Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
LED Technology

A friend of mine and I make updates for flashlights; we replace the original bulbs with Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). My friend had been watching the developments in this technology with some interest and he brought it to my attention. Last year two major events changed our lives, LED technology got to the point where it made sense to replace bulbs with LEDs and we both got laid off. We started a flashlight bulb replacement company to exploit the opportunities presented by the latest lighting technology and to fill up our sudden abundance of free time.

After spending a lot of time looking at the very latest of technology, I have become much more aware of the limits of new technology. We make products that make good sense for the following reasons: our products never burn out, never break, and are much better at producing light from batteries. OK, so our products will probably only be 70% as bright if you use them continuously eight hours a day every day for the next thirty-six years. The tech advisor on some far future Antiques Road Show will probably give us a good report a century from now when the light still comes on in the twenty-second century. Although these lights make a lot of sense for a flashlight product, the technology is not yet good enough to replace the bulbs in your home. My friend and I have done the math on this again and again and regrettably we keep coming up with the same answer: it's not there yet. Fluorescent lights are still more efficient and much cheaper than LEDs of comparable brightness.

Oddly enough, our small flashlight company is alive because of this. If it were simple and obvious that LEDs were ready to replace every bulb in your house, GE, Phillips, and everybody else would have shut us out. As it stands, serious money is not likely to be returned in the near timeframe, so the giants of industry have not yet locked us out. Every once in a while we get calls from the big boys and we are simultaneously excited and terrified by their interest. We live in a relatively small niche and we keep cranking out products hoping that one of them will hit big. We've got some neat stuff and we're coming up with more all the time. Five years ago we probably would have been flooded with venture capital and would have produced all kinds of garbage. Since all of the products have been developed out of pocket with the proceeds of unemployment checks while we try to find work in a deep recession, our stuff tends to be well thought out before we have the first prototypes. Thank you Oregon Department of Employment, we are trying to do our best to reward your trust.

One more thing about the products, I am convinced that they will save somebody's life. One of our early tests surprised the heck out of us when we found that the limit on light production from a pair of AA batteries was about a month. Think about it, you're lost in the woods or spelunking in a cave and your flashlight will run for a month with the batteries in it. Military studies have shown that fear is directly contributory to fatigue and that fatigue reduces cognitive functions. In other words, the military has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that getting scared means getting stupid. If you have one less thing to fear, you have one less thing driving you into making fatal mistakes. I am putting time and energy into this company because I expect that our products are going to save somebody's life. I get up on weekends and go to shows at unpleasant hours of the morning because doing so is going to save somebody's life. (I am just like that. Drop by sometime and I'll show off my seven gallon pin from the Red Cross.)
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