Friday, August 13, 2010

Hub Day: A Light Bulb Goes Off Over Our Heads

Every once in awhile, we like to let you into our house. Today, we welcome you to the Edison Room, named for Thomas Edison, natch.
Bright colors! Nuts and bolts! Directional signs! (Some pointing in conflicting directions, but that's okay!) What does it all mean? And why did we go this route?
The answer is Edison himself. Nearly all of his inventions had to do with communication: The carbon microphone he invented was in use in telephones until the mid-1980s, and his phonograph put him on the map. His Kinetoscope allowed people to watch short films, and although he didn't invent the telegraph, his vast improvements to it made for far better communication, and allegedly netted Edison himself a $10,000 advance from Western Union. Edison is so ingrained in the public consciousness that everyone thinks he invented the lightbulb, when really, he just made vast improvements to it.

And the whole electricity thing? Well, Edison's invention, Direct Current, or DC, is much less efficient than Nikola Tesla's Alternating Current (AC), but that didn't stop Edison from waging full-out war on AC, painting its higher voltage capacity as a surefire method of accidents and death.
So why name a room after such a polarizing figure? We know that Edison's a risky choice, and we think that's the reason we chose him. Let's break it down:
  • Communications: As a young telegraph operator, Edison knew the value of human communications, and leveraged that.
  • Competition: Although Edison may not have always played fair, he kept well abreast of his competitors and businessfolk who might well be in need of his inventions. He and Henry Ford were friends to the end.
  • Sheer grit: Edison was rumored to have said that an experiment that failed 10,000 times it did not discourage him, because it brought him closer to a solution.
  • Controversy: You can't please everyone. Edison knew that.
  • Improvements as inventions: Edison didn't invent the lightbulb, but he made it so much better: as it was, the existing bulb may have petered out of existence if not for Edison's work.
We love our Edison room: It's colorful and efficient, and we like its urban aesthetics, a nod to the time and effort Edison put into modernizing some of the nation's most important cities. But we also love it for its contrast: opposite of the color and exposed piping in our Edison room, you'll also find a soothing view of Philadelphia, from high above the city.
Who are your role models? Tell us in the comments below.

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