Almost every home has a smoke detector in it. This alarm helps to alert anyone within the home that there is an emergency going on. By sensing changes in temperature or the smoke that a fire creates, the alarm sounds and allows people within the structure a chance to get out safely. The very first electric fire alarm was invented in 1890, but the modern smoke detector didn’t hit store shelves until 1965. By the early 1980’s, however, nearly 75% of households had at least one functioning smoke detector in their home.
Thomas Edison was involved with the creation of the modern smoke detector that included heat detection. He and his partner, Francis Robbins Upton, created a temperature-based system. Here is a look at some of Edison’s other work.
1. Electrical Power Distribution
The modern system of utilities is thanks to Edison, who devised a system of sending power from generation stations to the average home. When you pay your power bill every month, you essentially have Thomas Edison to thank for that. This one invention, however, was able to change how the world could operate in the dark and provided a safer system of lighting than gas lamps, candles, and the other flammables that were being used at the time.
2. Automatic Telegraphs
Telegraph lines were being set up around the world so that messages could be instantly sent instead of the days or weeks it would take to send a letter. A system of codes was used to send these messages, which would have to be manually translated into words. The average telegraph operator could transmit about 40 words per minute, either into the line or from the line into words. Edison’s automatic telegraphs changed that so as many as 1,000 words per minute could be transcribed into messages. The telephone would eventually take the place of this invention, but its automatic functions were groundbreaking.
3. Electrical Pens
The idea that Edison had was that sometimes multiple copies of a document needed to be created. Since there weren’t any copy machines, this meant that having a pen created multiple copies at once would need to be invented. That’s the idea behind Edison’s electrical pen, which would create a stencil as someone wrote with it. This would then be used to press ink onto other pieces of paper so that duplicates could be made. As an added bonus, it also made for a pretty excellent tattooing apparatus as well.
4. Fuel Cells
Although Edison wasn’t completely successful in his attempts to create fuel cell technology, he got off to a pretty good start. The idea behind fuel cells is pretty simple: by combing hydrogen and oxygen, the reaction would create energy that could power any device. The result would be water that was left over as exhaust instead of the heavy amounts of carbon emissions that we have today. Although still incomplete, if the fuel cell ever does become a part of global technology, we’ll have Edison, amongst other inventors, to thank for it.
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