Vintage Power and Light: The Coolest Thing to Happen to Tungsten Since Edison!


If you’ve been to an architectural lighting, entertainment lighting, or decorative lighting trade show lately, you should notice an interesting trend:  the lack of attention to incandescent light sources.  The light emitting diode has overtaken the world, and like myself, I miss the days of the warm tungsten filament in a room, bathing everything in its reach with a wider spectrum of color than its LED counterparts.  Tungsten filaments, at least decoratively, have become the fine wine of our lighting generation – only those with the intelligence and artistic knowledge in using tungsten and other incandescent sources have continued to do so.  The rest of the world is convinced, at the behest of excellent marketing and often regardless of price, that LED illumination is not only the way of the future but also today’s only way to appropriately design lighting.

It’s a fact that in many applications, including modern high bay methodologies and architectural applications, LED light sources are winning hearts and minds over their higher-energy-consuming incandescent cousins.  Sooner than later we’re going to see higher output automated fixtures giving their HID counterparts a run for their money, too.  ETC’s LED Source Four ellipsoidal, Chauvet’s Ovation LED ellipsoidal, Altman Lighting’s ME3 ellipsoidal, and Robert Juliat’s Tibo and Zep LED profiles have taken the market by storm – and have begun pushing back on the use of tungsten-halogen sources, arc sources, and even halogen sources!

On the whole, energy costs when dealing with a large facility or venue are where LED and non-incandescent sources make a monster difference in energy costs.  But what about where energy costs are negligible, like in your home?  If saving comparatively a few dollars here and there in your home is less important than the feeling and artistic appreciation that something like an incandescent lamp brings to you, can you put a price on your happiness?  I’ve owned many a compact fluorescent lamp-based fixture in my home, and frankly I replace every single CFL with its halogen or incandescent counterpart.  It’s my decision, and I do what makes my eyes and my brain happy.

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On that thought, I introduce to you the work of Vintage Power and Light out of Austin, Texas – creator Lowell Fowler (of High End Systems fame) has started a new hobby art venture based on utilizing the beauty and intrigue of vintage lighting and electrical equipment tied with the warm glow of incandescent sources.  Even better than just the sexiness of a glowing filament structure, Vintage Power and Light takes the beauty of an Edison filament wrap source and melds it to gorgeous finished old-world wood components, then adds stunning copper and brass connections and controls.  My favorite parts of Vintage Power and Light’s work are their use of Consolidated Design glass insulators – there is nothing quite like a multi-petticoat glass insulator on a fixture with an artistic incandescent filament turning that glass into a mystical piece of glowing jewelry.  GAH!  This stuff is amazing!!!

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Lowell and York Fowler have put an interesting new spin on the idea of Steampunk-esque design by bringing old-world components and combining them with early 20th century incandescence.  The result is a stunning and refreshing take on using incandescence as not only an artistic statement, but a comfortable, familiar, and heartwarming addition to your house, office, or anywhere else that LEDs just don’t cut it.

Check out a series of gallery images below, click on any image for a light box of that gallery for your perusal!
Just make sure that you give credit where credit is due, and all of these photos are courtesy of Vintage Power and Light with photography by Tim Grivas.

First things first, Vintage Power and Light’s Table Lamps:

Vintage Power and Light’s Chandelier and Pendant series:

Got a Steampunk jones?  Vintage Power and Light does that too!

Last but not least, a gorgeous offering of sconces for your collection:





JimOnLight says HELL YES to Vintage Power and LightAwesome offerings, guys!  We hope that the whole world sees your work and loves it as much as we do!


Good Morning Inspiration – David Willey Explodes His Condom Light Bulb On Purpose




Here’s a bit of Good Morning Awesome for you this morning — check out Mr. Mad Scientist himself, David Willey, turning a Magnum condom into a working incandescent light bulb!  David breaks the glass envelope off of an existing incandescent lamp, adds the condom over the base and filament, fills it with hydrogen, and powers that mofuka up!

Have an amazing morning!!!

(ps, I highly recommend watching this one full-screen, the format of the video is a bit smaller than you’ll like, but it is what it is and it is awesome!)

And in case you didn’t know it:


Let’s Compare Energy Efficient Lighting Technologies! [Infographic]

Do you know just how relevant to my interests THIS infographic is?!



This is an awesome infographic — a comparison and history of some of our energy efficient lighting technologies.  Check it out!

Let’s Compare Energy Efficient Lighting Technologies!

