A Brief History of LED Light Bulbs

A Brief History of LED Light Bulbs

  • Ashby Maxim

The history of Light Emitting Diodes, better known by the acronym LEDs, began more than a century ago in the early 1900s. Henry Joseph Round observed the effects of electroluminescence in 1907 with a mixture of silicon carbide, creating the progenitor to LED lights. But the light emanating from the bulb was weak and written off as useless.

Progress on LEDs would flounder in the first half of the 20th century, but eventually technology would catch up, making the first generation suitable for particular uses.

First Generation

Starting in the 1960s, advancements in technology made it possible to utilize the power of LEDs, albeit for very limited purposes. LEDs were still in their infancy, being used mostly as indicator lights on circuit boards and other small electrical equipment.

In this early stage of LED technology, the lights themselves were very durable and far more energy-efficient than the commercially used incandescent bulbs. However, the generated light, while energy-efficient, was too dim to be considered useful for anything else.

Second Generation

By the time of the 1980s, LED light technology had developed further. It was now possible to increase the intensity of the lights, making them suitable as actual light sources. LEDs began to be used as streetlights for municipalities and as lights for businesses.

But while they were seeing wider use from local governments and corporations, they were still too prohibitively expensive for the average consumer. One bulb could cost anywhere from one hundred to two hundred dollars. The benefits of LED lights were apparent, but the technology wasn’t there yet to make LEDs commercially available.

Third Generation

To conclude this brief history of LED light bulbs, let’s jump ahead to today: the 21st century. LED technology has advanced to the point where they’re now easily available on store shelves for the average consumer. Anyone can purchase an LED retrofit light kit to install LED lighting into their home to replace the older incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs.

LEDs have finally achieved their full potential, acting as a light source that’s brighter than incandescent bulbs while consuming far less energy. They out-perform older bulbs, and while they are slightly more expensive, their benefits now fully justify the price.


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