I took a trip to London’s fashionable West End yesterday lunchtime, and one thing struck me above all else. Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are all around us.

LEDs are the light behind our mobile screens. LEDs increasingly provide light in interior spaces. They sit in the lamp clusters on cars. They illuminate television sets. They provide advertising messages and brands all around us (gone are the days of Neon on Piccadilly Circus). I saw one store on Regent Street where the entire ceiling was a big array of the things. And then, come the Christmas bonanza, they are strung from street lights, trees, buildings… whereever they can be found.

It’s a startling development. In recent memory we’d look at a blue LED on the front of some gadget and think it pretty cool. Yet now they have become so ubiquitous they have become almost invisible – which is the sign of a technology that has truly achieved mass adoption.

In years to come, along with the wheel, the printing press, the electric motor and the microprocessor (and a few others beside) I reckon that technology historians will regard the LED as a crucial point in technological invention. In the meantime, we just look at the twinkling lights…


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