The demise of the neon sign

Hong Kong – Singapore, 18th June 2014

Today I flew back from Yangshuo to Singapore via Hong Kong and on the way I read an interesting article about Hong Kong and more specifically about the slowly disappearing neon signs. You still see them a lot when you walk down town Hong Kong in say Henessy Road or in Kowloon around the Nathan road area. But it is just a simple fact that LED signs and mostly LED screens are slowly taking over the night scape of the city. Neon or cold cathode lighting is one of those old crafty lighting technologies where glass tubes are bend into letters and shapes and then through their (coloured)fluorescent coating get illuminated when a current is driven through it (just a quick explanation for the new generation that may read this and only knows about LED lighting :) ).

While the origin of its use may have predominantly been in signage and advertisement billboards, it also had found its way into the architectural lighting applications. I used it frequently as a solution in cove lighting for instance (great uniformity) and still many of my projects today work on this cold cathode technology. But I guess it is just a matter of time before they will be replaced by LED linear lights when the time for renovation comes…perhaps even earlier. But it had a good lifespan, more than 10,000 hours, which compared to the 5000 hours fluorescent tubes were going for was certainly good value…provided you had the good quality, as with LED today there were heaps of cheap, mostly China made options available. While good quality cold cathode sold at around $75 to $150/meter depending performance requirements, you could also easily get $20 to $50/ meter types. But like with LED’s today, there was of course a reason why they were cheap… :)

So are we seeing the demise of the neon signs? I think so, it is hard to stop the LE onslaught and the investments made into developing LEDs today goes at the cost of developments in other technologies and by the looks of it cold cathode lighting has also become a casualty of the LED tsunami…perhaps it will survive as an art form, but for now enjoy the neon signs while you still can…

Light watch 5-103: Hong Kong’s famous neon signs…

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Hong Kong, China 1985

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18. June 2014 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: city beautification, light and art, light watch, lighting and culture, lighting and sustainability, lighting applications | Leave a comment

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