Dominic Wilcox has a knack for the absurd. He’s designed gold-plated luxury skipping stones, anti-theft bike stickers, and a post-it note tattoo for hand-written notes. His latest design, though, is both absurd and incredibly useful: a conversion system that makes it possible to screw old sound systems into light sockets.
Wilcox calls them Sound Bulbs, and they were built in response to a game aimed at finding new uses for old objects. The challenge was based on the age-old sleepover game, Telephone, with a slight twist: rather than passing along a word, participants passed along objects. The recipient was then responsible for creating a new use for the old object. “The object I was given was a ceiling lamp,” Wilcox explains on his blog. “I started to think about ceiling lights and the question of ‘why do we only plug light bulbs into lamp sockets?’”
Indeed! Wilcox set about collecting nine volt transformers, bayonets, and Edison screw lightbulb connectors (the silvery bit at the end of each bulb). With a bit of tinkering, he was able to create a working conversion between a handful of old electronics and an average light socket. Technically, he explains, he didn’t need to use old systems — they just looked cooler than a Bose hanging from the ceiling:
I could have chose a minimal table lamp and a modern day music player, but decided to go in the opposite direction. There are not many opportunities in life to combine 1880 golden statues with 1980 ghetto blasters so I took it.
The mapping of one set of functions onto another resulted in some interesting chances to explore how the intersection of two design typologies: for example, the on/off string on the lamp became a way to start and stop the music a boom box. We’ve seen “audio bulbs” before, but this a fascinating example of how a simple DIY hack can retrofit ubiquitous infrastructure with new functions.