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OM in the News: G.E.’s Long History of Innovation

June 15, 2017

A 1910 washing machine with a G.E. motor

G.E.’s rare change in leadership this week (from Jeff Immelt to John Flannery) brings to mind my own years of working at that firm’s jet engine division in Cincinnati many years ago. Long a leader  in new product development and innovation (Chapter 5), The New York Times (June 13, 2017) provides just a few of the company’s notable products and periods:

1879 Incandescent Electric Lamp. Working at his laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J., cofounder Thomas Edison created an incandescent light bulb that burned for more than 40 hours. Sixty years later, G.E. created new fluorescent lamps. In 2010, the company released LED bulbs that required 77% less energy and would last for 22 years.

1882 The Age of Electric Power. The nation’s first commercial power station generated electricity for 59 customers in Manhattan. To win over skeptics, the electricity was free for the first 3 months.

1893 Electric Locomotive. The company developed a 30-ton electric locomotive that could reach 30 miles per hour without the use of steam power.

1896 X-Ray machine. A year after X-rays were first discovered, the firm created an X-ray tube.

1906 Voice Radio Broadcast. A high-frequency alternator made possible the first voice radio broadcast. Before that time, radio had been operated as a series of dots and dashes transmitted by telegraph. 

1912 Vacuum Tubes. The company came up with a glass-encased vacuum through which an electrical current could flow. G.E.’s tube could transmit up to 50,000 volts and made possible advances used in radio and X-ray.

1927 First Home Test of a TV. A man enjoyed a cigarette and a ukulele player hummed a song in the first demonstration of TV, broadcast to 3 homes in Schenectady, N.Y.

1941 Commercial Jet Engines. G.E. introduced the most popular jet engine in history, the J-47, capable of working at high altitudes and in low temperatures.

1957 Nuclear Power. The world’s first commercial nuclear power plant was the Shippingport Atomic Power Station near Pittsburgh. The $120 million plant initially supplied 60,000 kw, enough energy for 120,000 people.

1962 Laser Lights.  The laser light discovery was an invention used to communicate by light waves. Over the years, the company has used lasers in everything from processing solar panel materials to drilling holes in aircraft blades.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 15, 2017 6:35 am

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