Energy-Efficient-Lighting-Technologies-infographicThanks, Precision Paragon!


Incandescent Cloud

This has been making the rounds, but with good reason!  Caitlind r.c. Brown created a cloud out of 1,000 functioning and 5,000 donated burned out light bulbs for Calgary’s Nuit Blanche. For those of you who don’t know, Nuit Blanche (All Nighter, or literally “White Night”) is an all-night public arts festival. I personally have always really been drawn to the concept of Nuit Blanches, and would love to work on one. The closest thing I personally have been to is Santa Monica’s Glow, which was wonderful and an idea I really hope to see expanded on.

In Incandescent Cloud, pull strings glimmering like rain hang from the cloud. Nuit Blanche attendees could manipulate the cloud’s luminosity using those strings, creating random small flickers singularly, or working in teams to pull the strings at the same time. It is a wondrous installation, and I’m sure must have been a blast at Nuit Blanche!

Check out some photos and video below:

Nixie Tubes – Old But Awesome Technology

Have you ever seen the trademark amber glow of the Nixie Tube?

Nixie tubes have made a bit of a comeback by Makers and tinkerers of today’s tech — an old-school look with old-school innards using pretty simple technology to create some pretty spectacular results.  Nixie tube clocks, signs, and even Nixie tube wrist watches, as worn by Steve Wozniak:

For those of you nerds out there like me who HAVE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WOZ’S NIXIE WATCH RIGHT NOW OMFG OCD LALALALAAAAAA, please check this video out!  Here’s Woz talking about scaring the crap out of his seatmates on flights as he changes the time zone!  The maker of this watch is Cathode Corner, and they are pretty freaking cool!

Ok, ok, enough about the watch.  Now as I was saying…  NIXIE TUBES!  In short, a Nixie tube is a little illuminator/signal tube that looks a lot like a vacuum tube but is actually a cold cathode discharge device with either digits in it or symbols.  If you’ve ever seen the very popular hacker device called a Nixie Clock (or Nixie Tube Clock), then you know what a Nixie tube looks like.  They’re pretty unmistakeable – a lot of vintage Russian gear from the 1960’s and 1970’s are filled with Nixie tubes for some reason.  They make such a beautiful display, it’s essentially a kind of neon discharge tube, but not really:

A side note – this entire article came from me wanting to know the origin of the term “Nixie” in reference to these tubes.  Nixie comes from a name that the draftsman working on the tube signal wrote down on his drafting plate – “NIX1,” for Numeric Indicator eXperimental #1.  As you can imagine, the nickname “Nixie” stuck, and the guy who owned the patent also patented the name “Nixie.”  WHY do I love this kind of knowledge?!

Nixie tubes are pretty simple technology that relies on cold cathode glow discharge technology, which is actually pretty cool!  I’m sure you’ve heard of cathodes (the place where electrons come from) and anodes (the place where electrons flow to) – this is extremely important in understanding how these Nixie tubes work.  The difference between a “hot” cathode and a “cold” cathode is basically in how the electrons move from the cathode to the anode.  Instead of using heat to release electrons from something in a vacuum (like in fluorescent tubes and HID lamps), in the case of cold cathode devices the electrons are released by manipulating the electrical field in a vacuum.  Now before this gets really crazy into field emissions and the Zener Effect (not to mention the Aston Dark Space and Positive Columns and Faraday’s Space and whatnot), it’s probably a good idea to simplify this a bit for brevity’s sake.

So, are you familiar with the way that tungsten-halogen lamps work?  Basically, the gas inside them is from the halogen group (I can still remember the mnemonic – ‘F, Cl, Br, I!!‘) at a high pressure vacuum, and the filaments are tungsten.  Gasses from the halogen group loves them some tungsten vapor fo sho, actually, which is why we use them together.  As the filament burns at incandescence, atoms of tungsten evaporate from the filament into gas (think of it as a metal gas because, well, it is) and they float around in this halogen family gas.  As the atoms of tungsten get near the considerably yet minutely cooler glass envelope of the lamp, they also cool down and are re-deposited on the envelope.  Consequently, this is why and how we are able to make T-H lamps last longer and put out higher amounts of light; the redepositing of the atoms back onto the filament helps lengthen its life by re-coating the filament with “fresh” atoms of tungsten.  This is called the T-H life cycle.

