When Our Lightbulbs Became Computers

We grew up with cheap, disposable lightbulbs. Now they are gadgets in their own right.


In an effort to reduce energy consumption, many jurisdictions are trying to move people to more efficient lighting by banning incandescent lightbulbs. That's the stick.

LEDO's incredibly stylish mad-scientist-slick BULLED LED bulbs are the carrot. They are designed to be exact retrofit replacements for regular 60w incandescents in terms of shape, coverage, and luminosity, though I can't imagine a situation where you wouldn't want to replace your boring lampshades with something more open, to show off the bulbs.

Those fancy ridges and fins are functional, too. They are made of aluminum and act as heat-sinks, encouraging airflow to keep the bulbs cool during operation. At 11w, they promise significant energy savings over their 60w ancestors.

One of the things that's most interesting about the shift to LED bulbs is the need to change our ideas about what kind of object a lightbulb is. Most of us are used to thinking of lightbulbs as disposable purchases, bought in packs at the grocery or hardware store. The BULLEDs retail for €99 (about $125). They have a rated lifespan of 80,000 hours. If you average using your lights for about 3 hours a day, you can expect own them for 70 years. Imagine! A world where your bulbs last longer than your lamps.

Because of this longevity, the construction of the bulbs requires durable materials. LEDO's marketing proudly touts the polycarbonate light refractors, the heatsinks "made of an aluminum alloy and of technical synthetic materials", and the "thermal vias" that keep chip temperatures low on the circuit board. That's right, there are microchips in your lightbulbs now. It's computers, all the way down.

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Tim Maly writes about writes about cyborgs, architects, and our weird broken future at Quiet Babylon. He's a former game designer and the current project lead of Upper Toronto. More

Tim Maly writes about cyborgs, architects, and our weird broken future at Quiet Babylon. He's the project coordinator for Small Wooden Shoe's Upper Toronto, a science fiction design proposal to build a new city in the sky above the current Toronto. With Emily Horne, he is running an independent studio course about border towns, called Border Town. He created and ran 50 Posts About Cyborgs, a month long multi-participant, multimedia celebration of the 50th anniversary of the coining of the term. His work has appeared in Icon, The Atlantic, McSweeney's, Mission at Tenth, and Volume Magazine. He lives in Toronto. He is @doingitwrong on Twitter.

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