case. Both Edison and Marconi were remarkable people who accomplished remarkable things and no one can take that away from them. But it also seems important that Tesla be remembered for his contributions, particularly if we are to make sense of the electronic age we live in.

Question
The "magic" number 3 was mentioned [in the film]. Was this mere superstition or did Tesla have a basis for believing 3 to be special?

Response
by Margaret Cheney

The "magic" number of 3 was apparently just superstition.

Question
Do we (you) know more details about Tesla's ideas about and use of electrical currents for healing the human body? Or about helping the body the way he thought he was doing with the treatments he gave himself?

Response
by Margaret Cheney

Tesla's ideas on medical treatment with electricity are in widespread use today, as in diathermy or deep-heat for injuries, arthritis, etc.; the application of x-ray, microwave and radiowave to destroy cancer cells, and for healing bones and tissues. The magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) is measured in Tesla Units. Tesla's idea of bathing in "cold fire" or a low-power therapeutic device, is believed to have a psychosomatic effect beyond the mechanical. (For more on this: Tesla, Man Out of Time, Cheney; Tesla, Master of Lightning, Cheney and Uth.)

Question
It seems that the rightful source of the riches that were due to Tesla should have come from the Westinghouse Company. Their use of Tesla's inventions, offering the practical secrets of power generation and transmission at Niagara Falls, was the single most important element that propelled Westinghouse from nineteenth century business customs into what became one of the twentieth centuries largest multinational conglomerates.

Westinghouse could have, arguably, gone the direction of buggy whip manufacturers and other leftovers of the ninetieth century manufacturing world if it they had not met up with Nikola Tesla. My question is: Could a corporation of today take a process or series of processes and patents from an individual, paying some tiny fraction of their true value, and go on to make billions of dollars from these inventions without further liability to the inventor?


Response
by Bernard Finn

The question of just compensation to inventors is a difficult one. The patent system was designed to provide protection for a period of time long enough for a person to make a reasonable profit from an idea, but clearly there are wide variations. Some inventions can go to market immediately, others may take so long in the developmental stage that by the time it is possible to make some money the patent has lapsed. And there are many other variables that become significant.

Some inventors make a lot of money out of what seem to be very minor patents that just happen to fit into an important manufacturing niche. And some patents, even though probably invalid, are never challenged because it is easier for a user to pay a small royalty than to go to court.

Some inventors that make significant contributions get little in the way of compensation because they can't afford to defend the patent, or competitors manage to get around the patent by doing something that is similar but not quite the same. Many inventors work for corporations, and patent rights go directly to the company with nothing to the inventor except perhaps a bonus at the end of the year. Some patents are sleepers, where the true value may not be apparent immediately and where the inventor may sell off all or part of the rights at the beginning.

In a word, the problems that Tesla faced are still with us, some the same and some in slightly different form.

... December 18 Postings ...

Question
Is that true that Tesla was the genius behind the US Navy's famous top secret project "The Philadelphia Experiment" back in 1943?

Response
by Robert Uth

Tesla's name has been associated with the project called "The Philadelphia Experiment." It took place several months after the inventor's death in 1943. The existence of this experiment is documented, but rumors about the results are highly speculative.

The purpose of the experiment, conduced in the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, was to find an effective way to degauss the iron hulls of ships. This would ships less susceptible to detection by radar. According to a few authors, the experiment created such powerful electromagnetic fields inside the ship that some technicians were either killed or injured. There is also a claim that some of those involved in the experiment experienced a distorted sense of time during the experiment. But there is not enough information to separate fact from fiction.

In our own research, we have come across no evidence that Tesla was associated with "The Philadelphia Experiment."


Comment
From what materials I have read, I had the idea that Tesla's later life was given over to flights of fancy. Your program revealed to me for the first time that he remained grounded in reality in his later years.

Response
by Robert Uth

Historians have tended to regard Tesla's later ideas as impractical. Many have also concluded that the inventor lost touch with reality as he aged. I would suggest that Tesla lost touch with practicality. His ideas were simply too big and too expensive for him to realize, especially after the failure of his Wardenclyffe Project and the loss of his major financial backers. Tesla stated on numerous occasions that he knew that his ideas would be put to use in the future. The development of beam weapons, some very similar to Tesla's concept, suggests that his thinking in later life was fundamentally sound.

