I would have headed out to the 110th anniversary celebration of the perpetually burning light bulb, but I was haunted by the fear that I’d be the only one looking at the thing when it just happened to finally flicker out, and I’d be set upon by angry Livermorians with pitchforks. So we sent reporter Caitlin Esch instead, who took the following video:

She also reports the following:

The world’s oldest continually burning light bulb dangles high from the ceiling of the East Avenue fire station in Livermore. There isn’t an off-switch, so the 4-watt bulb—about the intensity of a nightlight—is always on.

A few hundred people came out to celebrate the fire station’s unofficial mascot. The party included a live band and several birthday cakes. Residents also sang to the light bulb. Some even dressed up from the era of the light bulb’s birth, like Lynn Owens, former fire chief.

Owens, who appears in the video, introduced me to the bulb on Saturday. He says the bulb brings a sense of stability to an inconstant world. Few in attendance seemed to believe the bulb will ever burn out. Perhaps that’s why it’s so popular among the locals. It represents both the past and the future.

If you’re worried about the bulb, which recently made a brief appearance in this segment of The Colbert Report, feel free to check up on it as often as you like via webcam.

In February, we did a post on the bulb and its history. There you can watch the bulb-starring film Pyramids of Waste, a documentary about “planned obsolescence,” which Wikipedia calls “a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period.”

Here’s another video, from KGO, in which reporter Wayne Freedman gets really close to the bulb. (I mean physically, not emotionally.)

Video: 110-Year-Old Livermore Light Bulb 20 June,2011Jon Brooks

  • That amazing light bulb was produced in Shelby, Ohio where they made this to last.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of EconomyBeat.org, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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