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