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 light.  

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 Marine ( 

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 know...

- 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.