GE's Hate /Love Affair With LEDs

The General Electric Lighting business shut down its Solid State Lamp ( their name for light emitting diodes) manufacturing plant in 1975 . The cash cow for the lighting business was then and probably even today the sale of incandescent bulbs. Now all has come full circle. Thirty -two years later GE has announced a global restructuring plan to reduce production of lower efficiency incandescent light bulbs. Why? A Slate article tells all:
Edison's Dimming Bulbs - How Wal-Mart and the government are killing the incandescent light bulb.
Guess what? GE now predicts that solid state light emitting diodes ( not Solid State Lamps) may become tomorrow's principal lighting source. When it came to solid state technology GE never got it right ( visit my Semiconductor Reminiscences web site). Once a leading producer of diodes , rectifiers, transistors and integrated circuits it bowed out of the semiconductor field when the going got too competitive.

So it was with light emitting diodes . Nick Holonyak invented the first visible spectrum light emitting diode in 1962 while at the former GE Electronics Laboratory in Syracuse, NY. A May 23, 2005 Business Week article reported that "Nick Holonyak's LEDs may soon make incandescent and flourescent bulbs obsolete".

GE piloted light emitting diodes at its Lamp Division in Cleveland, Ohio. They called them Solid State Lamps even though one of its researchers invented LEDs ( a marketing decision which reflected misplaced ego) and launched a manufacturing facility in 1972 in Chesterland , Ohio. The facility was shuttered in 1975 (Solid State Lamps were dragging down the bottom line of its parent Speciality Lamps Department). Solid state technology and incandescent lamp making technology just did not mix or better yet solid state technology was too foreign to the country's leading producer of incandescent lamps (GE is back in the LED business - not solid state lamps- through a subsidiary called GELcore). Now that GE has declared incandescent lamp making a 100 year old technology implying that it should be put out to pasture, perhaps it is finally ready to embrace a technology which is forty-five years old.

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