Let’s Say Farewell to Mr. Edison’s Bulb

Couple of weeks ago I heard US Senator, Tom Coburn, say he had stockpiled several hundred incandescent light bulbs in anticipation of their manufacture being outlawed. It amazes me how resistant to change many people are.

The US Congress just authorized a $662 billion spending bill for the military but before it could be approved the tree huggers in congress had to agree to a rider permitting the continued manufacturer and sale of Thomas Edison’s 1879 version of the light bulb.

When Tom came up with his bulb (Edison didn’t invent the bulb, he made one that worked.) it took decades for it to become universally adopted. There was no electrical grid so before Joe Smith in Dismal Seepage, Indiana could flip a switch and light his out house, one had to be built.

Today there is a national electrical grid but it is both outdated and
overloaded. One way to deal with the problems is to convert to lower demand, more efficient, forms of lighting such as the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). Like so many others, my house made the change years ago, albeit not without problems.

The early CFLs were expensive, slow to warm up, not bright enough, and didn’t represent the perfect light spectrum of Edison’s bulb. They also didn’t come in small enough versions to fit inside ceiling enclosures. Over the years, however, things are much different. Today’s CFLs almost instantly reach full brilliance, more closely resemble the light of the incandescent bulb, and come in different shapes and sizes.

Years ago we made the switch in those lamps where the existing CFLs would work. Today they are in most of our light fixtures including the two table lamps we use most often to illuminate our living room. I sit and read from the soft glow of a modern 100 watt CFL most nights and have yet had to replace a single CFL. They are doing exactly what the manufacturer said they would, last a long time and provide a greener means of fighting the dark of night. It probably hasn’t saved us any large sum of money but it is the multiplier effect of the entire nation converting that produces the energy savings.

As a boy Abe Lincoln studied his school lessons by the light of the family fireplace. For centuries countless thinkers, writers, inventors and students worked by the light of a candle or an oil lamp. Edison’s incandescent bulb was introduced to a major audience at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the public was overwhelmed by its ability to turn the night into day. But, with Edison in mind, if people had originally been as resistant to change as the Tom Coburns of today are, it wouldn’t be just my Amish neighbors who continue to do their lessons by candle light.

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