CANDLELIGHT TO NEW BULBS: TECH MEETS HISTORY
Somewhere, Thomas Alva Edison is laughing out loud. Even an act of Congress couldn’t break America of its fondness for the incandescent bulb—or at least its gently rounded profile. After decades of attempts to build a better light bulb with technology ranging from tubular fluorescents to hot-to-the-touch halogens, the biggest news in lighting is . . . the Edison lookalike filament LED. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: these energy-sipping bulbs come in a slew of early 20th-century incandescent profiles, from the classic inverted-pear shape to globe, tube, candelabra, and more. That’s not the only blast from the past, either: gaslight is making a comeback, too.
LIGHTING HAS ALWAYS BEEN driven by technology and available sources of energy. In the 18th century, that meant candlepower; in the 19th, whale oil, kerosene, and gas; in the 20th, electricity. Fixtures were defined in large part by how the fuel source burned: Candelabra and chandeliers were equipped with many upright arms to hold burning wax candles. Jetted gasoliers were wedded to fixed positions to tap into dedicated gas lines.
The electric light bulb turned all that on its head. Edison’s carbon-filament bulb could operate in any position: up, down, sideways, or tilted at an angle. Not only that, Edison made [ text cont. on page 44]