I didn’t explain the tungsten-halogen lamp because the Nixie and the T-H lamp are similar; I wanted to put a picture in your head about how atoms (and smaller subatomics) travel inside of a vacuum environment.  In a really simplified explanation of how the Nixie tubes work, look at this great image of a discombobulated Nixie lamp, courtesy of the awesome people at the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories:

Nixie Tube

See the mesh?  That’s the anode, or the positively charged part.  The numbers themselves, each one in the stack there, is an individual cathode, or the negatively charged part.  Electrons and ions travel from the cathode to the anode (remember ACID and CCD to remember current flow – Anode Current Into Device and Cathode Current Departs).  Inside the Nixie tube, there is a gas – typically one of the Noble gasses group of elemental gasses – that exists in low pressure inside the tube.  When the anode and cathode are given a potential difference in charge, the gas atoms get all angry and split up into negatively charged electrons and positively charged ions.  The ions are attracted to the negative cathode, and the electrons are attracted of course to the positively charged anode.  As these ions go slamming into the cathode, something really interesting takes place — atoms of metal from the cathode are basically knocked out of the cathode in a process called sputtering.  This sputtering of the metal atoms is literally caused by these ions slamming into the cathode.  Imagine breaking a rack of billiard balls with a cue ball — make sense now?

Once the sputtered metal atoms are knocked loose and are flying around, there are also some electrons flying around, too.  The electrons don’t have enough speed or energy to do much with the metal atoms floating close to the cathode (the number itself), so this weird little dark space called the Aston Dark Space (aka the Cathode Dark Space) takes place close to the cathode.  It’s weird, but you can actually see it – look closely at this Crookes Dark Space Tube:

See the dark spaces right at the center?  There is a small round cathode at the middle of that tube, and the dark space occurs right around it.  The larger dark spaces on either side of the bright “ball” of light at the center of the Crookes tube is something else, called the Faraday Dark Space.  Here’s another example, this one a diagram:

What’s cool about this glow outside of the Cathode Dark Space is what happens to make the glow happen — the electrons gain some speed and energy as they travel towards the positively charged anode (the mesh cage in the case of the Nixie Tube), and at a point outside of the Aston (or Cathode) dark space, they have enough energy and speed to cause a strong collision with the metal atoms sputtered away from the cathode.  When this happens, *PRESTO* — we have the release of a photon which causes light!

I think these Nixie Tubes are quite awesome.  Some history on the Nixie Tube’s patent and development:

The early Nixie displays were made by a small vacuum tube manufacturer called Haydu Brothers Laboratories, and introduced in 1955 by Burroughs Corporation, who purchased Haydu and owned the name Nixie as a trademark.  [...] Similar devices that functioned in the same way were patented in the 1930s, and the first mass-produced display tubes were introduced in 1954 by National Union Co. under the brand name Inditron. However, their construction was cruder, their average lifetime was shorter, and they failed to find many applications due to their complex periphery.

Burroughs even had another Haydu tube that could operate as a digital counter and directly drive a Nixie tube for display. This was called a “Trochotron”, in later form known as the “Beam-X Switch” counter tube; another name was “magnetron beam-switching tube”, referring to their similarity to a cavity magnetron. Trochotrons were used in the UNIVAC 1101 computer, as well as in clocks and frequency counters.

The first trochotrons were surrounded by a hollow cylindrical magnet, with poles at the ends. The field inside the magnet had essentially-parallel lines of force, parallel to the axis of the tube. It was a thermionic vacuum tube; inside were a central cathode, ten anodes, and ten “spade” electrodes. The magnetic field and voltages applied to the electrodes made the electrons form a thick sheet (as in a cavity magnetron) that went to only one anode. Applying a pulse with specified width and voltages to the spades made the sheet advance to the next anode, where it stayed until the next advance pulse. Count direction was not reversible. A later form of trochotron called a Beam-X Switch replaced the large, heavy external cylindrical magnet with ten small internal metal-alloy rod magnets which also served as electrodes.

I found a lot of really amazing resources on the Nixie tube.  I had to post some of it, this stuff is amazing, and there are a LOT of really big fans!

American Nixies from Sphere Research:

Russian Nixies from Sphere Research:

Thanks to Nature, Dribble, Wikipedia (ions), Wikipedia (electrostatic discharge), Wikipedia (field electron emission), TeslaTech, and Steve Wozniak for being awesome.  

