Building a better Christmas with technology

The march of science and technology can be breathtaking, can’t it? Just consider these recent developments in the all-important field of Christmas-related…um, stuff.

First, there’s the Lightset Repair Gun.

If you have a string of mini-lights that isn’t working, it’s probably because of faulty shunts. Designed to prevent a whole string of lights wired in series from going out when one bulb fails, shunts join the two posts inside the bulb at the base. The shunt’s coating gives it a higher resistance than the filament, so normally the current flows through the filament. If the filament fails, though, the current flows through the shunt, heating it up, burning off the coating, and reducing the resistance so the current continues to flow. If the coating doesn’t burn off sufficiently, then the shunt may not transmit electricity—and the string goes dark.

The Lightset Repair Gun has a voltage detector in the tip, an electrical continuity detector and a bult/fuse tester, all to help you find where the problem is. When you do, it can send an electrical pulse through the string to heat the shunt enough (hopefully) to burn off the resisting coating more thoroughly. The gun also has an LED on the tip so you can work in the dark (which is, after all, where you’ll be when the lights go out), and a bulb puller. (Of course, I already have a set of bulb pullers, otherwise known as “fingers.”)

Christmas lights are your basic Christmas decorations, of course. Perhaps a little too basic. What you really need, though you may not have realized it until now, is a solar-powered snowman garden ornament

Most snowmen are solar-averse, at least according to that definitive scientific text “Frosty the Snowman.” But these snowman heads hung on seven-inch high metal stakes (wait! is this Christmas or Hallowe’en?) contain white LEDs that are powered by two AA batteries recharged by a solar panel on the snowmen’s hats.

This far north and farther, though, one wonders if such a device would get enough sunlight in the winter to do more than glow feebly for a few seconds before expiring. Wouldn’t it make more sense to plug such a thing into a reliable source of power, like, say, you’re computer’s USB port?

That’s right, you can get a USB-powered, light-up snowman for your desk. Or an entire USB Decoration Christmas Kit, complete with LED lights, a Christmas monitor hat and a festive mouse pad. Or a USB-powered singing-and-dancing Santa, because what house is complete without some sort of stupid-looking dancing Christmassy something or other whose constant noise will eventually cause you to “accidentally” kick it over and “inadvertently” knock it down the stairs to “sadly” reduce it to fragments of plastic junk.

Or maybe that’s just me.

You can also get a USB-powered fiber-optic Christmas tree, but maybe you’d rather grow your own—not a pine tree, but a crystalline tree. Yes, clever scientists have created a paper tree imbued with minerals that, when watered, form crystalline “leaves” in just half a day. Then you can decorate your “tree” with the included garland, glitter and star.

Speaking of trees and water, I hate reaching under my tree, trying to pour water into a container that seems designed to regurgitate it. As a result, sometimes I neglect watering, and the tree dries out. (Helpful hint: when a thousand needles fall every time the cat walks by, your tree is too dry.) Fortunately, there’s now an ornament that lights up and sings O Tannenbaum when the tree needs water…and sings more and more as the water level drops, leaving you with little choice but to either water the tree, or follow the procedure previously outlined for dealing with dancing Santas.

I also hate crawling under my tree to turn on the lights. Perhaps I should get a voice-activated Christmas-tree light switch, one which can be programmed to turn the lights on or off whenever you say “lights” or “Merry Christmas” or whatever other word comes to mind when you think of Christmas tree lights.

And finally, I must mention an online discovery that took me back to those wonderful days of traditional Christmases, spent watching a traditional rotating color wheel turning a traditional aluminum Christmas tree red, then blue, then green, then orange, etc.. For a mere $59.95 U.S. I could own a Rotating Color Wheel of my very own.

Unfortunately, a traditional seven-foot aluminum Christmas tree is $450 U.S.

Hmmm. How much was that USB-powered dancing-and-singing Santa Claus again?

Permanent link to this article: https://edwardwillett.com/2006/12/building-a-better-christmas-with-technology/

1 comment

    • Sean Carter on December 5, 2006 at 12:38 pm
    • Reply

    A bit too technical for me but nevertheless it was fun reading your blog. Am planning to start decorating soon, will sure keep your blog in mind. Check out this amazing Holiday Blog for some unique gift ideas and loads of other fun stuffs.

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