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kimmy

The Centennial Lightbulb

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I thought this was cute...

In a fire hall in Livermore California, a light bulb is still going after 110 years!

It's probably the only lightbulb in the world with its own website, as well as a Wikipedia entry. The legend of the bulb even inspired a side-plot in an episode of the sci-fi show Warehouse 13.

The bulb is a "Shelby Bulb", a slightly different technology from the popular Edison incandescent bulb. One wonders if the Shelby Electric Company left the lightbulb business because people never had to buy replacement bulbs.

-k

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It wasn't made in China?

Um... maybe this isn't the best example to score points for nationalism, given that the quality product was made by a company that failed to succed in the market?

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Um... maybe this isn't the best example to score points for nationalism, given that the quality product was made by a company that failed to succed in the market?

Oh contrare....it is the perfect example to score points for emigration and nationalism. Opportunity, competition, and a growing market was the recipe for success.

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But without the secret ingredient (I.e. Planned obsolescence ) the company couldn't make a go of it.

I'm not sure what you mean...the company was founded and manufactured lighting products for 17 years at the Ohio location, and some manufacturing continued in other cities. Their's was a specialty long-life product that had less demand than cheaper alternatives.

I can go to any home store and find long life, rough service bulbs, such as the ones I use in my garage door openers. They cost two to three times as much as a regular incandescent light bulb, and are not sold in great quantity. Most people are happy to buy the cheapest bulb and replace it more often. The information to make an informed decision is printed right on the packaging.

To this day, there is fierce price competition for common lighting products regardless of "planned obsolescence".

Edited by bush_cheney2004

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But without the secret ingredient (I.e. Planned obsolescence ) the company couldn't make a go of it.

But that doesn't appear to have been the case at all. According to the article BC linked to above (thanks, Dick!) it wasn't the longevity of their bulbs that led to the end of Shelby Electric Company. It was amalgamation into a consortium of electric light companies that was owned by General Electric and eventually disbanded as a result of a federal Anti-Trust suit.

-k

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It should also be noted that this is a 4 W bulb. Modern incandescent bulbs typically come in 60, 75, and 100 W brightnesses. Operating at 15-25 times the power as well as at a higher temperature (modern bulbs run hotter to simulate natural white light) puts much more stress on the filaments, hence their shorter lifespans. Modern LED light sources operating at a 4 W power level would produce much more light than the bulb in question, and could quite realistically operate for centuries as well.

Nonetheless, an interesting piece of trivia. I saw it mentioned on the Colbert Report recently.

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But that doesn't appear to have been the case at all....it wasn't the longevity of their bulbs that led to the end of Shelby Electric Company. It was amalgamation into a consortium of electric light companies that was owned by General Electric and eventually disbanded as a result of a federal Anti-Trust suit.

Agreed, and moreover, Shelby was not competing on price...but quality. From the linked article above (I love the period references to the telegraph and patent strategy):

An article titled "The Shelby Electric Company's Lamp Filaments" appeared in Electrical Review, Vol 30, No 10, March 10, 1897, pg 111,.... The ER telegraphed the Shelby Electric Company for the purpose of determining the truth about Shelby filaments. The following are excerpts from Shelby's response:

"The question of taking licenses to manufacture under the Westinghouse patents is one which we have not definitely decided....We have secured copies of the entire number of patents, which they claim to own or control, and we know positively that we do not want to infringe on any of them. We think that we are the only company manufacturing lamps in the United States to-day who can make such a statement. With reference to the filament which we use, we would say that we are using a square filament, not a cellulose filament.

Our filament is not imported from Germany. We are manufacturing it here in Shelby, but it is the same filament which our Professor Chaillet discovered in Germany, and one that is most successfully being used by two of the most prominent lamp factories of Europe, by a special arrangement with our Professor Chaillet. The filament is much nearer pure carbon than anything on the market, it being so hard after being carbonized that it will scratch glass very readily....We could ourselves secure patents on over a hundred different devices, which we use in our manufacture, but prefer to keep them secret....We are not selling lamps on prices, but on quality..."

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With respect to MH's cynical "made in China" reference, here is a reproduction Edison light bulb that is indeed made in China:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Edison-Light-Bulb-Reproduction-1910-40-wt-Squirrel-Cage-/120720554445?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c1b8179cd

As remarked by member Bonam, the Edison reproductions at 40 watts have a decent average life of 2500 hours! I wonder if the filament is authentic extruded cellulose?

Edited by bush_cheney2004

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