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Happy Birthday, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison!

Who’s that dude with Tommy Edison there?  Wait, is that Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison?  Hey, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison!

Miller Hutchison (born late August 6, 1876, died February 16, 1944) was an inventor for Edison at the Menlo Park lab, one of dozens of people that Edison called his “muckers.”  What a crappy name for associates, right?  So, as you would think from the name, the “muckers” were the people that cleaned the horse stalls, toilets, and other things that have to do with muck, right?

No. Edison’s muckers were the geniuses he hired to realize his ideas.  He paid them next to nothing, and took all the credit for their work.  We’re talking about people like William Kennedy Dickson, Francis Robbins Upton, Arthur E. Kennelly, and Nikola Tesla – real major players, kings of science and industrial processes.  Edison treated these people like Wal-Mart workers, but they were the ones who made our technology what it evolved into today.  But Edison played on the desire of these genius inventors to get them to work so cheap – they could invent in the Menlo Park lab, with nearly any supply imaginable and next to no limitations.  They made pitiful wages for their work, but they loved their jobs.  Kinda like us lighting folk!

Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison was quite the inventor and “mucker,” and quite the Edison company man, too.  Hutchison was responsible for several aspects of Edison’s business, including marketing Edison batteries to the Secretary of the Navy at that time.  In essence, were it not for Dr. Hutchison’s advertising prowess, submarine development might not be where it is today!  The story of Hutchison’s pre-Edison days is also kind of awesome:  Miller Hutchison was a member of the United States Light House Brigade (which is totally new to me but WHAT A COOL NAME), and helped lay submarine cables in the Gulf of Mexico during the Spanish-American War.

Regardless of where I put the rest of Miller Reese Hutchison’s accomplishments and inventions, one of the cooler ones (and not light-related) is the Klaxon horn – you know, the aaWOOOOOga sound, often found on ships and submarines, and typically in movies when the poo is about to intersect with the fan?  Yeah, Hutchison invented that.  Also, maybe in a tinge of irony, Hutchison also invented the hearing aid (which he called the Acousticon).  The St. Louis Dispatch published a memorial article many years after his death that semi-accused him of creating the Klaxon horn to increase the number of candidates that would need his hearing aid.

Cool.  Happy Birthday, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison!  If you weren’t dead, I’d totally buy you a Shiner Bock and ask you about batteries.

Thanks Wikipedia, About (twice!), Wapedia, FloraBerlin, and BPI!

Happy Birthday, THOMAS ALVA EDISON!

Honey, where’s my car ke-OMG, IS THAT THOMAS ALVA EDISON?  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Thomas Alva Edison!  DUDE!  It’s the “Wizard of Menlo Park!!!”

(actually Tommy’s birthday was yesterday, but I had a gig and I was gone all day so don’t say anything) TOMMAAAAAY!

So, those of you who know Tommy A. Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) probably know him for, um, INVENTING THE LIGHT BULB and all.  Tommy Boy and Joseph Swan actually battled it out death-match style on the invention of the light bulb (we all know who it really was), but it turned out that Mr. Edison here was the better businessman and capitalist.  I mean, look at that face – doesn’t it just scream “you can make all the rules you want, I will make money in spite of them” on his face?

Tommy Edison was actually quite the inventor.  He started out as a telegraph operator (apparently termed “brass pounder”) and persevered through some tough times financially to become the holder of almost 1100 patents.  The motion picture camera, the “quadruplex” telegraph, the carbon microphone (in the first telephones) and, among many others, a patent for the “carbonized bamboo” filament.  Joseph Swan was the first actual inventor of the electric lamp, but Edison’s design and research actually turned out a better, more efficient version.  Edison’s bamboo filament was said to burn for over 1,200 hours.  That’s more than some lamps I’ve bought at the store this year!

