Sometime in 1901, someone screwed a light bulb
into a socket at a firehouse in Livermore, Calif. Ever since the filaments flared up that first time, the bulb has stayed lit, with just a few unavoidable interruptions over the years. The last time it was moved, in 1976, the cord was cut so as to not disturb the old bulb by unscrewing it, and it was transported in a custom-made box by an official fire truck escort to a new fire station in the same town. There was a brief scare back in May 2013 when everyone thought the bulb had burned out, but it was soon discovered that faulty electric equipment was to blame. After it was fixed, the bulb came right back to life.
The so-called Centennial Light was first recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records
in 1972, and it has been generating regular waves of media attention every since.
In 2007, the firemen installed a webcam focused on the bulb and started beaming a live video update of its status out to the Interwebs. It is, at once, thoroughly fascinating while also being stultifyingly dull.
It’s an interesting view on planned obsolescence
, or the policy of designing products to wear out after a prescribed amount of time to ensure the sale of another unit. The idea didn’t really grab hold in corporate America until the 1920s and '30s, well after the Centennial Light was crafted. This thing was built to last forever.
The world needs more of that.
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