Almanac: Neon lights


A neon-lit advertising sign.

CBS News

On January 19, 1915, French inventor Georges Claude received a U.S. patent for his "System of Illuminating by Luminescent Tubes" ... tubes filled with neon gas.

Apparently not quite appreciating what he had, Claude apologetically noted that "the color of the light emitted by neon when ignited … leaves something to be desired owing to its orange tint partaking too much of a red."

Far from being a disqualifier, neon's bright and garish glow made it the perfect medium for promoting nearly every type of business and product.

Times Square was neon's first great glittering showcase.

Our Bill Geist surveyed the scene back in 1992 with the Square's burned-out light bulb spotter Marty Katz: "As you can see, there's quite a few things I got to look at. And there's a little spot out in the blue, in the camel, the bottom of the 'C.'"

From 1992: Fixing the bright lights of Broadw... 07:56

Over time, Times Square has been challenged by the bright lights of Las Vegas, which since 1996 has been the proud home of The Neon Museum, a final resting place for many of the giant signs that lit up The Strip in days gone by.

Las Vegas neon, preserved 05:41

In this case, what happens in Vegas truly stays in Vegas!

These days, more and more of those traditional neon lights replaced by new-fangled LED lights.

Still, for neon nostalgists, nothing will ever quite replace its insistent glow, orange tint or no.

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Story produced by Charis Satchell.