HAPPY BIRTHDAY, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!



What the what?!  That’s William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, the guy who invented the Kinetoscope, among other completely awesome stuff!  Today is Billy Boy’s birthday!  Happy Birthday, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson!

Dickson was one of Edison’s “muckers,” the guys who did all of Edison’s work for him.  What a d-bag he was, that Edison!

Check out the Happy Birthday, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson Official Birthday Post!


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!


Happy BELATED Birthday, Frank J. Sprague!

There were a few birthdays over the weekend that I totally missed, and now I feel horrible!  Oh wait, both of these people are dead.



HEY, so HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY, Frank J. Sprague!  Check out this proper lookin’ military-turned-mucker dude!

This is Frank J. Sprague and Rear Admiral S. S. Robinson (I told you he was military, he was Navy).  This particular photograph is actually kinda neat, a bunch of folks presented him with a six-volume set of letters and papers on his 75th birthday.  I think back in that time people expressed their pleasure for birthday gifts by taking pictures that look terribly uncomfortable, as you can see here.  Fads change, I suppose, I guess you had to be there.

Thomas Edison and Frank Sprague were friends through a business partner of Edison’s, a guy named EH Johnson.  Edison, in all of his wisdom, actually convinced Sprague to give up his Navy commission and come work in Menlo Park as a technical assistant.  From the Elevator Museum (I’ll explain that later):

Graduating seventh in a class of 36 in 1878, Sprague was assigned to the USS Richmond, flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, where he filled a notebook with detailed drawings and descriptions of devices that evidenced his urge for invention. Among these were a duplex telephone, quadruplex and octoplex telegraph systems, a motor and a means of transmitting pictures by wire. Later, Sprague was ordered to the USS Minnesota. While his ship was in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1881, Sprague invented the inverted type of dynamo. Also in 1881, Spraque transferred to the USS Lancaster, flagship of the European Squadron, on which he installed the first crude electrical call-bell system in the Navy.

Sprague took leave to attend the Paris Electrical Exhibition and the Crystal Palace Exhibition in Sydenham, England, where he served as the only American member and as secretary of the jury of awards for gas engines, dynamos and lamps.

Meanwhile, Sprague’s ideas about motors and lamps had so impressed E.H. Johnson, a business associate of Thomas A. Edison, that he convinced Sprague to resign from the Navy in 1883 to become a technical assistant to Edison. While on Edison’s staff, Sprague assisted in the installation and operation of Edison’s pioneer three-wire electric light systems. Sprague also revised and corrected the Edison system of mains and feeders for central station distribution and developed a formula for determining the ratio of wire size to current amperage.

Now, the weird thing about celebrating Frank J. Sprague is not necessarily due to his contributions to the electric light bulb or electric light in general; Sprague’s contributions were to the electrical systems and main busses in Edison’s laboratory, as well as some of the three-wire lighting systems.  Sprague did a lot of correcting of Edison’s power distribution mains and feeders, and he also did a lot of mathematical “updating” to Edison’s methods.  Sprague knew that if he could do some math beforehand, Edison’s Muckers would have to do a lot less “noodling” and “fooling around” in the lab which would save time.  Seems like pretty good sense, right?

Frank Sprague didn’t last very long at Edison Power and Light – about a year and change.  Edison’s main interest was in light and lighting, but Sprague was more of a motor guy.  So, in a move that I would have loved to see firsthand as it happened (as I have to believe there were some wonderful words exchanged), Sprague left Edison’s employ and went off to start the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company.  Suck on THAT, Edison.  What’s funny is that Edison actually DID suck on that, and he spoke very highly about Sprague’s electric motor to the world, and Sprague did pretty well.  From the NNDB archives:

After several years of theoretical work and experiments, it took Sprague and his men only about 90 days to plan the route, lay a dozen miles (19 km) of track, construct the 375 horsepower steam and electric plant, and motorize 40 formerly horse-drawn cars. The first test runs were made in November 1887, and regular service began on 2 February 1888. The first runs were not without difficulties, including frequent mechanical and electrical problems, the indignity of a horse reigned to the trolleys for the additional pulling power needed to climb the tracks’ steepest incline, and the further embarrassment of seeing broken-down trolleys towed away by mule. With some tinkering, though, the system was soon made reliable, and came to be seen as far superior to horse or horse-drawn transport.

Within two years, Sprague had contracts to construct 113 street rail systems, and the within a decade horse-drawn streetcars had virtually disappeared from America’s cities, replaced by an estimated 13,000 miles of urban streetcar tracks. He designed a multi-unit train control system in Chicago, where he built the first of the city’s elevated “L” electric railways. He engineered the electrification of New York’s Grand Central Station, and with William Wilgus he co-invented the “third rail” system of powering electric trains for the New York Central Railroad. Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company was eventually merged into Edison General Electric, which subsequently became General Electric.

