A Toast to the First Wave

September 23, 2014

Today I’d like you to join me in raising a glass to the oft-forgotten minor heroes of any technological revolution: the early adopters.

It is by the grace of their voracious desire for newness at any cost that we second-and third-wave adopters are able to enjoy new consumer products at reasonable prices. Early adopters are like the first chaps out of the trench and through the minefield, clearing a path for the rest of us with each misstep. Here’s to their memory.

After all, I can only type this blog post on a cheap, lightweight, highly featured notebook because 25 years ago early-adopters simply had to get  one of those new-fangled laptops, the ones with the postage-stamp-size LCD screens, which would inevitably fry your lap if it didn’t crush it first. First adopters are the ones with sheds full of $400 MP3 players the size of bricks that can hold ten songs; Betamax and Laserdisc players with non-existent libraries; espresso machines that require a generator to power and a knack for alchemy to operate.

More pertinently to today’s topic (and to the Vintage LED website), it is thanks to their early championing of LED lighting back in the misty depths of the late 2000s that the rest of us can now install LED bulbs that are dramatically better and dramatically cheaper than the early models.

As with all new technologies released onto the consumer market, great initial strides are made, leading to stunning improvements in both quality and cost. Early adopters doubtless get a certain satisfaction from their position in the advance guard – the first guy through the minefield gets the glory – but it is generally the second and third wave of adopters who reap the greatest benefits. LED lighting has now reached that point.

Five years ago LED bulbs were qualitatively inferior to most incandescent (and even fluorescent) bulbs, boasting a notoriously ‘dirty’ and directional light, and available in a disappointing range of shapes, sizes, and colours. Per unit they were also vastly more expensive, with bulbs often costing as much as $100 each. In their favour, even at that ‘early’ stage they were much cheaper to run, lasted much, much longer, and were far kinder to the environment.

Early adopters had to think very long term, however. At those prices it took many years before one’s initial investment in LED bulbs began to make financial sense, and in the meantime they had to watch us Johnny-come-latelys stroll  along and pick up far superior LED products for far less, reaping financial benefits far sooner.

Nowadays LED bulbs are widely available, and in some countries are fast becoming ubiquitous, thanks to legislation phasing out incandescent bulbs. LEDs now come in a vast range of shapes, sizes and colours, and they’re far, far cheaper.  And they retain all of their erstwhile benefits of longevity and economy.

Switching to an LED will see most users generate a return on investment within a year or two (less if you’re into fancy antique Edison globes like the ones we sell!). It has gotten to the point at which switching to LED bulbs is really a no-brainer.

But while you’re making the switch, please spare a thought for those early-adopters, those brave, fey souls who blazed a trail through the minefield. There will always be early-adopters, but, then again, someone was always first to ‘go over the top’. So, a toast to the first wave.