Anniversary Post: Electric Light Bulb

Light BulbSupposedly, on this day in 1879, Thomas Edison got his first electric light bulb working. According to James Burke, it wasn’t him but his team of assistants. I don’t know or particularly care. The truth is that I’ve never been that fond of him, because by the time I was old enough to think anything, I learned all about his battle with George Westinghouse. America was going to get electrified and the question was whether we were going to use direct current (which Edison owned all the patents to) or alternating current (which Westinghouse owned all the patents to). So there was a battle between the two men.

That would be fine under most circumstances: two rich men trying to game the system to become even more rich. But the truth is that direct current is terrible for transmitting electricity over even modest distances, much less long distances. This isn’t open to debate. But Edison worked incredibly hard to foist a totally inappropriate technology on this nation in the name of more wealth for himself. Remember: this is long after the light bulb. Edison had a ridiculous number of patents and the wealth that went along with that. His fight with Westinghouse should never have occurred.

This something I don’t think is mentioned enough: our business leaders are profoundly anti-American. I’m okay with that. I think America should be a free country. But we should be aware of this. And we should call out conservatives most especially for all their claptrap about loving this country when all they want to do is funnel our shared resources to these amoral business interests.

Anyway, let me end with a little Bob’s Burgers live performance of “Electric Love.” This was a song that Gene wrote during the show for Louise’s science fair project about Edison’s electrocution of Topsy the elephant in his continued efforts to show that alternating current was dangerous. It was one of a great many animals he did this to. Of course, given various states have done the same thing to humans, maybe it isn’t that big a deal. Humans are horrible. Thomas Edison was a human. Therefore Thomas Edison was horrible.

If you want to listen to the song from the episode: Bobs Burger’s Electric Love.

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