Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The First Solid-State Lamp

As LED's have become progressively less expensive, the future of indoor lighting looks to be all lit up with them. But back in 1967, it was  news when the General Electric company announced its first production-model solid state lamp, the SSL-1. As this press release indicates, it wasn't intended for consumer use, but more specialized circumstances such as space ships, aircraft, and computers. These early SSL's were essentially single LED's in an electrical mount, as opposed to the much more common multiple-LED lights of today. The crystal was enclosed in a cylindrical "top hat" capsule and socketed to fit in the same slots as transistors; the anticipated price of the production model was $6.60 (the equivalent of around $45 today). As one of the team who helped invent and design this lamp, my father Dr. Ralph M. Potter was the recipient of an award from R&D magazine. It's amazing to me to think that this same technology, invented with such a modest set of possible applications, may well end up being the most common form of electrical illumination in the future. You can read the full press release here.

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