The NightStar Flashlight
Father's Day has always seemed kind of hokey to me. I mean the only
real appreciation I need from my kids is the endless pleasure and fascination of
watching them find their way along the twisty confusing maze
of growing up. Privately, I take some credit for every good decision they
make and that's reward enough for me. Presents
on Father's Day are just a pleasant bonus prize which is why I
was surprised and delighted to open my son's gift yesterday
and find a real treasure: a NightStar inductance-coupled LED flashlight.
No Bulbs. No Batteries. No Maintenance, ever!
Things that work perfectly and are beautiful in concept and execution turn me
on. I've always had a thing for really elegant design and I've often found
myself locked in dumb rapture staring at a suspension bridge, or those silly
rabbit corkscrews, or a Phil Edwards surfboard, and now, my new NightStar
flashlight. From a design perspective, flashlights have always been a
tough problem. They need to be reliable over many years even if mistreated
or neglected, they must tolerate adverse environments including wetness and the
possible presence of explosive gases, and they fall in the grey zone between
tools and commodities, so they need to be relatively inexpensive and provide
good value for their price. The Nightstar engineering team nailed all the
objectives and made it look easy in the process.
Nightstar uses one of the new generation of LEDs as a light source rather
than an incandescent bulb. The longevity of LEDs is thousands of times
greater than bulbs, and the NightStar LED lifespan is estimated at tens of
thousands of hours. Rather than using batteries, NightStar uses an
inductance coil to charge a capacitor that powers the LED. To charge
NightStar, you literally shake it, rattling a little cylindrical rare-earth
magnet back and forth past a coil of wire. Half a minute of shaking
charges the capacitor for about 20 minutes of almost painfully bright
The coil, LED and circuitry are all enclosed in a bulletproof transparent lucite
flashlight case. There's no reason to ever get inside the case so, instead of
rubber o-ring or seals to wear out, they just glue the whole case together
permanently. The on/off switch is a nice external slider with a solid feel
to it. The switch uses a magnetic reed design, so there's no physical
connection between the external and internal bits. It's watertight,
non-sparking and extremely reliable. None of the components are sensitive to
heat or cold and for all practical purposes, they'll never wear out. That
my friends is an elegant solution to light up the night!
Elegance in design is threatened these days because most of the talent in
engineering these days is focused on making things cheaper to manufacture rather
than on making them better or easier to use. NightStar is an outstanding
example of a product that flaunts the orthodoxy and strives for
excellence. NightStar comes with a five year warranty which isn't
surprising considering the quality of the device. NightStar flashlights
retail for $50 (U.S.) retail, but I've seen them on sale for $29 at West
The company that produces NightStar,Applied Innovative Technologies (apt
moniker!), clearly delights in the geekiness of the device and provides
page after page of interesting technical information on their website:
- Operational at an ocean depth of 2210-ft --Hey, ya never
- Operational at temperatures between -50 degrees C, to +60 degrees C. --Anywhere
between Hell and deep space.
- Magnetic field strength in gauss at 4 feet = .0005 --Keep em away
from your computer!
- Operational after 3 days immersion in solutions of salt water,
isopropyl alcohol, ammonia, phosphoric acid*, acetic acid*, drain cleaner*,
Ajax*, motor oil and diesel fuel (* 10% solutions). --And no
worries if you drop em in the bath either.
So, I'd suggest becoming a Dad(or Mom) if you aren't one already, then teaching
your kids about elegance in design, and then jonesing
for your very own NightStar.