« 99% Invisible

144- There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

2014-12-09 | 🔗

Hanging in the garage of Fire Station #6 in Livermore, California, there’s a small, pear-shaped light bulb. It is glowing right now. This lightbulb has been glowing, with just a couple of momentary interruptions, for 113 years. You can see … Continue reading →

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Mrs ninety, nine percent, invisible I'm roman Mars Abundant, our EAST of Oakland in the town of Livermore California hanging in the garage fire station number six, There's a small pear shaped light bulb. The light bulb is on right. Now it's glowing and it's been blowing the couple of momentary interruptions for one hundred and thirteen years of age. Looking at the longest burning longest This link burning, light bulb and the world in the Guinness Book of World record anyway. Install the nineteen o one, nor producer Katy mingle out there to see the bomb which is a genuine heirloom from the dawn of electric illumination, built by one of its pioneers, a guiding but actually probably we think about the beginning of electric light. You go Mealy Thomas Edison, that's John well he's a writer from San Francisco. He wrote a piece
but a little more light bulb for Papa Magazine earlier this year, but the age of of electric light didn't just switch on all at once. He had Tinker's trying to come up with better designs, trying to iterate and innovate, something that would burn longer or maybe brighter where that would cost less. Socially was one of these guys. It was a time of invention and innovation. All over America light bulbs were going off or people's heads and some of those levels were being turned into actual light bulbs, so they like to do this whole theatrical product Emma where he take a big light, bulb back the kind you see: Theatre, Marcie, it would be one bob of his own design and the rest would be bulbs from competing brands. Then Chalet would start slowly dialing up the power one by one, the competitors bulk all exploded, so aid would be the last one shining, One of those tenacious light bulbs made all the way to Livermore California
origin was in nineteen o one. When a shop owner donated it to the towns Volunteer Fire Department, they were called the fire boys in those days and with the bald hanging there firehouse. This meant they could now gather above equipment. If call about a fire came in the middle of the night in the dark. In those days gauges there were no fire engines. Firefighters used hose carts pulled by horses, Tom Bramble, former deputy fire chief in Livermore. This tape of him is from a documentary about the ball, the called century of light, the volunteers, got a ride that arrive to turn, incidentally, what to the station there get their thereof postcard hitch. The horses look for all of the equipment that they were looking for, but this light lit up the whole car. So that it without getting injuring falling over and so the light Serbia as very significant function
in nineteen o six, the fire station move just down the street. The light bulb had been on that point for five years. They had no idea how long the last, but it was only label bulb, so they brought it along. It seems like people just start thinking about the bold after a while there wasn't really an obvious waded, shut off the way that it had been wired, but it must has been dim and unobtrusive enough that no one really tried to hard eventually the old fashioned hose guards were replaced with fire trucks. The bulb hung between the fire houses to garage doors and the FAO. Fires were like aware of it, but they didn't think what about it? The bald hung down probably hung down. Distance from the ceiling in on along cord that actually sits on today, the same for the same court, but it was Pretty it was low enough that you could walk by and actually reach up and tap the largest swing back and forth. Time went on, we even would throw Nepal's added
in seventy one, the first full time, chief of the liver, more far department, a guy named Jack, bear it curious about the light bulb bulb. Any ass, a local newspaper reported to look into the bulbs history, the resulting article got the residents of Livermore talking about the Bob and it became a pointer pride Livermore. Own little antiquity. The fireflies stop throwing later balls at it. Five years later, when the fire department was moving into new building there. They knew that they they couldn't leave the bull behind and, in fact, chief bared insisted that they take it with them. On March, the thirty first nineteen seventy six. It was the day either we move the light bulb from twenty three sixty five first street out here on EAST Avenue to station. That's Lynn, Owens! He was the former division chief of the liver, more fire department. This interview was recorded for the century of light documentary released in two thousand eleven march. Thirty first of seventy six will always be a space
data me, the light bulb, was escorted with red lights. In siren, we had a special box built Not only that, but the box was painted red which even more spatial. When get the label to the new station, the electrician set it up so that the label could be screwed in immediately. He climbed up the line with the light bomb screwed, the the airs together so that everything would go on and frank and made the connection. The light bulb didn't come on and we get Oh my god. Oh my goodness. What did we do? This world famous light bulb, and now it's gone, then the electrician juggled somewheres around the light came back on. Everybody made a big sigh of relief.
