Baby Boomer Alert: Who Remembers The Floor Dimmer Switch in Our Cars?
It seems like all of the controls we need to drive are now on the directional "stalk." Wipers, headlights, cruise control, etc.
You know you are a Baby Boomer if you can remember when we used to dim our head lights by slamming down on a switch on the floorboard under the dash.
Here is the story......
In 1925 the depressible headlight became obsolete when the Guide Lamp Co. introduced the 2-filament headlight bulb. Switching between low and high beam was accomplished through a switch on the steering column. In 1927 the dimmer switch was moved to the floor, where it stayed for about 50 years until it was moved again -- to the steering column!
Apparently the early auto designers realized that drivers could safely multi-task and operate a foot dimmer switch, thus giving drivers one less reason for taking their hands off the steering wheel.
The floorboard area was wide open and these floor-mounted dimmer switches could be made larger and more durable.
The first US-designed autos started following the trend away from the foot-operated dimmer switch in the 1970s, as they decided to emulate the luxury European imports who were starting to put the dimmer switch on the stalk. However, the transition from the the cheap floor switch to the more expensive multi-function stalk switch usually had to wait until a major re-design of that vehicle so that a coordinated change could be made. Ultimately, the dimmer switch function would go to the stalk when a model went from rear wheel drive to front wheel drive (which happened a lot in the late 1970s and early 1980s) because the foot-well area became smaller and more cramped.