Monday, December 16, 2013

Light Bulb

I hear that Glenn Beck has promised to fire anyone who bought a compact fluorescent replacement for any of the incandescent bulbs in any of his enterprises. Not being one of those who chooses to partake in his entertainments, I don't know his motive, but let's just guess that he was the thinking about the fundamental role the humble light bulb played in the development of twentieth century technology, and hated to let that bit of history be buried. LOL

To be sure, I had no real idea about that history until I started translating the Spanish Wikipedia entry on electronic valves myself. (class exercise). Of course I knew about thermionic emission and vacuum tubes, but I hadn't realized that the foundations of the subject rested on Thomas Edison's experiments trying to build a better light bulb. The thermionic valve, vacuum tube or electronic tube revolutionized almost every aspect twentieth century technology. Once it's powers of rectification and amplification were realized, electronics became a technology and created radio, television, audio players and recorders, radar, and the electronic computer, not to mention particle accelerators and other implements of science. Nowadays, it, like its ancestral light bulb, is mostly passe, having been outpaced nearly everywhere by the transistor and related solid state electronic circuit elements. Still, it seems hard to imagine that the transistor would even have been developed but for its counterpart tube.