Sometimes there is a conspiracy.

Go back ninety years when electricity was no longer unusual in people’s homes and the light bulb was king. With light bulb manufacturers  competing with one another, prices for light bulbs were coming down and improvements were allowing the bulbs to last longer and longer. This was great for consumers, not so great for the light bulb manufacturers.

And so the leading manufacturers of light bulbs formed a cartel to agree upon the longevity and pricing of light bulbs. Known as the Phoebus cartel, they agreed not compete with one another and effectively divided the world up into markets that each of them could dominate. With no competition they could safely begin to raise the prices of their bulbs.

They also agreed that bulb longevity should not exceed a 1000 hours (up to that point bulbs were often lasting 2000 hours and longer). This was perhaps the beginning of what came to be known as “planned obsolescence” — insuring that a product will require replacing so that manufacturers can continue to sell that product to consumers.


And, related to bulb longevity, here is a curiosity: a light bulb  in a fire house has been on, continuously, since it was installed over 100 years ago! It shines still. Follow the link and you can see a live web cam trained on the bulb:


More about the Phoebus cartel: