1962: Nick Holonyak, Jr. demonstrates the world’s first visible light-emitting diode (LED) to General Electric suits, changing the world of lighting forever. Holonyak later said that the LED would replace incandescent lights. It’s just taking a little bit longer than expected.
Scientists at the GE Advanced Semiconductor Laboratory were researching a way to create energy-efficient visible light from LEDs. The incandescent lights that we still use today rely on igniting a filament housed in a vacuum to create light. The process is inefficient and only uses 10 percent of available energy to produce light. The rest is lost as heat.
In the early 1960s, the only light emitted from LEDs was infrared. The race to produce a visible LED had GE researchers scrambling to be first.
In honor of this achievement, go out there and blink some LEDs!