|“||This wasn't invented when this was made.||”|
The Farnsworth is a two-way audio and video communications device invented by Philo Farnsworth in 1929, soon after the invention of the television. They're used by Warehouse agents because they are on their own secure frequency spectrum and can't be cracked, hacked, tapped, or otherwise "broken." However, Artie stated in Season 5 that it could potentially be vulnerable to hacks if Claudia messed with it.
Philo Taylor Farnsworth was an American inventor best known for inventing the first fully electronic television system, including the first working electronic image pickup device (video camera tube). He was the first person to demonstrate fully electronic television to the public.
The Farnsworth has been a tool long used by agents working for the Warehouse. Currently, the only people seen using the device are Mrs. Frederic, Arthur Nielsen, Peter Lattimer, Claudia Donovan, Vanessa Calder, and Myka Bering. In 2010, Artie gave the original device that Philo Farnsworth built – "Farnsworth's Farnsworth," as Pete called it – to Claudia Donovan, demonstrating his trust in her, and sparking sibling rivalry-style jealousy in Pete (overtly), and possibly Myka as well. Dr. Vanessa Calder, a doctor with connections to the Regents and of personal interest to Artie, also had a Farnsworth with a distinct, reverberating version of the typical ringtone. In "Of Monsters and Men", it has also been shown as capable of sending signals to and from pocket dimensions, as it was technically still on Earth.
However, the Farnsworths are highly sensitive devices, and don't take to being altered all that well. Claudia once attempted to modify her Farnsworth, with the (apparent) effect that she made it almost impossible for Pete, Myka, and Artie to even use theirs properly, resulting in all three being highly annoyed with her.
Claudia did also modify the Farnsworths at one time to be able to track energy convergences created by Philo Farnsworth's projector - turning them into a type of radar for a short time. They were later converted back to their intended function, as the scanning ability was not seen again in any further episodes.
How it Works
Incoming transmissions sound a buzzing to alert the possessor of this artifact. To start the transmission, the device is opened like a book and the right-most button located just below the red lamp is pushed. Pushing the button a second time ends the transmission. How transmissions actually operate, however, is currently unknown, though based on the fact that the device was developed in the same era as the first television, radio waves are a reasonable surmise. It has, however, been categorically stated that Farnsworths operate on an "unhackable frequency", whatever that may require. They were designed to be able to work anywhere on Earth, including deep underground (as mentioned in Reset) or in alternate dimensions (as seen in Of Monsters and Men).
However, their signals are susceptible to being jammed, as done by H.G. Wells in Buried; breaking up, as a result of the storm-amplified energy of the Riverton Maximum Security Prison in Regrets or by James MacPherson through some means in Nevermore; or being intercepted by another Farnsworth without detection/participating in the call with the help of Claudia's attachable mini-satellite, as done by Artie under the influence of Ferdinand Magellan's Astrolabe in We All Fall Down.
Real World Connections
Most likely, the Farnsworth Communicator uses shortwave radio signals, which can travel enormous distances by 'bouncing' their signals off the electromagnetically-charged ionosphere which surrounds the planet. Real-life shortwave radios function in this manner, though they tend to produce a better signal when used at night (when the sun's rays aren't interfering with the device). It can be hypothesized that Philo Farnsworth may have created means of making shortwave radio signals more powerful or efficient, so that they could be used at any time of the day at any distance on the planet.
Another possibility is that they use longwave radio signals, which can do the same thing as shortwave, but traveling through the ground, instead of bouncing them off the ionosphere. This makes them more reliable for 24/7 transmission.
Farnsworths in Reality
Quantum Mechanix (QMx) was licensed to produce the Farnsworth hero props for SyFy from season 3 onward. They later announced late July of 2011 that they were releasing screen-accurate replicas of the Farnsworth, as well as the Tesla, for commercial sale as part of their Artisan line. These replicas were assembled and painted in the exact manner as the props used on the show, ensuring that they were completely and authentically replicated.
QMx had also released a Farnsworth app for Apple devices. This was a working phone version of the Farnsworth, which could be used to make real-life video calls on an iPhone. The description also stated that users may sometimes receive messages from Artie or Claudia, in order to play up the Warehouse connection.
The Farnsworth App has since been made defunct. It has not had upkeep since iOS 7.
|1. "Pilot":||Debut||7. "Implosion":||Appears|
|2. "Resonance":||Appears||8. "Duped":||Appears|
|3. "Magnetism":||Appears||9. "Regrets":||Appears|
|4. "Claudia":||Appears||10. "Breakdown":||Appears|
|5. "Elements":||Appears||11. "Nevermore":||Appears|
|6. "Burnout":||Appears||12. "MacPherson":||Appears|
|1. "Time Will Tell":||Appears||7. "For The Team":||Appears|
|2. "Mild Mannered":||Appears||8. "Merge With Caution":||Appears|
|3. "Beyond Our Control":||Appears||9. "Vendetta":||Appears|
|4. "Age Before Beauty":||Appears||10. "Where and When":||Appears|
|5. "13.1":||Appears||11. "Buried":||Appears|
|6. "Around the Bend":||Appears||12. "Reset":||Appears|
|13. "Secret Santa":||Appears|
|1. "The New Guy":||Appears||7. "Past Imperfect":||Appears|
|2. "Trials":||Appears||8. "The 40th Floor":||Appears|
|3. "Love Sick":||Appears||9. "Shadows":||Appears|
|4. "Queen For A Day":||Appears||10. "Insatiable":||Appears|
|5. "3... 2... 1":||Appears||11. "Emily Lake":||Appears|
|6. "Don't Hate The Player":||Appears||12. "Stand":||Appears|
|13. "The Greatest Gift":||Appears|
|1. "A New Hope":||Appears||11. "The Living and the Dead":||Appears|
|2. "An Evil Within":||Appears||12. "Parks and Rehabilitation":||Appears|
|3. "Personal Effects":||Appears||13. "The Big Snag":||Appears|
|4. "There's Always a Downside":||Appears||14. "The Sky's the Limit":||Appears|
|5. "No Pain, No Gain":||Appears||15. "Instinct":||Appears|
|6. "Fractures":||Appears||16. "Runaway":||Appears|
|7. "Endless Wonder":||Appears||17. "What Matters Most":||Appears|
|8. "Second Chance":||Appears||18. "Lost & Found":||Appears|
|9. "The Ones You Love":||Appears||19. "All the Time in the World":||Appears|
|10. "We All Fall Down":||Appears||20. "The Truth Hurts":||Appears|
|1. "Endless Terror":||Appears||4. "Savage Seduction":||Appears|
|2. "Secret Services":||Appears||5. "Cangku Shisi":||Appears|
|3. "A Faire to Remember":||Appears||6. "Endless":||Appears|