It’s a shame that the IKEA PR machine jumped the gun and didn’t wait just a couple of weeks to make this gutsy, lighting-related announcement. If they had, it would have been a most fitting tribute to the evolution of the light-emitting diode, a now ubiquitous, energy-efficient light source that turns the big 5-0 today. Needless to say, elevator buttons, exit signs, TVs, computers, cellphone displays, and, over the last few years, residential light fixtures, haven’t been the same since Oct. 9, 1963.
The creation of now 83-year-old GE physicist and University of Illinois professor, Dr. Nick Holonyak, the humble LED was initially dubbed the “magic one” by Holonyak’s colleagues because the light emitted by the newfangled gizmo, unlike an infrared laser, was visible to the human eye.
The son of a coal miner — and often referred to as a national treasure by GE Lighting Institute Manager Mary Beth Gotti — Holonyak knew he was onto something big after he illuminated the first LED: “I know that I’m just at the front end but I know the result is so powerful … there’s no ambiguity about the fact that this has got a life way beyond what we’re seeing.”
To mark this notable occasion, take a trip down memory lane with Holonyak himself in the short and sweet video from GE that I’ve embedded below. The video itself also acts as a teaser of sorts for GE’s 100-watt replacement LED set to be released in 2013, but that doesn't stop Holonyak from getting in some great lines, especially toward the end when he’s gently handling his newest progeny: “It’s much more compact than I thought it would be. I thought it would be clumsier. It looks like it would be more like a 40-watt bulb,” says Holonyak as he grins ear to ear. “And you know what? This isn’t the end!”
For more LED-related stories — energy-efficient lighting is an always hot, but not always hot-to-the-touch topic ‘round these parts — I’ve also wrangled up a few links from this past year below the video. And since Halloween is just around the corner ...