In the 19th Century, French writer Louis Figuier read a newspaper article about something called an electroscope. He thought it was called a “Telectroscope,” and he misunderstood the meaning of what it was.
He thought it was a giant tunnel that goes under the ocean, and that when you look through it, you can see people on the other side of the ocean. Nobody ever invented it, but this past June, I went to Tower Bridge in London to see an amazing thing actually called a Telectroscope. It is essentially a giant webcam; when you look into it, you can see across the ocean to see people next to Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
When I looked into it, there were lots of people on the other side. I saw Brooklyn Bridge in the background. In London, it was really sunny with blue skies, but in Brooklyn it was raining. Normally, it is the other way around! People on both sides of the Telectroscope had whiteboards on which to write to communicate to each other. There was one boy who looked about 10 years old holding up a board with his mobile phone number on it. My mum sent him a text, and he texted back! I found out that his name was Andres, and he lived in Manhattan. When we texted each other, he gave me his father’s email address and I gave him mine. I was really excited because I had made a friend across the ocean through a Telectroscope. Mum and I were laughing and smiling because I had made a friend in an amazing way.
Over the next few weeks, Andres and I exchanged many emails. I found out many things about his hobbies and his family. I got to know that he likes a lot of sports like basketball, American football, and soccer. I told Andres about my hobbies and my family, too, and I told him that I was coming to New York in the summer. Perhaps, I said, I might be able to meet him.
When I went to New York, it took a long time to find Andres because I didn’t have access to the internet (he had given me his address and phone number in an email). Finally, I called him and we made a date to see each other. We agreed to meet on a Saturday afternoon outside Wall Street Station. On the tube to Wall Street station, with my mum and my brothers, I was feeling nervous and excited about meeting Andres.
When we got out of the tube station, we started walking and looking for him. I couldn’t remember exactly what Andres looked like, because I had only seen him for three or four minutes. I was hoping he would recognize me, and he did. Andres and his dad waved to me as soon as we got there. When I was walking toward them, I felt tense, but my tension left me when I met him because he was very friendly. We talked about our different lives in New York and London.
His dad took all of us to his office on a very high floor of a building where there was an amazing view of Brooklyn Bridge and the river that separates Manhattan and Brooklyn. Andres’s dad showed all of us where the other end of the Telectroscope had been. After that we all took a water taxi to Brooklyn. While we were on it, there was a marvelous view of the Statue of Liberty and all the tall buildings in Manhattan. I couldn’t believe that our “meeting” through the Telectroscope had led to this special outing.
When my mum was my age, she lived in Calcutta and had a pen pal in America. They used to write letters to each other, and it used to take three weeks for letters to reach them. Now I have an e-pal in America, and it takes just a few seconds for my letter to get to his computer. It’s unbelievable how much technology has changed in the last 30 years.
After I said goodbye to Andres, we got back on the water taxi and returned to Manhattan. It was an overwhelming experience to meet Andres and his family. Just from seeing a boy through a Telectroscope, to actually meeting him and seeing where he lives, was incredible. Maybe one day Andres might come and stay in my house, and I might go and stay in his. Today, anything is possible
Ashwin Tharoor-Menon is a ten year old living in London.