Question
Among people who have read and studied Tesla and his work, it is often agreed that he is perhaps the greatest inventor of all time. How is it that almost noone has ever heard of him? How is it that since 1943 Marconi's name is the one connected to wireless? Why is his name in no scientific text books used in America's high schools?

Response
by Margaret Cheney

You ask the most vexing question about Tesla: How could the most versatile and productive genius in history have been lost to textbooks in America? I might add, how is it that in 1970 a friend of mine with a doctorate in physics from UC Berkeley, responded to a question: "Tesla coil? Isn't that some kind of toy?" How is it that even today, electrical engineers at UCB (and presumably elsewhere), can describe Tesla as a "cultist" who invented "a little motor." This might have been excused a generation ago, but today with all the documentation of Tesla's achievements, it boils down in my opinion to a combination of ignorance and professional arrogance.

To go back to the basic problem: He was not closely associated with universities or corporations (except for Westinghouse), had no family to carry on his name; had little patience with electrical and radio engineers, who were usually mystified by his work; was himself eccentric, arrogant, and a loner given to making exorbitant claims to the press. And when Tesla's AC system was used to harness Niagara Falls, the War of the Currents ended withindustrial jealousy and enduring bitterness. We see this today in those who still champion Edison for his electrical system and Marconi for inventing radio. These men were commercializers of Tesla patents; and Tesla was a poor businessman. He understood that full appreciation of his work awaited future generations; and this has proved correct. (Ref.: Tesla - Man Out of Time, 1981, Cheney; Tesla - Master of Lightning, 1999, Cheney & Uth).

Question
I've seen the discharge of a Tesla coil going in all directions but can you make it stationary without another terminal being near?

Response
by Jim Hardesty

If you wish to direct the discharge of a Tesla coil, presuming that your Tesla coil is end-loaded with a sphere or torroidal form, you need to place a corona point at any place on the top of the end load form. The corona point can be a needle, a nail, or a short wire, provided that it rests on the end load in such a way that its point protrudes into the air. With the corona point in place, the spark discharges of the Tesla coil will issue from the corona point, which you can direct to point in any direction. If you use a wire as your corona point, take care that it is only a few inches in length because a point that is a foot or more in length will detune the coil.

When the end load of the Tesla coil has a spherical or torroidal shape, it acts as a capacitance to ground and, like a capacitor, it will charge up and then discharge at an appropriate rate. The corona point offers far less capacity than the end load, and sparks will discharge relatively continuously from it. You also will notice that sparks issuing from the corona point will be shorter than sparks issuing from a spherical or torroidal shape. This obviously is a result of the difference in the capacity of each of these two systems.

... December 15 Postings ...

Question
Now this is only an idea. A few friends and myself were considering rebuilding Wardenclyffe, after seeing the original up close. We decided the building itself is the easy part. Finding a location that's safe and free of overpopulation, that's the hard part. I would really love it if one of you could tell me how much, in today's money — the building, the tower, and the land would all come to. Hey — who knows — maybe we will continue what he didn't get a chance to.

Response
by Robert Uth

There is no need to build Tesla's Wardenclyffe facility all over again. The original power plant is still standing on Long Island. The property was privately purchased by a photo finishing company, but now there are issues about soil contamination around the building. A group known as the Tesla Wardenclyffe Project has been formed to turn the power station into a science museum and research facility, but the necessary funding has been slow in coming.

Those interested in helping turn Tesla's Wardenclyffe Power Station on Long Island into a science museum should visit www.teslascience.org and write to the address listed on the homepage.


Question
What does it take to get public schools to include Tesla in the history books? We were only told of Edison and Marconi in school.

Response
by Jim Hardesty

This is a very good question, and one that many science historians ponder with some dismay. The history of scientific discoveries often is inaccurately presented and poorly explained because responsible people have not done their homework. Although Tesla's contributions are many and great, neither teachers nor students are likely to learn about Tesla when they read most history books or visit some of our most prestigious historical museums. Documentaries such as Tesla: Master of Lightning, which bring out the truth, are important means of getting the public to realize that Tesla and his works do belong in our history books. Once people have this important information, they can exercise their freedom of speech to demand that schools teach it to our young people.

However, shifting a paradigm can be as difficult as shifting gears on an old Ford that has been rusting in a junkyard for 40 years, and many academics do not like to let go of the power they wield. I personally think that the sign of a truly great scholar is the willingness to admit that a long-held belief no longer is valid in the light of new information. In a tribute to Albert Einstein, the British humorist George Bernard Shaw pointed out that the universe created by Aristotle lasted 1500 years, the universe created by Newton lasted 300 years, and no one knows how long the universe created by Einstein will last. Newton and Einstein were the first to admit that their ideas would last only until they were replaced by better ideas.