Sprague’s talent lied in railways and motors, both electric, as well as a good bunch of other inventions.  One of my favorites is the elevator – yep, good ol’ Frank J. Sprague here invented the elevator.  I have to believe that he was sitting at a bar one day and realized that if he turned a train on its end and made it run vertically, BOOMelevator.  Done.

Bring me another ale, Bitterman.

Happy Birthday, Frank J. Sprague!  (Frank’s actual birthday is July 25.  Sorry, Frank!)

Thanks Wikipedia, The Elevator Museum, NNDB, the Edison Tech Center, and the Chapin Library!

Happy 164th Birthday, Thomas Alva Edison!

Who’s that guy with the big ol’ head full of knowledge?  It’s Thomas Alva Edison!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Thomas Alva Edison!

Check out my original HAPPY BIRTHDAY THOMAS EDISON post – lots of fun knowledge about the guy that was sometimes a pretty big jerkface!  Still, HAPPY 164th Birthday, Tommy Boy!

Happy Birthday, Arthur E. Kennelly!

WHOA!  Is that —  is that Arthur E. Kennelly?!  DUDE!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Arthur E. Kennelly (17 December 1861-18 June 1939)!

What a crazy mustache, mandingo!

Arthur E. Kennelly was a self-taught physicist, which is pretty awesome among itself.  Art started off his career as an office boy for the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEEE) when he was in his teenage years – which I am assuming sparked the love of voltage and electrons.  I mean, I gotta believe that Arty-Boy here was a pretty smart dude, and growing into his own around the people that were shaping the Electrical Engineering world at the time was good for him.  After all, education back in the 1880’s was probably a sight better than it is now.  What a shame, huh?

After working for the Institute for Electrical Engineers, Art worked as a telegraph operator for a little while, and then he met Thomas Alva Edison, who hired him as one of his Mucker electricians.  From 1894 and 1901, Kennelly was a consulting engineer for Edison General Electric Company of New York - Kennelly and a guy named Harold P. Brown then worked as a team that invented an alternating current version of the Electric Chair.  Yep.  All because Edison wanted to show how dangerous Westinghouse’s alternating current really was.

At least Art went on to make more contributions to science.

After his time at Edison’s place, Kennelly formed Houston and Kennelly in Philadelphia with Edwin J. Houston.  In 1902, the government of Mexico retained Houston and Kennelly to oversee the laying of the Veracruz-Frontera-Campeche cables.

Kennelly also dabbled in academia — as a Professor of Electrical Engineering both at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and as a research associate at the Carnegie-Mellon Institute.  Kennelly was said to be an awesome teacher too – from a biography of his life and work:

All who were his students remember him as a remarkable teacher, whose clarity and precision of expression made smooth the path of those struggling with the often abstruse intricacies of electrical phenomena. Moreover, there was always a bit of humor to relieve the tedium.

Pretty cool.  A teacher who was smart AND funny?  LAWS YES!

Arty Boy did a lot with complex analysis of electrical theory and study.  Have you ever heard of the E-Region in the Ionosphere?  It used to be called the Kennelly Heaviside Layer, after him and a guy named Oliver Heaviside.  It’s the region of the ionosphere that reflects medium-strength radio waves, allowing them to be propagated past the horizon.  He also holds (or held, rather) patents on the Electric Meter and the Electrostatic Voltmeter.

Kennelly wrote a LOT of material, including the famous paper entitled “Impedance,” which he developed after applying some complex math to Ohm’s calculations.  I think I want to buy Kennelly a beer.  Wait, no, he’s dead.

Happy Birthday, Arthur E. Kennelly!  You are truly one of the not-quite-publicized-yet-ridiculously-important members of Electric History.

Thanks EOEarth, NNDB, IEEE, and Wikipedia!

Another Bulb Speaker Lamp Thing


I wrote about something called the Sound Bulb, which was an LED lamp plus speaker thing that plugged into an Edison socket (you know, medium screw).  Now there’s something called the Bulb-Sound-Speaker – and it’s a speaker that screws into a lamp socket for power.  It’s got a little Altec Lansing speaker in it, and it’s controlled via Bluetooth to your iPod (or other personal music device, I assume).

The company responsible for this is Castiglione Morelli Design – but last time I checked, their site wasn’t loading.  Maybe it’ll work for you.  It’s an interesting concept – and one would hope that the sound output from the Altec Lansing speaker would have a little quality.  Turning any socket or medium screw base lighting fixture into a speaker is an interesting idea – I would probably want to have five or six of them around me, which wouldn’t please my wife!


Thanks NotCot, Design Blog, and CrunchGear!

Flat Lamp? (I’m sorry, LIGHT BULB for the layperson)

Yanko Design posted about the Flat Bulb – it’s a, um, well, it’s a flat edison lamp, medium screw type, and it’s flat.  It’s a flat bulb.  Designed by Joonhuyn Kim and displayed at the 100% Design Tokyo show this year.  So, the flatness – better for shipping?  Won’t roll away on you?