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05/13/07 - Thomas Edison: Inventor of the Light Switch

We were driving out to Lake Ozette and trying to figure out how to use the cruise control. We think we found the enable switch, because some green light on the console did light up as we remembered, but we just couldn't figure out how to tell the cruise control to actually engage. Cruise control ties up three buttons on the steering wheel, and surely it could be made simpler to use.

While struggling, we pondered why these things are so hard, and why it takes someone like Steve Jobs to make simple things simple. Perhaps, we considered, Thomas Edison's greatest invention wasn't the light bulb, but the light switch. Candles require a match, or a flint box, to light. Oil lamps, and even gas lamps, are no better. If you wanted electric lights, you had to power up the generator, and that probably made starting up a lawn mower look simple.

What Edison did was invent the light switch. Push it one way to turn the light on. Push it the other way to turn the light off. That's sort of amazing. It's really simple.

Keywords: science, lamps