Light bulbs and Me: Internet of Cursed Things
[Fair warning, even my notes for this blog post have too many curse words in them.]
A couple of days ago I was skimming articles on the upcoming wave of Internet-connected objects and one of the titles jumped at me: Sticker Shock: How the internet of things has turned a $10 lightbulb into a $99 lightbulb.
This is troubling to me because I have a lightbulb problem. Namely…It pisses me off to pay for light bulbs at all.
I dropped out of college in the beginning of my sophomore year for reasons now obscure but still private. [Yes I went back.] My dad’s policy on the matter was that I didn’t have to pay rent as long as I was working. The economy was good then, I’d taken a couple of classes in Microsoft Office, and I easily found a 40 hour a week temp job in a light bulb warehouse.
The number of insane stories about this job…it would take months to catalog them all. However, one of the perks was every Tuesday you could fill out a request form and the stock guys would go pick a bag of light bulbs for you from the remaindered orders. Effectively, it was an all you-can-eat buffet of perfectly normal, in some cases very expensive light bulbs.
It was the dawn of the compact fluorescent era and it was glorious. I think my parents still had a stash of remaindered light bulbs with them when they moved to Florida a decade and a half later. The result, though, is that every time I have to go buy light bulbs ACTUALLY SHELLING OUT MONEY for them grinds my gears a little.
Second part of my issue is that residential light bulbs are now seriously fucking complex.
It wasn’t until I moved to the new house that I realized how bad it’s gotten. It’s not a question of wattage or base width any more- although those two items will pound you unexpectedly if you get them wrong- but also chemical components, prong sizes, lengths, shapes, relative opacity. It’s a cascade of details the insides of which I can never fully grasp.
What’s worse, Home Depot- where you think you go to buy such simple things as light bulbs- is a big pit of lighting lies.
“Oh sure,” says the orange-aproned guy staring at the two light bulbs I had in each hand, “that one will work. Sure it’s the same thing.”
Six months of light bulb purchase failure and I was brought low enough that I collected them all, taped them to a piece of poster board, and dragged the board to the local specialty shop. It’s pictured below. Note the fact I had not only the number of bulbs necessary for replacement but the actual paperwork from the light fixture.
They saw me coming. I think it was about $200 later I got out of there with what should have been the full company of weird bulbs. It wasn’t. I still had to go back, because in one case simply eyeballing the original bulb wasn’t enough to make the right decision.
So here we are, once again at the dawn of the new age, where these light bulbs will be able to talk to us but at a cost of $99 PER BULB. Can you imagine getting a $99 bulb home from the specialty store and having it be the wrong one? Can you envision the fury possible under those circumstances? Relationships have been shredded for less. Wars have been started for smaller offenses.
I’m a believer, though. In the spirit of embracing the future, I’m going to propose what I think a $99 light bulb should be capable of doing.
As an Aside: one of the hard-to-reach and confusing-sized light bulbs in my bathroom [ the one marked “toilet” in the poster above] is dying again, making the experience of using the bathroom at night seem like waiting for surgery in a creepy post-Soviet hospital basement.
If we could go ahead and get my miracle bulb on the market as soon as possible that be great. Thanks.
The $99 dollar light bulb should and must:
1) Be controllable from my smart phone. Both on and off, and with a timer.
2) Tell me when it’s about to go out. Email is good for this, as it’s not an emergency and I’m probably not going to do anything about it right away. There’s no real need to tell me that it’s actually out, as I’ll know that the first time I flip on the light switch.
See? I just prioritized that requirement for you YOU’RE WELCOME.
3) Text me a note with its identity when I ask it to. Size, wattage, shape, base, etc.
And the all important WOW factor: 4) Tell me whether or not it’s in stock at the local home depot. With the appropriate SKU number so that I don’t have to ask one of the orange-aprons whether it’s the “Right” bulb. That road leads to tears.
Honestly, I would be willing to pay for something that accomplishes all of that. I’d probably be willing to pay more than $99 if it was an extensible set of bases that just executed those types of things with a normal light bulb.
$99 for one light bulb though? EEEHHH.
Maybe if it’s powering a lighthouse and I’m at sea with no binoculars? Then we can talk.