[vcf-midatlantic] [OT] light bulb collector/museum

Herb Johnson hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Wed Jan 19 19:34:19 UTC 2022

Chris Fala: > To the collector in us all. [link to YouTube video]

The cited YouTube clip was from a CBS news feature by David Pogue (that 
guy who used to host PBS Nova episodes by playing dumb about 
technology). So Pogue asks the collector, "light bulbs? really?" - 
because of course modern bulbs are not only dirt-common, but obsolete, 
and therefore uninteresting twice. The collector starts to explain their 
historic significance as the video shows various bulbs and sockets and 
accessories. I stopped watching at that point, I know the drill.

Later in the thread, Jeff Jonas suggests the point I was about to make, 
so I'll join his thread.

Vintage "light bulbs" is not a trivial subject or some personal oddity. 
It was an advanced technology that was initially exciting, became 
necessary, and then invisible. Just like personal computing. And it 
happens, it's history relevant to New Jersey where VCFed-Midatlantic 

In the terminology of vintage computing: the incandescent electric lamp, 
was the "killer app" for the distribution and personal and industrial 
use of electrical power at the turn of the 20th century. Edison did much 
of his electrical work and production in New Jersey.

What makes a light bulb even interesting?

Electrical distribution didn't exist until around 1900. Why electrically 
wire up a city, in an era of ZERO commercial or consumer electrical 
devices? To provide smokeless, fireless, constant illumination; for work 
and safety and entertainment. Cities were in constant risk from fire, 
used for heating and cooking and illumination (natural gas, coal, wood, 
kerosene). And all that smoke filled rooms and cities with haze - and of 
course created carbon monoxide and gas poisoning. Illumination of 
streets at night, extended business hours and increased safety.

Electric illumination was celebrated as a miracle of modern technology - 
much like computing was half a century later, and personal computing a 
century later. It was a centerpiece of expositions (public tech shows). 
And it was one of many technologies pursued by powerful rich people, who 
financed the "electrical wizards" of the day - Edison, Tesla, JP Morgan. 
All this played out in the newspapers of the day (their "information 

With electric light to provide a revenue stream and incentive to wire 
cities, electric motors became a replacement for steam. Later, small 
electric motors over large steam engines. For awhile, electric cars 
challenged gasoline cars. And Edison's General Electric and Westinghouse 
fought the AC/DC "current wars" in courts and newspapers. Remind you of 
Microsoft vs Apple?

There's a few Edison museums in New Jersey, one near Edison NJ (yeah), 
At East Orange NJ is the Edison National Park (his research facility and 
nearby his mansion). If you are a techie, and you were thrown back in 
time to 1900, what research facility would YOU build? Edison beat you to 
it, in East Orange, go look at it.

So. The "light bulb" represents early personal electricity, just as 
vintage computers represent early personal computing. The YouTube video 
about light-bulb collecting, "illuminates" what most people today think 
about common technology turned vintage - "huh?". And it shows what a few 
people are doing to preserve and curate it.

Regards, Herb Johnson

Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey in the USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
preserve, recover, restore 1970's computing
email: hjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT com
or try later herbjohnson AT comcast DOT net

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