Throwback Thursday (#TBT): The Evolution of Lighting

October 30, 2014 at 8:04 am  •  Posted in Company Profiles  •  0 Comments

….Oil lamps were used as an alternative to candles before the use of electric lights. (We’ve come a long way since then.)

Article Contents:

In this blog post, we’ll look at the history of lighting, from our ancestors’ primitive animal-fat lamps, to modern technologies like LEDs and OLEDs. Buckle up for a history lesson, folks. (And you thought you were done with school.)

And, since October is Lighting Blitz Month at Graybar, we’re celebrating with a few events and promotions. (And GE Lighting is celebrating with us.)

Where It All Began

According to this article, the first lamp was invented a long, long time ago. (70,000 BC, to be exact.) Our ancient ancestors used hollow rocks or shells, filled with moss (or a similar material), that were soaked with animal fat, then ignited. (Don’t try this at home with your Thanksgiving roast drippings.)

These natural shapes were then imitated in the form of pottery, alabaster, and metal lamps. To control the rate of burning—and prevent homes from burning to the ground—wicks were later added. To replace handheld torches, the Greeks began making terra cotta lamps around seventh century BC.


Thomas Edison, The “Grandfather of Light” *Image credit: Wikipedia

The Invention Of The Light Bulb

As you learned from the blog post Supplier Profile: GE Lighting, lighting changed forever in 1879 when Thomas Edison invented the carbon filament lamp. (This bright idea was his greatest contribution to the future of electric light.)

The invention of the electric light bulb was announced in the New York Herald on Dec. 31, 1879. “I have accomplished all I promised,” said Edison to a reporter. (Brilliant and modest.)

The Incandescent Light Bulb 

….Incandescent bulbs are less efficient than other types of electric lighting, and this technology is slowly being replaced.

As a seasoned electrical contractor, you know that incandescent lamps are used in a variety of applications, from commercial to residential. We also know that incandescent bulbs are much less efficient than other types of electric lighting, since they convert less than five percent of the energy they use into visible light. (The rest is converted into heat.)

The LED Light Bulb 


Nick Holonyack, Inventor of LED Light *Image Credit: Eco Imagination

….Did you know that GE Lighting also brought us the first LED light? Nick Holonyack, a consulting engineer for General Electric Company, invented the first visible LED light in 1962.

We’ve all heard of LED lighting (unless you’ve been living under a rock). LEDs are being used in applications as diverse as camera flashes, traffic signals, headlamps, advertising, and aviation lighting.

It’s clear that LEDs boast many advantages over incandescent options. We know that LEDs have a long life and are extremely energy efficient. (Much better than incandescent lamps, and significantly better than most fluorescent lamps.)

….LED lighting has achieved market dominance, but technology is still evolving, even as we speak. (Well, as you read this.) 

OLED Light

….An OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is an LED, but different. OLEDs are made from organic, carbon-based materials, unlike traditional LEDs.

If you didn’t already know, OLEDs are used to create digital displays in devices in computer monitors, TV screens, and portable systems like mobile phones, handheld game consoles, and PDAs. A current—and major—area of research is looking at developing white OLED devices for use in solid-state lighting applications.

That’s A Wrap 

There you have it, folks. Lighting then and now. Who knows what the future holds. Maybe in 20 years, we’ll all have highly efficient lighting installed in our brains. (That would make me brighter before my Monday-morning coffee.)

Hats Off To You!


Where’s the #futureoflighting headed? What new lighting technology do you predict? Tell us your ideas and get a free cap! For every bright idea we get (starting October 30th), we’ll give away a Graybar camo hat. Your ideas are limitless, but our hat supplies aren’t. (So one hat per person/address, while supplies last). To enter, comment below with your ideas. Follow the conversation on Twitter @GraybarESP (#futureoflighting ) or Facebook . Read full rules.


Todd Reed, National Market ManagerAbout The Author
Todd Reed, National Market Manager

Husband to a professionally-licensed architectural engineer and lighting designer, and son-in-law to an electrician, Todd knows the importance of efficiency, safety, and productivity for electrical contractors. Todd is a seasoned professional, with 5 years’ experience within a family-owned distribution business, and 10 years as a Graybar employee. As National Market Manager at Graybar, Todd’s goal is to find the best products and solutions to help contractors work more efficiently, stay safe on the job, and win more productive and profitable business.

Sources & Credits
Discover Lighting  A Brief History Of Lighting
Wikipedia Incandescent Light Bulb, LED Lamp, OLED
Eco Imagination The Father of Modern Light


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