Shine On, You Crazy Lightbulbs

The other day I found myself at a loss in the light bulb aisle of my hardware store. I might as well have been shopping for a carburetor. There were too many options with too many symbols and verbiage that I couldn’t decipher (LED, CFL, halogen, lumens, Kelvin, CRI), not to mention all of the various brands (GE, Philips, Cree, EcoSmart — each with its own packaging lingo). Since when do you need an electrical engineering degree to buy a light bulb?

This fluorescent energy saving light bulb (CFL) is illuminated by electrical wires inserted in the back of the bulb base. It is in a garden with primarily green plants. (Richard Goerg/Getty Images)

This fluorescent energy saving light bulb (CFL) is illuminated by electrical wires inserted in the back of the bulb base. It is in a garden with primarily green plants. (Richard Goerg/Getty Images)

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How Cree Perfected The 20-Year Lightbulb

This North Carolina maker of light emitting diodes aims to kill off the incandescent lightbulb. It’s already doubled its market cap to $7 billion in just one year.

Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda, May 2013. Credit Michael J. Bowles for Forbes

Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda, May 2013.
Credit Michael J. Bowles for Forbes

In the ad for Cree lightbulbs you see snow whipping across a desolate field as a bagpipe creaks out “Amazing Grace.” An announcer holds up a lightbulb and speaks into the camera. “Mr. Edison, today we lay to rest your creation, the incandescent lightbulb. I know you’re not shocked, sir. You knew that it needed an unreasonable amount of energy to do its job and that it had the life span of a lucky bug.”

He fits the bulb into a tiny wooden casket and places it into a hole in the ground. Then we see Cree’s new LED bulb. “The biggest thing since the lightbulb,” we’re told. Continue reading