Beautifully engraved certificate from the General Electric Company
in 1956. This historic document was printed by the American Banknote Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of an allegorical man and woman holding a light generator. This item has the printed signatures of the company’s president, Ralph Cordiner and is over 50 years old. GE Certificates are difficult to find and are highly desirable and collectible.
Everything that we identify today as the General Electric Company -- the products, profits, dividends, services, assets, and people that make up one of the world's most powerful corporations -- has its origin in a single idea. The idea wasn't a new product per se; the products, thousands of them, would come later. Rather, it was a way of marshaling Yankee ingenuity to create a truly revolutionary concept: the industrial research laboratory.
Before 1876, only the cultivated devotees of pure science possessed laboratories, and they used them either as teaching instruments or to add to the sum of human knowledge, not to make things. The laboratory of plant physiology, established in Paris at the Museum of Natural History in 1873, was created so that plants could be studied through means of modern chemical analysis. At the same time, Louis Pasteur was exploring human disease at his Parisian lab, while the HMS Challenger, the world's foremost oceanographic vessel, left the harbor in Plymouth, England, with passengers on the most ambitious scientific exploration yet planned -- to map the depths of the seas and to report on the flora and fauna encountered.
Thomas Edison, just twenty-nine years old and already a prolific inventor with more than one hundred patents, brought a new approach to the endeavor of scientific research. The lab he founded in 1876, a modest woodframe structure in the quiet countryside of Menlo Park, New Jersey, would be the world's first to unite practical engineering with theoretical science. Edison was obsessed with inventing not just devices but whole systems, and it was in the lab that he began inquiries into the phenomenon he called "the electric light problem." Two years later he founded the Edison Electric Light Company to support his incandescent light research with a staff of "twenty earnest men," as he called his Menlo Park colleagues, among whom were several distinguished mathematicians, physicists, and university-trained engineers, as well as clockmakers and machinists. Their goal was simply to make things in the facility that Edison called his little "invention factory." "We've got to keep coming up with something useful," he told his associates. "We can't be like those old German professors who spend their whole lives studying the fuzz on a bee."
Edison never showed much interest in profit -- he railed against wealth and declared that "interest is an invention of Satan," while repeatedly losing whole fortunes -- yet the Edison laboratory held true to its mission. It was prodigious in its inventive creativity: At Menlo Park the first cries of the infant phonograph were heard, the brilliant light of the Edison lamp shone forth, America's first full-scale electric locomotive rumbled over a small track outside, and the mysterious vacuum tube also appeared, hinting at the future of electronics and radio. "There is no similar institution in existence to this one," Edison wrote. "We do our own castings, forgings, and can build anything from a lady's watch to a locomotive.... Inventions that formerly took months and cost large sums can now be done [in] two or three days with very small expense, as I carry a stock of almost every conceivable material."
Asked on his eightieth birthday what he considered his greatest invention, Edison replied, "The research laboratory." Inventions were merely the byproduct of the invention factory, which brought forth a new way of focusing the talents and energies of his team. Edison had "made a business out of invention itself," German economist Werner Sombart later wrote. Among the people who recognized their indebtedness to Edison and his revolutionary idea of industrial research was Henry Ford, who attributed much of his success in the mass production of automobiles to his friend and camping buddy, and built an exact replica of the invention factory at his Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. When the museum was dedicated in 1929, on the fiftieth anniversary of the electric light breakthrough, Edison reenacted his triumphant moment as hundreds of dignitaries, including Ford, Orville Wright, Madame Curie, Will Rogers, Harvey Firestone, and President Herbert Hoover, looked on. When Edison -- the most important person of the millennium, according to one 1997 ranking by the editors of Life magazine -- died in 1931, Americans dimmed their lights on the night after his funeral.
Since that time a deluge of technological invention has transformed the world we live in, activity that derives its essential form and character from the invention factory Edison pioneered in 1876. Menlo Park was the birthplace of modern American technology, the beginning of science and industry working side by side in the pursuit of innovation, and the ushering in of a new era of American commercial supremacy. It also signaled the birth of the General Electric Company, and of the spirit of creative innovation that would propel its growth in the next century.
The electrification of America was soon in full swing. Edison's discovery of incandescent light was the seminal event representing the end of one era and the beginning of another -- the steam age was dead, and the electrical age had begun. But what set Edison apart from his inventive peers of that era was that he was not content merely to invent the lightbulb; he created an entire electrical infrastructure, manufacturing and installing everything that was required to deliver electrical light. The new age took a giant step forward on September 4, 1882, when, at 3:00 in the afternoon, Edison and his team of engineers lighted up four city blocks on the southern tip of Manhattan, including the offices of his financial backer J. P. Morgan and the New York Times, with electricity generated by the first American power station, on Pearl Street, using huge coal-fired generators known as dynamos to generate the current that illuminated the light bulbs. The early Edison Electric Light Company was consolidated with other Edison interests in 1889 to form the Edison General Electric Company. Three years later, Charles Coffin, president of the Thomson-Houston Company of Lynn, Massachusetts, and a rival of Edison's, merged his company with Edison General Electric to form GE, breaking a stalemate in patent disputes between the two. The new company was the leader in nearly everything electric, a manufacturer of fans, dynamos, lightbulbs, trolley cars and locomotives, motors, and heaters.
