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Edison Era Time Capsule Preserves Century-Old Light Bulb, Still Works [Video]

By Norman Chan

A 100 year old GE incandescent bulb is tested in a standard 60-volt socket, and it lit up!

Jack Donaghy would be proud. GE lighting engineers opened up a century-old time capsule found in the cornerstone of one of its buildings on its Nela Park campus in East Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to storing historical documents like photos and newspapers, the lead box also contained five Edison-era light bulbs, three of them in apparent working condition. The incandescent bulbs were cleaned and tested in a modern 60-volt socket, and the one in the video below was the only one the engineers could get to light up.

As Maggie Koerth-Baker at BoingBoing points out, these bulbs cost the equivalent of $36 in 1882, and the one found in these time capsules used tungsten filaments instead of the carbonized bamboo filaments that Edison and his team discovered in 1878. Edison's team reported tested thousands of different materials for the bulb filament before settling on carbonized bamboo (as opposed to the carbonized thread that some competitors used), which was chosen for its ability to incandesce for over a thousand hours when electrified.