Do Vintage Flashlights Seem Dimmer (Or Has Human Eyesight Become Weaker)?

I posted this some time in 2012 on Candle Power Forums, a website for flashlight enthusiasts. This is why it may seem a bit dated to some.  Note: Anything placed in brackets or braces is not in the original, but either added for clarity or commentary.

Enjoy the article:

“…I think people in general are used to much brighter lights. Our eyes have become more lazy and less keen. This is especially true in the are of portable lighting. Think about it: in the 19th century people had Kerosene lamps and they managed to get by. Then in 1898 the flashlight is invented with very primitive Carbon Zinc cells and a Carbon rod filament. Some time after Tungsten filaments are invented advancing in [the] brightness [of flashlights]. I remember my paw paw telling me that in the 1930’s when he was a farmer that he had NO flashlight or lantern. [Somehow he didn’t know what a flashlight was until 1946 or so, even though he served World War 2. {I smell horse feathers!}] His work began at 4 o’clock in the morning and [he told me] he could hook up the mules in pitch darkness. That further supports my theory that the human eye was stronger back then. Correct me if I am wrong, but PR bulbs were invented in the 1930s, but were under a vacuum. Because of this flashlights became more practical. They were advancing. For the next few decades people used mostly PR vacuum bulbs with Carbon Zinc cells. In order to achieve more lumens people made flashlights with more batteries and more powerful bulbs. They took them hunting, camping, working night shifts, farming, police/fire/sar/ems, etc. People managed. Again I ask, were their eyes stronger? Again, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Alkaline batteries, Krypton and Halogen bulbs became widely available in the 1970s. They were way overpriced [however] and only police/fire departments used them. Kel Lite, then Maglite continued the process of multiple cells. Sure Fire came out in the mid 1980s and implemented the use of smaller, higher capacity batteries and powerful bulbs like never seen before. Krypton became standard on most [consumer] flashlights in the 1990s. I was growing up in this time [1998] and the brightest lights I knew of were the Maglites. This was one year before Lumileds came out. I first read about LED lights in 2002 in a C. Crane catalog. In 2003 my parents began subscribing to Charter Pipeline, connecting at a whole 384 Kbps (blew away our 56 Kbps AOL connection.) The cable guy had to drop a line down to the computer room and of course he was using a flashlight. I was assisting him with a 4D Maglite. I felt very jealous that his tiny [LED flash]light grossly outperformed my huge Maglite. That was my first Maglite, by the way (my brother ruined it later that year by leaving it on.) I replaced it with a cheap LED light. From then on Maglites were left in the dust (I bought a Mini Maglite in 2005 to support America[n manufacturing.]) Then in 2006, Maglite started to roll out [their own] LED lights and they have been fine tuning them ever since. I think the Pro and Tac series are the best lights for the money. They easily out preform many [incandescent] Sure Fires and they cost less.

The point I am trying to drive home is that incandescent Maglites seem dimmer because there have been so many advances in portable lighting AND human eyesight has weakened within the past two centuries. The latter being just a theory of mine. Incandescent flashlights are easily dimmer and less efficient than modern LED lights, because they are run on a very simple circuit and have no power regulation. With advances in technology that keep occuring, will it be long before there is a 200+ lumen light that can run on one or two AAAs for several hours?”  [This technology is probably available or at least very close, five years later in 2017.]

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