Meanwhile, as labour was becoming more more famous, it was impossible for people not to start wondering about what it was made of and how could still possibly be working. The obvious way to solve the mystery would be to crack labelled open and examined it, but obviously no one wanted to do that. It was just too precious. I am Deborah cats on the physics professor, at the: U S Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland Doktor Kurtz, some tests on similar light bulbs, light bulbs made by the same company in the same time period. She measured thickness of the bulbs filament, which is that tiny piece of wire and the ball that can break really easily, and I did that using a laser, so I didn't have to break the Bob to get in there. She figured out that the filament in the liver, more Bob was eight times thicker than irregular bob and made from carbon instead of tungsten. But I figured out doesnt tell me why the filament she didn't have broken by now that that's,
pretty incredible. I think it still is a mystery. What she does know is that in nineteen twenty four, a bunch of light bulb companies got together and formed a cartel called Phoebus. The golden cartel was for all the light, bulb companies to stop making involves that lasted so long, so that everyone could sell more light bulbs. Members The cartel were actually charged fines if their bulbs burn for too many hours, and in two years the company's light bulbs went from lasting five hundred hours down to fifteen hundred hours and by the nineteen forties they actually made their goal of Bob said only last two thousand hours. The show me company, which manufacture Chile's Bob had already gone out of business. By the time the Phoebus cartel had been formed, but I'd like to think that they wouldn't have been involved with a nonsense. I think it They are trying to make a quality product rather than a product with built in ops, since the end of quote
the product. It was this whole time. Of course, the ball was just hanging there and continuing the glow. So in a way it story was taking on this air of magical realism. Into does one a group of locals decided Livermore ought to have a hundred birthday party for the light bulb they formed centennial, Bulb Committee and started planning what they thought would be a small get together at the firehouse. That June, in the six hundred people showed up and they had cake, and there were, bans playing kids dancing on the top of the fire. Committee members give live interviews, TAT, Katy, correct and CNN. By responsibility for the Bob had passed from chief bared. He was the first firemen become interested in the bulb too the fire fighters who served under Him- Lynn, Owens, you heard from them earlier, oh and had been one of the younger guys in the seventies, etc and checking nor footballs at the label, this point by the time the bog turned a hundred. He was already a retired division chief uses, grinning aging guy, with these tiny glasses and briskly white mustache
our wines loved the Bob any lived, Proclaim his love that light bulb his dependable that light Bob has been doing the job and was intended to do since night, what they were like. He was talking about. The light bulb the way James or Jones, with talked about baseball in the field of dreams reminds us once we cook I should add a lot of people and of talking about the labelled, though People write letters to the committee and they say things like the light bulb gives them hope, or they call could a reassuring reminder of faithfulness and service. In a letter, President George W Bush called the light bulb quote an enduring symbol of the american Spirit of invention and quote for a lot people at also so, ironically, symbolizes another great american invention.
Planned obsolescence. I liked the label because it's this little speck of continuity. You know it's something that started more than a century ago and it keeps going through it sort of connects us to that too. You can imagine it like the this little member of a campfire that was lit back then menace. They'll glowing and it came in the same way if he traced out here, You see these waves of people coming to gather around that fire and then slowly leaving the picture and new ones coming in the light. About live Jack bear the first fire chief became curious about it and Lynn Owens its most devoted caretaker. So lays light, bulb, has seen generations of firefighters come and go through Livermore. So in two thousand one right around the time of the party, the centennial bull, the committee also set up a webcam in front of the light, bulb the camera. The picture of the bulb every thirty seconds so that people all over the world can make sure that it still on the guy contains. A camera is named Steve Bun
He told me he's already had to replace the supposedly high tech webcam too. It's because because the label has outlasted both of those devices, the bulb has its own stand by generator. Something inaccurately named the uninterruptible power supply, its opt out suddenly animal the night in May of twenty thirteen, and when it did the light Bob went dark. Steve told me that when it happened, people around the world who happened to be watching the webcam at that point saw the bold winked out and start. Calling or were emailing him panics You know I just in disbelief: the bulb was out for nine hours and forty two minutes before someone was finally able to get over to the firehouse and rig up an extension court. Was turned back on Steve said everyone swore it looked brighter
Ninety nine percent invisible was produced this week by John Millennium and Katy mingle, with same Greenspan, Avery Truffle men and new roman Mars, special thanks to Christopher Lapse, who allowed us to use audio from his film century of light. You can find a link to the film on our website. We are a project to ninety one point: seven local public radio K, L W its efforts is going produced, are the offices of oxide in architecture and interior sperm located in beautiful, downtown oakwood? California? Let's stay, safe out there. Everyone we often don't think of winter, is a time of growth or creation, but if you think about it, it's the perfect time to greet your own website. Cooped up your thinking about being productive and now square space can help you do it with squares. Bates can take your cool ideas, you ve creative content, your services, goods and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks does because there is to use templates, are created by world
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-15.