History of fire alarms, by generation

Discussion of all things related to fire alarms, including alarm systems, fire alarm collections, sirens, sprinklers, fire drills, evacuations, actual fires, building architecture, other kinds of safety drills like tornado and earthquake drills and such, etc.
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Simplex 2903-9101
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Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:54 pm

Those interested in the history of video games may know that consoles are classified by generation. I thought I'd do the same for fire alarms. Hope you all like it.
Tenth generation
The current generation of fire alarm systems, beginning in the late 2010's. Characterized by advanced addressable notification devices, 520 Hz sounders, LED's, and a huge uptick in voice evacuation and MNS systems.

Products: Simplex ES series, System Sensor L-Series, LED Exceder and Genesis

Ninth generation
Began in the mid-2000's. Pretty much a continuation of the previous generation, but with synchronized strobes becoming even more common. Multi-purpose mass notification products were also introduced toward the tail end of this generation.

Products: Simplex 4100U, 4010, and TrueAlerts; SpectrAlert Advance, Wheelock Z-series and Exceder, Edwards Genesis and Integrity

Eighth generation
Late 90's to mid 2000's. Strobe orientation changes from vertical to horizontal. Synchronization becoming widely available, and smaller addressable systems become available. The first addressable notification appliances were developed by Simplex. The notification market becomes more concentrated as Siemens loses a lawsuit against Wheelock and Space Age bows out.

Products: Simplex 4100U, 4010, TrueAlerts, and 4099 IDNet pull stations; System Sensor SpectrAlert classic and i3, Wheelock AS and NS, Edwards Genesis and Integrity

Seventh generation
Mid-1990's. Addressable systems start to take off. Reflectors become more common on strobes, but they are still largely vertical and unsynchronized. Retrofit plates in decline.

Products: Simplex 4100, 4004, 4005, and rectangular 4903's; System Sensor MASS-ADA, vertical AS and MT-LSM, Space Age VA4, early Edwards Integrity, and the "beeping" Gentex SHG

Sixth generation
Early to mid-1990's, right after the ADA was passed. Addressable systems becoming more common. Strobes are bright, but often lack reflectors. Mechanical horns in decline.

Products: Simplex 4100, 4001, 4002, 4903-9105 and newer-style 2099 T-bars; MASS-ADA, Wheelock EH-*L1-WM, Space Age AV-32 strobes, Edwards 792, and the "buzzing" SHG.

Fifth generation
Late 80's to early 90's. The last generation with strobe intensities in the single digits. The very first fully addressable systems were introduced. Smoke detectors starting to shrink.

Products: Simplex 4100, 4001, 4002 and 4903-9101, MA/SS-24, Wheelock EHS and 7002T, Space Age AV-32 lights and strobes.

Fourth generation
Early to mid-80's. The first solid-state panels introduced, as well as the multiplex forerunners to later, fully addressable systems. Incandescent lights were about as common as strobes. Lighter mechanical horns with fixed diaphragms. Smoke detectors from this era are often quite bulky.

Products: Simplex 2001, 2120, and 2903-series; Wheelock 7002T, Space Age AV-32 lights. System Sensor 2400.

Third generation
Began in the late 1970's. Panels were still relay-based. Many pull stations still made out of metal, and heat detectors are at least as common as smoke detectors. The earliest visual signaling devices are introduced, including the first horn/strobes. The shape of horns changed from round to square, but they are still quite heavy due to their free diaphragms. Bells become less common.

Products: Simplex 4207, 4208, and 4050-80 series; open-grille Wheelock 7002, Space Age AV-32, ESL smokes, Chemtronics heats

Second generation
Mid 1960's up until the late 70's. Panels were more simplistic than the later generations, and most often ran on AC. Many smaller systems lacked a central control panel. Round mechanical horns were popular during this era.

Products: Simplex 4247 and related panels, 4030, the round Adaptahorn, Gamewell "house" style pull stations

First generation
These were fire alarms in the 1950's. The components inside control panels were often very large. The first attempt at a standardized cadence for fire alarms was developed in the form of code 4-4. Break glass stations were commonplace, as were the larger style of coded pull station with a small internal lever rather than a giant handle. Signalling was dominated by single-stroke bells and bizarrely-shaped horns.

Products: IBM 4030, Wheelock A1, Edwards pre-Adaptahorn (rectangular bracket, round grille), and the Autocall panels featured on the Old School Fire Alarms channel.

Early history
Began with the very first electric fire alarm systems in the late 19th century. Not much is known, but this could be considered the "black period" because notification appliances were often black, rather than red or gray. Bells were more common than horns, and many had external hammers.
I'm not very knowledgeable about smoke detectors, or where non-Simplex panels would fall. Input would be appreciated, and please let me know if I got anything wrong.
Did you hear about the film director who collected fire alarms?
No Integrity and dozens of unwanted Advances.
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Simplex 4051
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Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:40 am

This is a really nice topic! It will be very helpful when I make up other systems! It came together really nicely! Great job!
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mjb1124
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Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:01 pm

I feel like the second generation is more mid-50s to mid-60s, and the third is more late '60s to very early '80s. I think the Federal 30A also deserves a mention for the second generation, and the Faraday and Federal horns (Simplex 404x and 405x respectively) for the third. But otherwise, it's pretty spot on!
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Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:17 pm

I would also like to know where the electromechanical Edwards Adaptahorn will fit into all of this because you have two of the AC ones.
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Simplex 2903-9101
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Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:56 pm

Those would definitely be good examples of second- and third- generation alarms! I guess my framework is coming in handy after all.
Did you hear about the film director who collected fire alarms?
No Integrity and dozens of unwanted Advances.
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Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:19 pm

I'm thinking they would fall into the third generation since I think they are contemporaries with the Simplex 4051.
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Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:54 pm

the simplex 4003 would also fit in with the 6th generation devices.
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Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:02 pm

In 6th generation the 4100 became the 4100+. Also the 4020 was introduced.
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