It has taken a long time for affordable, reliable, home smoke detectors to hit the market. The first fire alarm was invented and patented by Francis Robbins Upton, a friend of Thomas Edison, in 1890. George Andrew Darby of Birmingham, England invented the first smoke detector in 1902. Both items were too basic to be reliable and marketable. In the late 1930s a Swiss physicist named Walter Jaeger attempted to invent a poison gas detector. It didn't detect the poison, but the smoke from his cigarette did set it off. This one was too expensive to produce to have much impact on the market.
I was finally able to find a patent given to inventors Randolph J. Smith of Anaheim, California and Kenneth R House of Norwalk, Connecticut on August 5, 1969. Their model was evidently the first battery-powered residential model that was actually affordable and reliable. It emitted a piercing alarm at the presence of smoke. And yes, I suppose it did that annoying little chirping thing, too.
Maybe it’s because I am the only one around here who even needs the smoke alarm. Keith not only can’t hear the chirping, he can stand under the thing when it goes off and not hear it. As long as I am in the house I can wake Keith up and get both of us out in time should a fire start. If only the toaster and the broiler and the occasional spillover on the burners didn't set it off too.
Warnings are often annoying. How about the various beeps in your car? For us, it’s just the ding-ding-ding when you leave the keys in, but I have friends whose cars ring, buzz, beep, or whoop-whoop-whoop when they back up too close to something, pull in too close to something, swerve a little too close to the lane markings, let their gas tanks get too low, open the wrong door at the wrong time… Honestly, I don’t know how they stand to drive at all.
But only a fool ignores warnings. And there are quite a few of them out there—fools, that is. Just try warning someone about losing their soul, and you may well lose a friend. They get mad, they strike out with accusations about your own failings, they tell everyone how mean you are. Trouble is, ignoring the warnings won’t get them anywhere they want to go. The danger is still there.
If I don’t answer the call of the chirping smoke alarm with a new battery, I may very well burn to death one night. Telling everyone how annoying the thing is won’t change that at all. If I don’t answer the warnings of someone who cares enough about me to brave losing his reputation and being hurt, my end won’t change either. It doesn’t matter whether I thought he was mean or whether he needed a warning just as badly as I did. I know the first reaction is anger. I’ve been there myself. But anger never saved anyone, nor accusations, nor whining and fussing about my hurt feelings. There is a whole lot more at stake than a few feelings.
Heed the warning when you get it, no matter how you get it or from whom. It may be the only one you get. People aren’t like smoke alarms. Not many of them will put up with your bad reactions. They’ll either stop chirping now, or never chirp again. Then what will you do when the fire starts?
"Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life, Ezekiel 33:2-5.