Daily Archives: December 4, 2008

Gotta love the Internet

Well, you don’t have to love it — but it comes in handy now and then.

Remember our naked tree? Well, I bought some new lights — extra special ones at target. These lights are distributed by Phillips and called “Stay-lit”. Apparently they have a microchip in each bulb holder and they remain lit even when the bulb is broken, missing or burned out.

Now, I’m no electrical engineer, but I thought that modern Christmas Tree lights all did that — remained lit even though one or more of the bulbs were burned out, but the old fashioned kind were different. Something to do with the way they were in the sting — series current vs parallel current. Aren’t microchips overkill?

I guess I was mistaken, because we’ve thrown away countless modern Christmas tree light strings in the past few years.

Anyway — back to why the Internet is cool. So, I get home and Clare and I (mostly Clare) put up the 3 strands of lights. We turn them on. They look nice on the tree. We promise to put ornaments on the tree sometime soon.

The next morning we turn the lights on again, and one of the strands blinks intermittently. Not regularly — just randomly and for random lengths of time. I’m annoyed. These are brand new lights that promise to STAY-LIT on the box. If I wanted them to blink I would have bought blinking lights. So I’m left with a few options:

  1. Live with it
  2. Take the box back to Target (which would involve removing them from the tree, packaging them back up, finding the receipt and driving to Target)
  3. Sending them to the company (which would involve removing them from the tree, packaging them back up, finding the receipt, packaging them for mail and driving to the post office and waiting in line)
  4. Locating information in some online forum about why these lights might be blinking

So I chose option d. I searched Stay-lit bulbs and clicked on a link that looked promising:


I’d found the site of the inventor of the Stay-lit Christmas Tree light bulb string. He even provided his email address, so I emailed him with my problem.

An hour or so later I got this reply:


Sounds like a bulb is not making good contact.  Also, there is a microchip in every socket that may not be connecting properly IN THAT SOCKET.

One way to find the culprit is to pull the bulbs out one at a time until the string goes out.  When you pull a bulb out and nothing changes put it back in.

If you give me your telephone number and a good time to call, I will call you to discuss.

John Janning
Dayton, Ohio

I was pleasantly surprised. The inventor of the product telling me how to solve an issue with the product. While I’d expect this of some software developers, I didn’t necessarily expect the inventor of the Stay-lit bulbs to answer me and offer support over the phone — at his expense.

The fact that this man turned 80 in March is also surprising, considering my dad is also 80. But maybe not so surprising. I’ve got neighbors that are in their 80’s that are as active as Mr. Janning seems to be. Here’s some text from the web page:

John is also a motivational speaker on the subject of creativity and imagination. John is the inventor of the liquid crystal molecular alignment invention which perfected the liquid crystal display and made possible the large scale manufacturing of LCD’s back in the early 70’s. (See the article on “Liquid Crystals” in the Spring 2002 issue of Invention & Technology magazine – published by Forbes). He is also the inventor of the thermal printing wafer – used in all thermal fax machines around the world today and at many retail store checkouts. He holds a number of patents in plasma display technology.

I turned the lights back on and found one that was not lit, wiggled it a bit. The light came on and didn’t blink. I responded that it worked and he replied that he was glad it was an easy fix.

Me too.  And I’m glad I made a small connection with someone as bright and motivated as John Janning.