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|Headlights are the things located at the front of a vehicle that are designed to light the way ahead so that you can drive in the dark, or in low visibility. Obvious? Well, yes and no. Headlights have been around for a long time, but they haven't always been provided by inexpensive, easy to replace, electric bulbs.
The first headlights date back to around the late 1880s, and were powered by either acetylene gas or oil. Acetylene was the more popular because of the flame's resistance to the effects of wind and rain. This made acetylene lamps more dependable in adverse conditions. Imagine rounding a corner in your car at night and the lights blow out because of a gust of wind!
In 1898, the first electric lights for cars were introduced. However, acetylene or even oil lamps were considered superior by many, and electric lamps were usually offered as an option. It was not until several years into the 20th century that electric lights started to become a standard fitting on cars.
The Guide Lamp Company was the first to introduce a car headlight that dipped. That was in 1915. Unfortunately, it required the driver to get out of the car and dip the light manually from the front, which of course was not really very useful. Two years later the Cadillac company made dipping headlights easier by introducing a lever system that allowed the driver to dip his headlights at will from inside the car.
The next important development in car headlights came in 1924 when the Bilux bulb came into use. It was a bulb that contained both the high beam and low beam elements. In 1927, the foot- operated dimmer switch was introduced, which became a standard in most cars for much of the rest of the 20th century.
The round sealed beam headlight first saw the light of day in 1940. It soon became required fitting on all vehicles made in the USA. In 1962 halogen headlights were introduced in Europe. They are more efficient as they incorporate incandescent filaments giving out more light. However, until 1978, halogen headlights were prohibited in favor of sealed beam headlights in the USA.
A recent advance in car lighting is the high-intensity discharge systems which BMW introduced in 1991. These lighting systems were rapidly adopted in Europe and Japan, but were slower to become used in the USA. It wasn't until 1996 that the first car, a Lincoln Mark VIII, was fitted with a direct current high-intensity discharge system. It was also the only car to be so fitted.
Light has been an important element to man throughout the ages. It is the first thing that God created, according to the Christian Bible: "And God said, let there be light, and there was light." (Old Testament, Genesis, 1:3). Early cave art, half hidden well beyond the reach of daylight, must have been produced using the light of fire. This was man's first lighting tool. In effect we still use the same basic principle with our modern electric bulbs that power our headlights.
Light travels faster than anything else. To prove this, consider this anonymous quote: "Nothing is faster than the speed of light - try opening the refrigerator door before the light comes on!"