A Guide to the Lamp Phase-Out

I have mixed feelings about this subject, but it’s important to spread the news about what’s going down and how it’s gonna go down with respect to this incandescent phase-out happening in our time.  Sylvania has an awesome guide to this phase-out, showing the whats and the whens of this thing.  Check it out here.  Also, Sylvania’s website has a link to some of the political and law items of this phase-out.  It’s worth a look.

Click on the image, it opens up full-size.  Also, check out the PDF from whence it came.

Lemme just ask you this:  knowing what we know about how the government is handling things right now, do we really want them messing in what we use to see?

The Switch LED A-Lamp – Definitely the Most Unique LED A-Lamp I’ve Seen!

You know, for the most part, I’ve been pretty unimpressed with the designs of the A-lamp “replacement” LED lamps.  I’m not shooting my mouth off saying I have a much better design, but there is something about that diffused white globe atop the heat sink, which looks like a handful of fins.  I actually kinda like the heat sink design, the fins are neat.  If you’ve held one of those suckers when it’s been on for a while, that heat sink is HOT!  Not Jennifer Lopez hot, we’re talking George Bush’s ears while telling the nation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction hot.  That is HOT!

I just turned onto a new design for the LED A-lamp from a company called the Switch Bulb Company – they are promoting an LED replacement A-lamp with a high CRI, a warm feel, and a pretty decent output.  The difference?  A lens-type “ball” atop the heat sink that shows each element and the heat dissipation gear inside.  It’s actually quite a beautiful design!  Check it out:

Pretty interesting design, huh!  Switch is offering three models right now – the Switch40, Switch60 (PDF spec link), and Switch75 (PDF spec link).  As you can probably guess, these 40, 60, 75 ratings are the replacement quantity of light per power consumption hint-hint to sell the “incandescent replacement” idea.  The Switch40 doesn’t have specifications online yet, but the Switch60 claims 830 lumens at 13 watts, and the Switch75 claims 1150 lumens at 16 watts.  Pretty decent!  That 830 lumens figure is pretty close to an 850 lumen incandescent at 60 watts in terms of efficacy – if you look at an 850 lumen 60W incandescent, the efficacy is about 14.2 lm/W, but the Switch lamp is putting out nearly the same output at 13W, giving a near 64% efficacy!

Switch is showing two general colors – a “warm” at around 2750 Kelvin, and a “Neutral” colored lamp, more than likely a bit higher in color temperature. I’ve requested to get my hands on one of these, let’s see if that happens or not!  I would love to see one up close!

Check out this quick little video:

Happy Birthday, Edison’s Light Bulb!

Hey, is that a personified version of Thomas Edison’s commercialized incandescent lamp?  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Edison’s commercialized tungsten incandescent lamp!

Technically, Edison’s patent was filed the following January 27 of 1880, but today in 1879 Edison got 13 hours and 32 minutes out of his lamp’s tests and experiments.  Regardless of Edison’s politics and behavior, you have to give it to him that he put the drive into inventing something that has revolutionized our lives.  One of my favorite quotes ever is Edison’s quote about his development of the incandescent lamp.  When a reporter asked Edison about the failures in experimentation in the process of inventing the lamp, he said “No!  I didn’t fail.  I found 1000 ways to not invent an incandescent light bulb.

It’s rumored that Edison’s incandescent lamp cost about $852,000 in today’s market to develop – about $40,000 in the late 1870’s.

I also found this great list of important relevant dates (years) in the timeline of the incandescent lamp!