Edison, who believed that inventing required 98 percent perspiration and 2 percent inspiration, was a person whose character fit the American work ethic of his day. It was said that if you gave Edison 10 haystacks and told him that there was a needle in one of them, he would hire workers to examine every straw in those haystacks until the needle was found. Tesla, on the other hand, would think through a problem until he arrived at a highly efficient way of solving it. His work method was to first construct and test his inventions in his mind and then built them in physical reality. Tesla was a visionary genius who was not well understood in his own time, but who perhaps may be better understood today.

Edison was a businessman who only undertook projects that he expected to be financially profitable. General Electric, the corporation he created, still exists today. Tesla was not a businessman. He was a scientist and engineer who pursued the mysteries of nature with the goal of alleviating human suffering. He put forth ideas, some of which still are not completely understood. Although both Edison and Tesla prepared people for the 20th century, I believe that Tesla's work also is preparing us for the 21st century. If young people learn about his accomplishments, many of them will be inspired to build on those accomplishments in their lifetimes.

Question
I have heard that Tesla was able to create and manipulate ball lightning in his lab. I have also heard that this feat has not ever been reproduced by modern labs. Is this true and can you describe exactly what ball lightning is?

Response
by Dennis Papadopoulos

Ball lightning is a luminous spherical object observed and very rarily photographed during thunderstorms. According to eyewitness reports it is most often red, although other colors such as white, blue and green have also been reported. Its radius varies about 5-10 cm. Contrary to ordinary lightning it moves horizontally with low velocity (~few m/sec). It might stop momentarily and change direction. While ordinary lightning lasts about .1-.01 secs, ball lightning exists over several seconds and sometimes minutes. It often enters indoors through windows and chimneys. Unconfirmed reports mention propagation through walls. The energy content is of the order of about 2-10 Megajoules (i.e 2-10 million joules). Ball lightning has been observed to cause damage by burning or melting. The physics of the phenomenon is not understood, despite interesting work by Kapitza and others. Even its very existence is strongly debated. To my knowledge there has not been any laboratory production of ball lightning. Understanding and generating ball lightning in the laboratory will go a long way towards achieving thermonuclear fusion. I personally believe that the claims that Tesla manipulated ball lightning is simply part of his folklore. There is no evidence that he actually did it. For more information see http://www-bprc.mps.ohio-state.edu/~bdaye/balligh.html.

Question
John W. Wagner claims that the Smithsonian has deliberately minimalized Tesla's contributions to electrical science. According to Wagner:
Its curator essentially credits Edison for our worldwide system of electricity. He also credits Marconi for the invention of radio. This is a deliberate assault on factual history and needs to be challenged.
Is Wagner's claim correct? What might the motivation be for the Smithsonian to credit others with Tesla's inventions.

Response
by Bernard Finn

John Wagner is a school teacher in Michigan who has been remarkably successful in using Tesla as a role model for his third grade students. A few years ago the father of one of the students sculpted a bust of Tesla, which the class then offered to the Smithsonian for permanent exhibition. Unfortunately, our general policy is to accept busts that have been done from life; and in any case we would have been unwilling to make such a long-term commitment. I understand that since then copies of the bust have been placed in other locations.

Mr. Wagner has a web site where he continues to press his case for the bust. He would like us to exhibit more material related to Tesla, and he claims that we misrepresent Tesla (usually in favor of Edison) in our present exhibits.

We have, in fact, for several years been contemplating an exhibit on Tesla. Since we lack appropriate objects in the museum here, we contacted the Tesla Museum in Belgrade and began discussions about a joint project. We organized a conference of scholars and developed some core ideas. The situation in Yugoslavia has been such that further progress was not possible. However, with the recent political changes we expect that early next year we will have a small display of artifacts, in the hope that this will lead to full-scale exhibition.

Mr. Wagner's comments about our present exhibits are somewhat misleading. We have an exhibition on electric lighting which features Edison. Towards the end of it we suggest that lighting was a key stimulus to the development of large power plants, specifically at Niagara Falls. We include a nameplate from one of the Niagara generators (with Tesla's patents listed) and a Tesla motor, and we describe his role briefly in accompanying text. This text can be viewed on our website http://americanhistory.si.edu/lighting.

