Saturday, December 2, 2017

LUX AETERNA: THE CENTENNIAL LIGHT BULB

THIS BULB, IN FIRE STATION #6 IN LIVERMORE, CA,
HAS BEEN BURNING CONTINUOUSLY FOR OVER 100 YEARS!

This week's arts and culture piece concerns the marketing phenomenon known as planned obsolescence.

Here's how it begins:

High up near the ceiling at Fire Station #6 in Livermore, California, burns an electric bulb that has continuously thrown light for more than 100 years.

Known as the Centennial Light Bulb, this small object — approximately 2 ½ inches in diameter and 4 inches long — has been the subject of the late, great Huell Howser’s TV show “California Gold,” a story by NPR’s Terry Gross and countless articles, essays and word-of-mouth stories.

A short Vimeo documentary called “Mysteries at the Museum Centennial Bulb” is one place to start.

In December 1971, Jack Baird — who at the time had been the paid Livermore fire chief for 13 years — noticed that the light had always been on. (Unexplained is whether the light had ever been turned off.) For years the firemen considered the bulb a kind of talisman and developed the tradition of gently tapping it on their way out of the station when responding to a call.

Since a typical lightbulb lasts only about 1,000 hours, Baird set out to discover how long the lightbulb had been on. Where did it come from? he wondered. Who was the manufacturer? He contacted local reporter Mike Dunstan, at that time a young man, and asked him to help investigate.


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

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