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

Chris Fala chrisjpf33 at gmail.com
Wed Jan 19 20:07:49 UTC 2022

Thanks, Herb. You articulated some of my thoughts (much better than I

On Wed, Jan 19, 2022 at 2:35 PM Herb Johnson via vcf-midatlantic <
vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:

> 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
> resides.
> 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
> highway").
> 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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