Changing Lightbulbs

My house just had an energy assessment. And, on his way out, the technician left us a box full of LED lightbulbs.

In my childhood, changing a lightbulb was a fairly regular event. We expected lightbulbs to burn out. Then, when the first non-incandescent bulbs showed up, they didn’t work very well and they caused a big political fuss.

Just a few years later, LED bulbs are the regular kind. They work when you flip the switch, you can put them on a dimmer, and (if you believe the packaging), you probably won’t have to think about them for 15–20 years after making the switch. Plus, they’ll only use a few dollars’ worth of electricity in that time.

All of those things are good for the consumer and the planet. And they’re a useful lesson in how technology works: something new shows up, it’s a little buggy at first, and then it’s invisible.

Of course, someone, somewhere, at some time, defined himself as a lightbulb maker. Surely he was good at his work, and took pride in it. But his paycheck was based on lightbulbs burning out every year or so, not every decade or two.

I’m thrilled with our new bulbs, and I wouldn’t want the old ones back. But I have to wonder: who made these ones, and what’s become of the people who made the old ones?