Fifty years ago today, on October 9, 1962, physicist Nick Holonyak demonstrated the first "visible" LED (in other words, one that emitted non-infrared light). And that tiny invention has helped to light the world.
GE has released a publicity video featuring Holonyak, who invented lots of things in addition to the LED, including light dimmers. In this video, Holonyak recalls his early experience making the first visible-light LED, and how the red LED was such a breakthrough, such a practical and inexpensive source of light. About that invention, he says: "They still make 'em because they're so damn cheap!"
At the end, Holonyak holds one of GE's LED lightbulbs, a 27-watt bulb that's intended to replace 100-watt incandescents. He is pleased.
If you're curious about the current state of LED lightbulbs for your house, check out Marco Arment's LED lightbulb review. Also relevant is this followup, discussing his new favorite bulb (it is not a GE bulb, for the record). Arment writes:
That’s the problem with being on the cutting edge of lighting: it’s easy to waste a lot of money on bulbs that aren’t quite right, and then you find a better choice long before yours have died. Anyone who has ever tried to buy CFLs is probably familiar with this.
As a guy who sunk some serious cash into CFLs (and even more in a few strategically placed LED bulbs), I can say he's right on the money.