Edison Bulbs VS. LED: is vintage IN and high-tech OUT?

By John McMillan

The big box home improvement stores in my local shopping centers all have the same view upon entering those big double-wide sliding entrance doors. The beaming lighting display.

I expect it must be the moth mentality at work here; we enter the store and our eyes are suddenly drawn to those bright light fixtures, sparkling chandeliers, and lighted ceiling fans. Makes sense, I suppose, given that these big box metal buildings aren’t necessarily aesthetically pleasing. So naturally, it also makes sense that there is a seemingly limitless selection of light bulbs to choose from.  An entire row of shelves, in fact, to accompany all those fixtures.

In with the old and out with the new?

In the area where I live, the Research Triangle Park (RTP) near Raleigh, NC, LED (light emitting diode) bulbs are a VERY popular topic. RTP is the home of both the Technology Center and nearby headquarters of Cree. If you’ve been off the grid and/or have not heard of Cree, they are a market-leading innovator of LED lighting products, LED components, and semiconductor products for power and radio-frequency (RF) applications.

As you might imagine, their name pops-up around this area often as Cree LED bulbs are the lighting source for the PNC Arena (where the NHL Carolina Hurricanes play). Even if you haven’t heard of Cree, you’ve most likely seen their bulbs in action lighting up the stadium for Super bowl XLIX.

Does style trump efficiency?

The recent lighting fad that I expect most have seen popping up is centered around light bulbs. Restaurants, bars, and home decor centers are selling bulbs that are a far cry from the new high-tech, energy efficient, 27+ year lifespan LED bulb. In fact, these bulb design styles are taken from the 1879 Thomas Edison electric bulb. These popular nostalgic light bulbs known respectfully as Edison bulbs come in a variety of interesting clear shapes that expose warm ember colored filaments have been resurrected and re-designed to meet today’s safety regulations. Oh, and it seems consumers are drawn to them like the moth to the flame.

The vintage look of the Edison bulbs has taken the attention away from new economical bulbs and decorative lamp shades and draw interest to the stylish shapes and filaments of the bulbs themselves. And this trend seems to really be catching on more so than I would have expected. I was a bit surprised to see that a new Starbucks near my home, which opened just last year, has vintage style lighting fixtures that feature Edison bulbs. The clear glass bulbs expose glowing double filaments — some with inverted shapes, single loops, and double loops. I admit, I could not help but stare at them for a while.

starbucks edison2

Edison bulbs and vinyl records and CRTs! Oh my!

Style is often a BIG “little detail” for consumers. It drives purchasing decisions in nearly every area. People forgo budgets and even necessities for items that provide them with a certain look or display a name brand they are drawn to, or perceive as being “in style.” Choosing vintage over modern technologies is a bit harder for a techy person like myself. I love new gadgets. When I visit my friend that collects vinyl music albums and SWEARS that the vintage turntable sound is better than any CD or electronic recording, I disagree, as you might expect!

Are there vintage products that you prefer? Perhaps a Polaroid camera or a retro telephone. Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for reading, John.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at