There is one invention by which all others are measured in terms of impact and usefulness, having irrevocably changed when and how we live our lives. I’m speaking, of course, about Easy Cheese, which you can accurately spray into your mouth at all hours of the day with the help of another cool invention, the light bulb. Commonly accredited to inventor Thomas Edison, the incandescent bulb was the result of many earlier experiments by multiple scientists in laboratories surrounded by bubbling test tubes and those cool, tall arcing things that zap lightning bolts like in the original Frankenstein movie. A final, commercially successful version of an incandescent bulb was achieved around 1879, finally giving cartoonists something they could use to represent when Mickey Mouse had a brilliant idea. But before we get to that we have to read about some boring history stuff.
Navel lint and tanning beds
Although the basic principle of the light bulb seems simple to you and me today, because we’ve never had to invent anything more complex than a way to get the lint out of our navel, it took years of experimentation to produce a commercially viable bulb that would afford mankind the ability to get skin cancer in tanning beds without having to go outside. Up to 22 inventors could lay claim to being the inventor of the incandescent bulb, but since most of them are dead we’re going to have to rely on Wikipedia again for the real truth.
Fifty Shades of Sprengel pumps
[pullquote type=”right”]Savvy experimenters hit upon the idea of using a vacuum inside the bulb in order to help the filament burn longer, but this proved difficult, as the vacuum wouldn’t be invented until 1901, and the bulb would have had to be gigantic in order to accommodate it.[/pullquote]Humphry “For The Last Time, There’s No ‘E’ In My First Name!” Davy created the first incandescent lamp in 1802 by passing an electric current through a platinum strip. Over the next 75 years, various inventors also tried iridium wires, carbonized paper filaments, bamboo, inanimate carbon rods and evacuated, semi-evacuated or fully constipated enclosures. In 1835 James Bowman “Goober” Lindsay demonstrated a constant electric light in Dundee, Scotland, which he stated allowed him to “read a book at a distance of one and a half feet, although it was ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, so, yeah.” Savvy experimenters hit upon the idea of using a vacuum inside the bulb in order to help the filament burn longer, but this proved difficult, as the vacuum wouldn’t be invented until 1901, and the bulb would have had to be gigantic in order to accommodate it. Fortunately, light bulb inventors weren’t as lame as that last joke and were able to achieve viable vacuum bulbs by the late 19th century. Edison began using the extensive resources of his Menlo Park laboratory to develop his own bulb around 1878. The first successful test was on October 22, 1879, with a bulb that lasted 13.5 hours, long enough to allow him to finish a really tough jigsaw puzzle of him kicking Nikola Tesla in the butt. Historians believe that Edison’s version of the light bulb was able to overshadow other models for three reasons: he found a more effective incandescent material, he was able to achieve a higher vacuum through the use of a Sprengel pump, and he was millionaire playboy Thomas Freakin’ Edison. Lamps with three-way filaments were invented as early as 1902, and allowed homeowners to experience multiple levels of storage boxes in which to toss their half-burnt-out bulbs in hopes they might still work somewhere else, like the downstairs closet.
Today, the light bulb and it’s current variations is as common and necessary to our way of life as the television, car, or television shows about cars. And remember, when spraying your Easy Cheese, to squirt it in short bursts.