In a separate exhibition on the "Information Age" we group Tesla with Marconi, de Forest and others (each with a short account of his contributions). Having no artifact for Tesla, we show a picture of the Wardenclyffe tower.

Unfortunately, the Smithsonian cannot be comprehensive in its exhibits. Our collections are very good, but in many instances we lack critical items. And we certainly lack the space. As a consequence, we tend either to take a broad, almost superficial approach (as with the Information Age), in which many people and events are treated briefly; or we treat one subject in depth (as with Lighting).

... December 14 Postings ...

Question
Your excellent program included pictures of some of Tesla's mystical writings. One showed some kind of anagram or other "word play" that began with SATOR. What did Tesla believe these words meant?

Response
by Robert Uth

Tesla's interest in mysticism is intriguing. Some people regard him as a virtual seer. My opinion is that Tesla was interested in anything that inspired him to have an idea. Like other Victorian scientists, Tesla did believe that there was probably a scientific explanation for phenomenon that could not be explained, such as ghosts and telepathy. The "word play" document you refer to in the program is a mathematical puzzle. Tesla loved to play with complicated math problems. What is unusual about this particular puzzle is that it is known in mystic circles as, "the Key of Solomon," a secret form of energy. You can read some of Tesla's mystic musings in an article contained in the resources section of this Web site called, How Cosmic Forces Shape our Destiny.

Question
Is that true that one of Tesla's unknown inventions directly triggered a huge explosion near Tunguska back in the early 1900s?

Response
by Margaret Cheney

I have seen no evidence of an unknown Tesla invention triggering an explosion at Tunguska in the early 1900s.

Question
I have often heard that Tesla believed efficient, high power wireless transmission of power was possible by means of non-Hertzian electromagnetic waves. One might assume that by non-Hertizian he meant longitudinal E and B components, yet in many of his works it appears he associates Hertzian with atmospheric waves and non-Hertzian with trans-terrestrial or perhaps surface waves. It has also been conjectured that Tesla envisioned producing high energy density induced changes in local permeability and permativity such that evanescent waves serve as a substantial mechanism in energy transmission. Can you shed any light on on Tesla's notion of non-Hertzian waves?

Also, is there any evidence that Tesla was familiar with Hamiton's quaterion algebra or the early quaterion formulations of Maxwell or work of Buee?


Response
by Jim Hardesty

Because you seem to have considerable knowledge of the subject, and particularly of Maxwell's equations, I will direct you to a very important book called Wireless Telegraphy by Dr. J. Zenneck (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1915). In Chapter 10, "Propagation of the Waves Over the Earth's Surface," Zenneck provided some very useful information about ground waves. Tesla indicated that Zenneck's ground wave was the non-Hertzian wave he was talking about. The Zenneck-Sommerfeld solution to Maxwell's equations is another area for you to check.

It is known that one of the books that Tesla's most used was a copy of Maxwell's original work. Because much of that appears in quaterions, one can assume that Tesla had considerable familiarity with them.

I will leave you with this. Have fun!

Question
If changing the weather is impossible, as stated by one of the experts, then what is HAARP doing? What justifies spending on it? Are there other applications for transmission of energy through the atmosphere?

Response
by Dennis Papadopoulos

As I mentioned in the show changing the weather with any type of ionospheric heating facility is equivalent to stopping a truck by bouncing it off a fly. It is impossible both not only in terms of energy but also in terms of the principles of physics. To put it into energy or power prospective, the weather is driven by the energy of the sun which sends in the upper atmosphere of the earth an average power of about 10^16 Watts. HAARP even operating 24 hours a day can send a maximum of 10^6 Watts — ten orders of magnitude less. Notice that lightning whose energy is absorbed by the atmosphere in a similar fashion with HAARP send an average of 10^11 Watts, while the aurora borealis anywhere between 10^10-10^11 Watts. HAARP cannot compete with any of these sources. As to energy transmission applications HAARP has too low frequency (3-10 MHz) and cannot transmit efficiently through the ionosphere. Frequencies upwards of 2-100 GHz or lasers in frequency windows transparent to the atmosphere would have to be used. The purpose of HAARP is scientific aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes. In addition, the HAARP facility will be useful for a variety of other research purposes including underground exploration for oil and minerals, the study of glob warming and ozone depletion etc. A similar facility operated in the past in Arecibo, Puerto Rico under the auspices of the National Science Foundation. Another is currently operating in Tromso Norway. HAARP is simply the most modern of such facilities and has the potential to transition quickly theories and basic research to applications. An excellent review of the HAARP facility can be found in http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/haarp/gen.html and of ionospheric to http://www.haarp.alaska.edu/haarp/ion2.html

Question
Does the Smithsonian Institution have in its possession, the first ever electric motor, a DC motor invented by a man named Thomas Davenport? I believe it was invented and patented by Davenport, a blacksmith about the 1840's. Please advise.

