Although a relatively simple device, its invention did not occur until the late 19th century because it depended upon the earlier invention of the electric battery and electric light. The batteries in the first ones were of such short useful life that the common method of operating them was to flash them just long enough to discern the environs, and only as needed; hence the term "flash-light".
Recently, flashlights which use LEDs instead of conventional lightbulbs have become available. LEDs are far more efficient than, and use less power than normal lightbulbs, and so torches which use them have longer battery lifetimes. Another innovation in flashlight design is the headlamp, a flashlight worn on the head for hands-free operation. Powerful headlamps mounted on helmets have been used in mining for decades, but general-purpose ones with fabric straps are now also available.