I’m lucky – not too much keeps me awake at night and I usually fall asleep within about five minutes of going to bed. While psychologists say that is a sign of sleep deprivation, I also wake up in the morning automatically and feel refreshed, so I don’t agree.
Nevertheless, there are times when I do wake in the middle of the night and walk through the darkened house as others sleep. Nowadays it’s pretty easy to do so without risk – besides having a large (18’ x18’) skylight over our central courtyard in New House, there are literally dozens of little lights on in the house.
Warning: This is one of those musings when I remember the past and compare it to the present.
I remember when there were only a few lights in a darkened house at night. Televisions and radios used to glow because there was always some current going through the vacuum tubes/valves to keep them warm; the glow came from the vents at the back. And some clocks had subtle lighting. Interestingly the shade of light was warm, and the devices hummed and were themselves warm. Even night lights, which had to be turned on manually and used a white Christmas light bulbs were warm-ish. Then there were gas appliances which had a permanent dancing pilot flame – almost invisible in the day but one of the few beacons in the dark
Fast forward to today: tiny points of coloured light and ghost writings in the air. Little green diodes announce whether we plan to have toast or bagel, and if we like our ice crushed or cubed. A red diode to say sound is set to surround – is there any other way? Innumerable things have power – I’m not sure where they got it from – me perhaps when I decided that we need more than more than two of every breed: phones, VCRs, DVDs, stereos, printers, computers, etc. And all over the house clocks in shades of green, white and amber argue about the exact time. Little red numbers tell you which window is open – if you can match number to window. Several computers and hubs flicker to announce they are talking on the Internet – probably about me – even though they are supposed to be off. Even the mice glow red from below – but they never scamper or dash to hide as I appear.
I must admit though, that for a gadget-rich house we are a little behind the times: we don’t seem to have anything in the latest blue and indigo shades. Perhaps I’m slipping? The first cheap commercial diodes were red, and then it became possible to make cheap green, now it is the turn of blue. A gadget shows its age by its night colour. But since you can make all colours from RGB soon we’ll have hybrids – pink, violet or yellow anyone?
Speaking of cost, diodes and electroluminescent displays use minute amounts of power, so most are permanently on. We did switch to night lights that turn themselves off in the day to save energy – the trouble is that they seem to have a half-life of two months so the set that I bought at Home Depot on sale are mostly shot. I think the net cost is probably an order of magnitude greater than if I’d bought ones that stay on all the time.
But what of the house of the future? It’ll probably turn on lights as I enter a room to my preferred level, provided no one is sleeping in that room and that the light will not enter the room where someone is sleeping, i.e. lights on only after I’ve closed a dividing door (i.e. IF THEN). Perhaps that’s the key to predicting the near term – things that could be done today, but with more logical controls than are currently cost-effective. The windows may be opaqued, but frankly I find those ugly, so I’ll wait for ones that display a scene or design. On the other hand maybe there will be fewer lights at night – already I’m bombarded with information I don’t need at a given time (like the toaster selection). Perhaps a kindler, gentler, darker house?