Response
by Bernard Finn

We have a patent Office model of Davenport's motor (view a photograph). It is on exhibit about fifteen feet from one of Tesla's motors (one of the very few items we have directly related to Tesla) — that is, if you care to walk through a partition instead of around it, in which case it's more like a hundred feet.

Davenport was a blacksmith in Brandon Vermont, not far from Albany where Joseph Henry was designing and constructing powerful electromagnets. In 1833 he purchased one of Henry's magnets and by the following year had built a motor that is arguably the first to have all of the basic elements (field magnets, rotating armature, commutator). The model that he submitted with his patent application in 1835 was destroyed in a fire at the Patent Office. We have his replacement. He subsequently built motors that could be used in practical applications, like running a lathe or even powering a small train. But the lack of an efficient power source (all that was available was a battery) meant that these never became economically successful.

... December 13 Postings ...

Question
I was just wondering, why are there no notes or anything of that sort on Tesla's work? There should be something somewhere.

Response
by Robert Uth

There are actually many notes on Tesla's work. A representative sample of Tesla's writings can be found in references on this Web site. If you are referring to the clandestine activities that took place after Tesla's death, there is also a great amount of research material. For instance, you can use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Tesla's complete FBI file. Sample's are included in Missing Papers chapter on this site. And are there Tesla papers that are still missing? The answer is, no one knows for sure, but a lot of people are looking.

Question
Do the guest narrators have any knowledge about Telsa's relationship with John Jacob Astor? Resources have told me that Mr. Astor did fund Tesla's work, but only to the amount of a few thousand dollars, if that...

Response
by Margaret Cheney

John Jacob Astor contributed $30,000 to Tesla's research station at Colorado Springs, and may have given money to him for the construction of Wardenclyffe Tower. Although the extent of his involvement in the latter project is unknown, there were found in Astor's estate when it was appraised in 1913 five hundred shares of stock in the Nikola Tesla Company. (Tesla: Man Out of Time, by Margaret Cheney, pp. 132-133, 156)

Question
Can spark plugs be considered miniature Tesla coils? If they can't, please explain why.

Response
by Jim Hardesty

A spark plug cannot be considered a miniature Tesla coil, but it might be used as part of a Tesla coil, namely, the spark gap. To use a spark plug as a spark gap in a Tesla coil system, the Tesla coil system would need to be very low power because a spark plug is not constructed to handle very much power and would operate very poorly in quenching a powerful spark and therefore would not permit the secondary coil to resonate freely. A spark plug and a Tesla coil are two different things. A spark plug is not a coil. It is merely a high-voltage insulator with a gap at its tip that permits high-voltage electricity to discharge within the cylinder of an automobile. A Tesla coil is quarter-wave helical resonator that is most often constructed of a number of turns of wire wrapped around a low-loss form. The size of the form and the length of the wire determine, in part, the Tesla coil's operating frequency. Often these wound forms are terminated with a metallic sphere or torroidal form which we call an end load. The end load has a number of functions. One of these functions is to prevent the top winding of the coil from discharging into the air and thus damaging some portion of that winding. The size of the end load also determines the Tesla coil's operating frequency.

Question
How was 60 cycles per second decided on as the US standard power frequency? Who made this decision? Was a higher freqency considered and why is europe 50 cps?

Response
by Dennis Papadopoulos

An important issue in deciding the number of cycles per second for the AC current is the availability, practicality, cost and durability of the device that transforms mechanical energy to electric energy. This device is called the generator and its reverse is the motor (see the Encyclopedia Brittanica article on the electric generator.) Tesla and independently the Italian Galileo Ferraris are considered the fathers of the induction motor. The generator includes a rotating part — the rotor — similar to the rotor that charges your car battery. The size, inertia and other practical issues at the beginning of the 20th century constrained the rotating speed to few tens of rotations per sec. There is essentially no difference between 50 or 60 cycles. As far as I know it was a matter of choice dictated by availability and price of the components at the time.

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