1850:  Joseph W. Swan began working on a light bulb using carbonized paper filaments
1860:  Swan obtained a UK patent covering a partial vacuum, carbon filament incandescent lamp
1877:  Edward Weston forms Weston Dynamo Machine Company, in Newark, New Jersey.
1878:  Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Light Company
1878:  Hiram Maxim founded the United States Electric Lighting Company
1878:  205,144 William Sawyer and Albon Man 6/18 for Improvements in Electric Lamps
1878:  Swan receives a UK patent for an improved incandescent lamp in a vacuum tube
1879:  Swan began installing light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England.
1880:  223,898 Thomas Edison 1/27 for Electric Lamp and Manufacturing Process
1880:  230,309 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Process of Manufacturing Carbon Conductors
1880:  230,310 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1880:  230,953 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1880:  233,445 Joseph Swan 10/19 for Electric Lamp
1880:  234,345 Joseph Swan 11/9 for Electric Lamp
1880:  Weston Dynamo Machine Company renamed Weston Electric Lighting Company
1880:  Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston form American Electric Company
1880:  Charles F. Brush forms the Brush Electric Company
1881:  Joseph W. Swan founded the Swan Electric Light Company
1881:  237,198 Hiram Maxim 2/1 for Electrical Lamp assigned to U.S. Electric Lighting Company
1881:  238,868 Thomas Edison 3/15 for Manufacture of Carbons for Incandescent Lamps
1881:  247,097 Joseph Nichols and Lewis Latimer 9/13 for Electric Lamp
1881:  251, 540 Thomas Edison 12/27 for Bamboo Carbons Filament for Incandescent Lamps
1882:  252,386 Lewis Latimer 1/17 for Process of Manufacturing Carbons assigned to U.S. E. L. Co.
1882:  Edison’s UK operation merged with Swan to form the Edison & Swan United Co. or “Edi-swan”
1882:  Joesph Swan sold his United States patent rights to the Brush Electric Company
1883:  American Electric Company renamed Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1884:  Sawyer & Man Electric Co formed by Albon Man a year after William Edward Sawyer death
1886:  George Westinghouse formed the Westinghouse Electric Company
1886:  The National Carbon Co. was founded by the then Brush Electric Co. executive W. H. Lawrence
1888:  United States Electric Lighting Co. was purchased by Westinghouse Electric Company
1886:  Sawyer & Man Electric Co. was purchased by Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1889:  Brush Electric Company merged into the Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1889:  Edison Electric Light Company consolidated and renamed Edison General Electric Company.
1890:  Edison, Thomson-Houston, and Westinghouse, the “Big 3″ of the American lighting industry.
1892:  Edison Electric Light Co. and Thomson-Houston Electric Co. created General Electric Co.

Ah, the lamp.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Edison’s commercialized incandescent lamp!  Isn’t it funny that I’m flying out to Las Vegas for LDI today of all days?

Thanks Wired, Distributed Energy, Idea Finder, and Wikipedia!

GE Invents A CFL/Halogen Lamp?! Wait, What?

I just got a press release on a new upcoming lamp from GE.  This image was in the press release:

Everybody, I think we just saw the results of a drunken lamp party in which compact fluorescent lamps and halogen lamps learned how to be sentient and mate, producing the above (and below) results:

I am so confused and curious.  Let’s hope I see this at LDI.  Apparently the 15-20W CFL/Halogen hybrid lamp is supposed to replace the output from a 60W incandescent.  The halogen capsule inside?  It apparently only lights up until the CFL is at full output.  Oh, also – they claim a low percentage of Mercury (or HYDRARGYRUM, for those in the know).

The press release from GE – and since I don’t normally post press releases, you know that I find it interesting if it makes the site!

CLEVELAND, OH (October 20, 2010)—Consumers searching for the latest hybrid can soon look beyond their local car dealership. Starting in 2011, GE Lighting brings hybrid technology to the lighting aisle in the form of a unique, new incandescent-shaped light bulb that combines the instant brightness of halogen technology with the energy efficiency and longer rated life of compact fluorescent (CFL) technology.

The initial product launch will bring U.S. and Canadian consumers GE Reveal® and GE Energy Smart® Soft White varieties that offer significantly greater instant brightness than current covered CFLs, while preserving the energy efficiency and long life attributes that have elevated CFLs as a lighting staple in many households.

“When you look at our prototype incandescent-shaped bulb with that little halogen capsule nestled inside our smallest compact fluorescent tube, you’re seeing a byproduct of our intense customer focus and our innovation mindset,” says Kristin Gibbs, general manager of North American consumer marketing, GE Lighting. “We’ve constantly improved the initial brightness of our CFLs but customers haven’t been wholly satisfied. This is a giant leap forward.”

The halogen capsule inside GE’s new hybrid halogen-CFL bulb comes on instantly, allowing the bulb to operate noticeably brighter in less than a half a second. The capsule shuts off once the CFL comes to full brightness.

GE scientists engineered the bulb to operate with an exceptionally low level of mercury: 1 mg. Currently available CFLs range from 1.5 mg to 3.5 mg. The hybrid halogen-CFL bulbs will be RoHS compliant and offer eight times the life of incandescent bulbs (8,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours). Less frequent replacement due to longer light bulb life can reduce landfill waste.

First to launch will be 15-watt and 20-watt hybrid halogen-CFL bulbs that are considered viable replacements for 60-watt and 75-watt incandescent bulbs, respectively. Retail pricing and specific retail store availability will be announced in the coming months.