RIP: the incandescent bulb

RIP: the incandescent bulb

The days of the incandescent bulb, a contribution of Thomas Edison, are numbered in the United States as most will never be able to meet efficiency standards for lighting set in 2007. Jane Bronx on the timeline:

The standards will be phased in over several years, beginning in 2012. Our familiar 100-watt bulbs will disappear from store shelves first, then 75-watt, then 60….By 2014, almost all the incandescent light we have traditionally used in our homes will be unavailable.

But it has had an extraordinary history:

When introduced into urban society in the last decades of the 19th century, it was nothing like the fussy, stinking light it replaced, for it was a light born of invention: silent, contained within glass, possessing no apparent flame that had to be coaxed to life or tended. …. The ones available to us now are as dim as all lights of the past: the “1890 Bulb” and the “Caged Bulb,” 40 watts; the “Victorian Bulb,” 30 watts. Edison’s light: missed before it has departed.

I remember learning how to tell if a light was burned out — tap on it, tink, tink, tink — I felt like I was in on a secret. Today, as we try to imagine life without incandescence, and still others try to recapture a spirit without minding watts, we can find other uses for the beloved bulb. As Bronx says, “Let the hoarding begin.”

[Image: More filaments. No. 5 is a turndown lamp, the invention of John McCullough, the U.S. patent from 1906. Nos. 6-9 had patents issued from 1885-1906. via]