Just take a look at the things around you. How old do you think the things in your surroundings are? How long do you think they will last? All the things around you will most likely be gone – either damaged or outdated, in about 4-5 years.
But dangling from a ceiling in a Livermore, California firehouse is a lightbulb that has been burning for more than a 100 years.
Yes, that is correct. This incandescent bulb was installed in 1901, has rarely been turned off, and has been giving out light ever since. The usual incandescent bulb lasts for about 1000-2000 hours, and the now popular fluorescent and LED bulbs go on for 25,000-50,000 hours.
This bulb though, doesn’t give a shit about how much its lifespan should be and has been glowing for more than a million hours.
Mastermind electrician Adolphe A. Chaillet designed the bulb, and his company Shelby Electric manufactured it. Although the bulb has a filament made of carbon instead of tungsten, allowing it to burn at lower temperatures for a longer time, it was originally intended to least for only a year. Chaillet’s bulb, made out of handblown glass, was first installed in the fire department hose cart house in Livermore, and then moved the main fire station, before coming to its present location – Livermore fire station 6. The bulb has actually, has gone out a few times, but it has only been because of a power outage or because it was being moved.
What has kept the bulb going for so long is still a mystery. Scientists are not allowed to take it apart to check its working. In fact, all anyone can do with the bulb is look at it. Some people have suggested that it is a super strong vacuum inside that has kept it on, while some have even called it a trick by the Livermore Fire Department.
Sadly however, the bulb has also outlived the company that created it. Some say that it was planned obsolescence that brought an end to the Shelby Electric and Chaillet’s bulb design, others suggest that the high price of carbon filament may have been the reason, while some people also say that it was Thomas Edison’s General Electric, leading the lightbulb cartel in 1920s, that deliberately stopped the production of the bulb after it bought Shelby.
Whatever that reason may be, Chaillet’s greatest invention ever refuses to go out, burning defiantly in the face of overwhelming odds and the changing world, which is undoubtedly the greatest tribute to the person who designed it.
If you also want to see the bulb like it is right now, there’s a camera trained on the bulb that broadcasts it to the entire world. You can watch it here.