‘The Magic One’

It was 50 years ago today when a then 33-year-old scientist at General Electric invented the first practical visible-spectrum light-emitting diode, a device that GE colleagues at the time called “the magic one” because its light, unlike infrared lasers, was visible to the human eye.

Dr. Nick Holonyak, Jr. could not have known then the door he was opening, but today LEDs are not only the foundation of a massive government-driven push to eliminate the popular (but higher energy consuming) incandescent, but also a potentially enormous market for the manufacturers of LED and driver printed circuit boards at the core of LEDs.


LEDs contain metal or graphite core bare boards, generally with lead-free solder paste. They are not easy to rework, on account of their heat-sinking core. The LED components are typically surface-mounted, although some versions have radial-leaded parts, explains Scott Mauldin of LEDnovation, an OEM of residential and industrial LED lighting.

Many PCB and EMS companies have an opportunity to play in this market today, thanks to one man’s bright idea 50 years ago. We owe Holonyak a big round of applause.

Image courtesy Scott Mauldin, LEDnovation

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (pcea.net). He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow