Sunday, March 6, 2011

Breaking News: E-Lec-Tronic Strobes Will Arrive in a Flash!

"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet." (William Gibson)

Flashbulb Billboard (c) John Ashley
Geez, and I thought new technology was slow to arrive in Montana! Here's one of two similar billboards, many miles apart, that we passed today in southern New Mexico. And in spite of apparent cutbacks in their advertising budget, this business is still open.

"Flashbulbs?" For real?

Experiments with proto-flashbulbs began in the 1890's, and commercial flashbulbs showed up in the late 1920's. A typical flashbulb was the size of our modern 100-watt light bulb, and had the unfortunate habit of exploding. In the early 1960's, some genius invented small, four-square "flashcubes" for use on Kodak Instamatic cameras. But bulb technology burned out by the late 60's and lives on today only in movies, special uses (such as caving), and collectors.

By the time I managed my first paid photography job, in the late 1970's, small electronic strobes had taken over. We thought this was the end-all achievement in photographic lighting technology. Then they came up with mini computers that talked to each other at light speed while flashing a multi-programmable burst of highly controlled light.

Strobist / Numnuts Flash BusAnd today? How can it possibly get any better, you ask? More than 100 years of experimentation and achievement has brought us to this -- the Flash Bus.

Yes, I know, I can hardly believe it myself. But in just three more days, this newest craze, this phenomenon, will be unleashed upon Seattle. And in three weeks or so, it will light up Albuquerque, just a little north of this billboard.

And in Montana? Well, it takes a little longer for these new fancies to arrive...

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