If you read our recent feature about the Tal-y-Llyn Railway, the world’s first preserved line, you may have taken a while to watch the short film about the railway in the early 1950s. It was the work of an American film maker, [Carson “Kit” Davidson].
His other work includes some films that might be of interest to Hackaday readers, including one filmed in 1977: “100 Watts 120 Volts”. In it, he follows the manufacture of Duro-Test 100-watt light bulbs through all the stages of their assembly as neck, filament and envelope are brought together in strangely beautiful twentieth century production machinery.
It almost comes as a shock that something as ubiquitous as an incandescent light bulb should be the object of a retrotechtacular feature. You might say that without being the object of attention themselves they and their fluorescent cousins had a hand in most of the events and inventions that shape our lives today. Could you imagine NASA Mission Control lit by oil lamps, for example?
But in a world in which incandescent light bulbs are fast being legislated out of existence it is likely that factories like the one shown in the film are rapidly heading the way of the wrought iron mill or the coal gas works. You can still buy incandescent bulbs, especially those made for industrial rough-service applications or for places where the mercury of a CFL tube might be a hazard, but how long will it be before they too are replaced by LEDs and the world’s oldest light bulb has outlived the factories that made bulbs like it? Probably not too long.
It may be a measure of a technology’s suitability for a retrotechtacular feature: how few times it features in the Hackaday archive. With a possible exception of Nixie tubes, that is. In the case of incandescent bulbs there seem to be few projects using them, instead most mentions of them come from replacing them with LEDs in old projectors or other devices. There is this rather nice Vegas-style chaser sign, though. Nobody has yet seen the lightbulb as retro enough to remanufacture. Who knows, perhaps artisanal lightbulbs are the Next Big Thing.
If you liked the video, be sure to read more about Carson Davidson and his work.