Another Piece of History Fades Into Darkness

I was shocked when I saw the headline in today’s Wall Street Journal: “GE Exits Lightbulb Business It Pioneered”.

Here was the opening line from the story:

General Electric Co. is getting out of the business of making lightbulbs, selling a unit that defined the company for nearly a century and was its last direct link to consumers.

And here are a couple of other lines I found interesting:

GE had been looking to sell the business for several years. The conglomerate once made refrigerators and microwaves as well as bulbs but has exited those consumer businesses as part of a yearslong restructuring. It has shifted its focus to making heavy equipment, like power turbines, aircraft engines and hospital machines.

The unit traces its roots back to GE’s founding 130 years ago when Thomas Edison invented the first viable incandescent lamp. In 1935, the first Major League Baseball night game was played under GE lights. A GE engineer invented the LED light in 1962.

In an odd coincidence, in my class yesterday I showed a list of some major companies and who their founders were; one of the companies listed was GE along with Thomas Edison.

It’s sad to see something so iconic lose part of its identity.

But sad as it was, it didn’t stop from telling my students a joke related to this news. It’s a joke I’ve been telling for over 50 years and while I’ve always found it funny, I don’t think many other people have.

Here’s how it goes:

Ask someone to spell the word “image” and to then say the phrase “light bulb” when they are finished spelling the word.

So here’s how it should sound if the person knows how to spell and how to follow directions: “I-M-A-G-E light bulb”.

Like I said, I always get a kick out of it, for some reason most people do not.

But now I won’t be able to use that joke anymore; I don’t think “I-M-A-G-E turbine” has the same ring to it.

Plus, I really don’t know what a turbine is…

*image from GE Reports


64 thoughts on “Another Piece of History Fades Into Darkness

  1. I Em A… Oh, I get it! hahaha… well, they will always be a part of history… there are probably too much competition in that market for them to make much of an impact. I have barely seen any GE lights in the hardware stores around here, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you got the joke…

      And I’m sure it was purely a business decision; GE is just focusing on where it makes the most money, and that seems to be in the industrial markets, not consumer.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As I understand it, GE is selling the business to Savant because China makes light bulbs for 50% less. That begs the question why another company would buy the business and where will it manufacture light bulbs? If the Virginia plant is closing, our President will probably send out a disparaging tweet. Thomas Edison is rolling over in his grave again.
    Maybe GE can get into the PPE business.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you always wonder why one company sees an opportunity, and another one sees a losing venture. It looks like the jobs will stay in Cleveland; I hope they continue to use the GE brand. I feel bad for Tommy Boy, but perhaps if GE does get into PPE, that might restore some of his faith in the business…


  3. With that joke, I’m guessing you were born and raised in a cornfield.
    I bought some GE light bulbs about 10 years ago, and they all burned out quickly. After that I stopped buying GE. Now it all makes sense. I’m guessing they were already contemplating exiting the light bulb business and weren’t putting a whole lot of investment in that department anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So I guess we can sort of blame you for the demise of GE’s light bulb business since you were no longer willing to put up with a mediocre product.
      And do you know something about my birth history that I don’t? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the joke, and I am sure it was purely a business decision, with little, if any, consideration of the history of the firm and its connection with Thomas Edison…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It doesn’t seem possible that GE could no longer be in the light bulb business. That’s like saying McDonald’s is getting out of the hamburger business.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can understand this move corporately. After exhausting their patents and manufacturing prowess in light bulbs, the competition were eventually able to win market share through better pricing and quality. They are shedding their less profitable divisions to focus on large equipment where their patents and proprietary equipment hold a greater market share and are more lucrative. Still, it is sad to see the passing of an era. Great post, Jim!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. isn’t it interesting when the origins and purposes of a business lose their place over time? like all of life, things move, change, and adapt, and sometimes when we look back, we see how different things have become. i’m sure it all makes sense from a financial standpoint in this case. p.s. i love your title and i have to admit, i had to say the joke out loud twice before it got it! )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, life moves on, and in the world of business, it’s usually about the bottom line, with not much concern for the past. I have to admit I got excited when that title came to me, and I’m glad you got the joke… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They were the Two Ronnies, very big here in the 70s and 80s, probably didn’t travel well as a lot of their wordplay and references were very British. Both now no longer with us.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As you are aware, it is not a good time in the U.S. right now, and our President is once again not handling the crisis very well, and is in fact making it worse…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s a bit sad, when something iconic go.
    btw the joke was…well don’t think i understand it, but danish version is nice too: b-i-l-l-e-d-e lyspære. Same effect

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.