Christmas light strands – Can they go wireless?


This weekend, we unpacked the Christmas tree and light strands for the season.  I’ve long been banned from putting on the lights at my household, because I don’t have the patience and skill to make the tree look light a solid sparkling light.  In any event, things were progressing well for my other half when suddenly 3/4 of the tree went dark.  (This was about 2 hours into the task).  From there things went horribly wrong.  She pulled lights off and a few entire strands were out.  I didn’t try to fix the strands right away, because I was preoccupied with football.  So, she went to WalMart for some new ones.  This didn’t work out either because she brought back lights with white strands (instead of green).  So she made a new trip to Walgreens to get some new ones.

By this time she was restringing the tree and I was trying to fix the broken strands by locating the bad bulb(s).  Now, in my elementary knowledge of Christmas strand workings, I assumed that everything was sequential and any bad bulb would be the first one out in the strand.  Wrong…….  What I found was that some strands didn’t work at all, while others half worked.  For 2 of the 3 that half worked, I was able to find the broken bulb and replace it.  For the others, I either couldn’t find the bad bulb or I couldn’t find a replacement bulb that fit.  By the time the night ended, I had several hand cuts, 10 replacement bulbs on the table that didn’t fit any of the strands, and 4 strands that were not working.  It took me about 2 and half hours to get to the point of giving up.

A few thoughts on this:

  • Yes I’m aware they sell trees now that have lights installed and are pre-lit.  But I’m left to wonder what happens when one of those bulbs goes bad?  A friend with one of these called my wife and told her she had her tree up in 10 minutes.  The hardest part was getting the box up from the basement.  Blah Blah Blah.
  • I’m convinced the ultimate culprit was that my wife chose to string more consecutive strands together this year in an attempt to create the perfect sparkling tree.  This must have overloaded the capacity of the system.  It didn’t go over to well when I made that suggestion to her.
  • I did find a nice write-up on all this at the following address.  Certainly more than I ever thought about in a sequential circuit.
  • I’m left the wonder if the real intent of the manufacturers is to just get you to buy new strands since it can be somewhat complicated to find the weakest link.

So how could we make a Christmas light strand product that is more customer friendly for maintenance? Here’s an idea: Create a wireless network device in each strand that transmits information to a computer receiver.  The computer uses software that shows exactly where the troubled bulb is.  Essentially, it’s a light strand diagnostic program.  Each bulb would be numbered at the base for easy identification.  Heck, create a version of the program for the iPhone and GPhone while you’re at it.

This could be sold as the easy maintenance Christmas light strands.  The concept could apply to strands for indoor or outdoor lights and also to those pre-lit Christmas trees that are becoming so popular.  It takes the worry out of complicated maintenance and can get you back to singing Jingle Bells instead of looking for the nearest drug store.



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