Brief LED History

Brief History of LEDs

LED is short for Light Emitting Diode. When an electrical current is passed through this special type of diode it converts electrical energy into photon energy, which we call light. Being something called a Diode, electricity can only flow through the device in one direction. This one-way current is known as Direct Current or DC for short. In the early years of LED's they came in the color red, and were commercially available in the late 1950's. They gained rapid popularity as power indicators on instrument panels because they were small in size and did not need replacing every year or two. By the mid 1960's, LED's also changed the way we looked at colors. We learned that the color red, now stood for we have power and are ready to go.


By the late 1960's, for a brief period of time a 10 Element Display (below - left  image) were used, in each column of numbers. The numbers 0-9 were in the form of a block with (originally 10 small light bulbs) 10 LED's, one behind each number. One LED was lit at any given time representing the digit in that placeholder column.


About that same time and for a few years a display called a Nexie Tube was used in equipment. See far right image.

By the early 1970's the 7-segment LED (center image) started replacing the Nexie Tube number display for new equipment. Through the 1970's and 1980's other colors were added in LED's and to the array of seven segment LED lighting options.

It was not until 2005-6 that LED's were able to manage enough power and give enough light to be used in commercial lighting applications. As they started becoming lower in cost, they started changing the way we use lighting. If installed and maintained well, LED lighting can last 20 years or longer and consume about one eighth the electricity of the traditional light bulb.

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