Big Tom Edison’s also accredited for the invention and design of the phonograph – the “record” player, for any of you crazy kids who don’t actually know what this is.  (I wanted to cry when a young student in Arlington, TX asked me “what this thing is” while holding a turntable in her arms)

Check out a video of Edison reciting his first recording, a voicing of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” in 1927:

Also, another very, very hip video is Edison talking about his invention, the “electric light bulb” and its development:

One thing that Thomas Edison did that is essential to our development as a technically adept species was to implement and develop a mass-production system for industrial operations.  That bit of knowledge he imparted to the industrial trades is revolutionary.  He is also credited with creating the first industrial research laboratory, in Menlo Park, New Jersey.  This place had a little bit of everything – Edison wanted to store some of “almost every conceivable material” in this place so that he and his people could invent freely with no inhibitions.  The Menlo Park facility took two city blocks to house.  Holy geekfest – that must have been almost as awesome as the Mythbusters Studios!

Edison’s Menlo Park lab:

To be fair, there are a couple of pretty un-awesome things that Edison did that are noteworthy, one of which led to the development of the electric chair.  George Westinghouse was one of Edison’s competitors, and probably most well known for alternating current.  Edison and Westinghouse had a pretty fierce and nasty battle over whose invention was better – direct current (Edison) or alternating current (Westinghouse).  In the “War of Currents” that ensued, Tom Edison was so persistent on proving that Westinghouse’s AC was unsafe (regardless of the fact that it was actually better than his DC for long-distance distribution).  Edison and his people publicly electrocuted animals to show that AC essentially killed them quickly.  Yeah, Tommy, that wasn’t very cool of you, dude.  One notable execution was Topsy the Elephant – a Coney Island attraction that killed three abusive handlers over the course of three years.  Edison filmed this event – I didn’t feel good about embedding it in this post, so here’s a link to it, via a post about Topsy the Elephant.  That video on the site is not terribly graphic or anything, but it’s freaky in its own right.  I’d kill somebody that was abusing me like they did you, Topsy.

Topsy was electrocuted with a 6,600VAC source.  Maybe AC triumphed over DC in the long run because of some bad karma Thomas brought on with his war on alternating current.

Thomas Edison was attributed with the following quote, which kinda cracks me up after reading the above research:

The dove is my emblem…. I want to save and advance human life, not destroy it…. I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill…

So, enough pointing out a man’s flaws on his birthday – thanks for all of the good things you did, Thomas Alva Edison!  Just a few more things we can thank Tommy Boy here for (a non-exhaustive list):

  • the fluoroscope (an x-ray that takes radioscopic images)
  • the stock ticker (well, okay, but really who needs that?)
  • the Lackawanna Railroad’s electric trains (Hoboken to Gladstone, Montclair, and Dover, NJ)
  • Edison General Electric
  • the printing telegraph
  • Typewriting machines (and all kinds of associated parts and pieces)
  • the magnetic ore separator
  • brakes for electromagnetic motors
  • a patent for preserving fruit
  • governors for electric motors
  • the telephone (and other related stuff)
  • the arc lamp
  • a gold extracting process from sulphide ores (random…)
  • wireless telegraphy

Thanks Tommy!  If you ever come back to life, I’m buying the first beer.  If you come back to life as a zombie, I ain’t promising nothing.

Just as something to watch that explains a little more about Edison’s involvement with the Electric Chair, here’s a copy of The Pinky Show – “Thomas Edison Hates Cats.”  There is a tiny clip of Topsy’s execution in there, so just be warned.  The video is, however, presented by a talking cat:

Thanks, Wikipedia, Worldwide School, and Thomas Edison!

What Seems Like Ancient History: The Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguilera Truss Collapse

This Madonna thing has got me thinking about the older truss collapses that have happened in the past – even though nothing really bad has been confirmed yet with the Madonna thing.  For those of you who read this blog and do not come in contact with regular amounts of lighting and rigging gear, the pictures below are what happens sometimes when rigging gear fails while loaded down with lighting gear…

In 2003 in Atlantic City, NJ at the Boardwalk Hall, the Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguilera show that was close to soundcheck underwent a major catastrophic failure of the venue’s supertruss.  The show’s systems, which were rigged to that truss, rode it down to the ground and smashed nearly every bit of the show’s gear.  A few people were hurt, but only minor injuries were sustained (from what I understand), but the show’s gear was a major failure.

Here’s some shots of the disaster.  Next time you’re at a show, remember that the people who’ve rigged this stuff above you are professionals, and be glad that they are.