See the strange object puzzling social media users

Ever laid eyes on those glass or porcelain thingamajigs perched atop telephone poles and wondered what on earth they’re doing up there?

Well, get ready to find out more about these silent heroes of the communication world.

Known as insulators, these funky-looking gizmos play a crucial role by keeping the wires they cradle from getting too close to the pole or, heaven forbid, the ground below.

Without them, all that electricity (or those precious phone calls) would just dribble away. Imagine trying to make a long-distance call when your voice peters out after a measly few hundred feet – it certainly would be a pain!

Credit: Etsy.

Now, the world of insulators is a wild ride of styles and colors. Back in the day, many were crafted from glass or porcelain, but you’d be surprised by the range – some were made from wood and glass, even bits of animals (yep, you read that right), and other wacky materials.

Size matters too – smaller ones hung out with the telephone and telegraph gangs, while their bigger buddies hobnobbed with the high-voltage electrical wires.

When it comes to power lines, the voltage dictates the size of the insulator needed. If the voltage is high enough, it might decide to jump over a fair distance – a flashy move known as “flashover.” Insulators with broad “umbrella” disks and wide lower skirts ensure the wire stays at arm’s length from the pole to prevent this, per My Insulators.

Believe it or not, there’s a whole scene around collecting insulators! It really took off in the swinging sixties when utility companies started burying their wires. Lots of those vintage insulators couldn’t join the underground party, so they ended up in the “throw out” pile. But as they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Credit: Etsy.

Collectors come in all shapes and sizes. Some are in it for the aesthetics, sprucing up their windowsills and gardens with these colorful glass pieces, adding a dash of sparkle to their spaces. Others are more discerning, hunting down specific types of insulators. Prices can range from pocket change to eye-watering sums. Rare specimens can go for tens of thousands of dollars, but there are plenty of bargains to be had. You might snag one for less than a buck or, if you’re lucky, even find a freebie at flea markets.

Most of the insulators in collectors’ hands are between 70 and 145 years old, and some types haven’t been made since the early 1900s. Anything old and out of production tends to become a collectible, and insulators are no exception.

So, next time you spot one of those quirky glass or porcelain insulators perched high up on a telephone pole, take a moment to tip your hat to their vital role in the history of communication.

They might seem like relics of the past, but they’ve made a lasting impact on our ability to stay connected, whether it’s through a phone call or a lightning-fast text message. And who knows, you might just be inspired to start your own collection!

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