By 1893, the new General Electric Company proudly proclaimed that its lamps extended "in an unbroken line around the earth; they shine in the palace of the Mikado as well as in the Opera House of Paris." Talk of electricity was everywhere. H. L. Mencken later nicknamed the 1890s "the Electric Decade" while Andrew Carnegie declared electricity "the most spiritual, most ethereal of all departments in which man has produced great triumphs." In 1899, an advertisement in the Times proclaimed:
ELECTRICITY lights our city.
ELECTRICITY runs our street cars.
ELECTRICITY causes wagons without horses to go.
ELECTRICITY permits us to talk great distances.
ELECTRICITY will do our cooking and heating.
ELECTRICITY will soon do everything.
In the early years of the new century, a few large industrial concerns, among them GE, the Bell System, and Eastman Kodak, established laboratories of their own. The scope of their activities broadened beyond those of Edison's inaugural lab to include basic scientific research as an adjunct to practical inventive work. In 1922, Edison, by that time an American icon, visited, after an absence of twenty-five years, General Electric's huge plant and industrial research laboratory in Schenectady, New York. The factories that had grown up out of the old Edison Machine Works he had established there in 1886 encompassed most of the downtown area and employed eighteen thousand workers who, at the order of President Gerald Swope, assembled to welcome and cheer Edison. A bronze plaque was unveiled in his honor at the door of the laboratory he had initiated, the successor to Menlo Park. Staffed with hundreds of technicians, among them the nation's leading scientists and engineers working in fields of technology that Edison had only dimly imagined, the lab turned out inventions in such a torrent of creativity it had been dubbed "the House of Magic." Edison beheld devices that even he could scarcely have imagined: a lightning machine that discharged 120,000 volts of electricity in a single bolt, lamps thousands of times more powerful than the incandescent bulb he had invented, vacuum tubes for long-distance radio transmission, and photoelectric mechanisms that reproduced sound on tape for motion pictures and phonographs.
In the intervening quarter century the men who had succeeded Edison had worn the inventive mantle well. The most significant of them was Charles Proteus Steinmetz, who joined the company in its second year. He was a German emigre, a dwarfed hunchback with a salt-and-pepper beard and a domed forehead, a cigar-chomping mathematics-professor-in-residence, a patent-winning engineer, a textbook author, and a peripatetic luminary on topics ranging from the behavior of alternating current to management theory. In 1900, Steinmetz proposed that GE should respond to Westinghouse's advances in electric lighting by setting up a research lab to pursue work in the field. In December of that year, the company hired Willis Whitney to be the first director of the research lab, which was then a barn in back of Steinmetz's house. The barn burned down the following spring, and the lab was relocated to a small building with the GE facilities. Soon thereafter Whitney, who would guide the lab's efforts for thirty-two years, and Steinmetz began attracting some of the brightest scientific minds of this or any other century. There was Ernst Alexanderson, the Swedish emigre whose high-frequency alternator made the first, historic radio broadcast possible; William Coolidge, who perfected the modern X-ray tube and whose discovery of how to make tungsten ductile revolutionized many products, including the Edison lamp; and Irving Langmuir, who greatly enhanced the efficiency of lightbulbs by putting gas in them, and whose work measuring the sizes and shapes of atoms and molecules received international recognition in 1932 when he became the first industrial scientist to receive a Nobel Prize. These men were the technological giants of their time, and their bequest to GE, and to the nation, was enormous.
The General Electric breakthroughs in the first half of the twentieth century were at the leading edge of modern technology, fundamentally changing American life, and representing a rich legacy. Indeed, it is not overstatement to say that GE was the world's most significant company technologically in the first half of this century. As engineer John Broderick wrote in his 1929 memoir Forty Years with General Electric. "The General Electric Company is not a manufacturer in the sense in which manufacturing is commonly understood, but is that and something more. It originates the products which it supplies to the public. In addition to executives, salesmen, and manual workers, its organization is made up of scientists, research and designing engineers, and inventors -- men who contribute in one way or another to the development of apparatus and devices for the generation, distribution, control, and use of electric energy."
GE made things that stood the test of time. Anyone who has an old GE appliance that still functions after fifty years can attest to that. The inventions weren't merely durable; they also endured because they were unique. Seven of the nine manufacturing businesses in which GE remains had their genesis in products created by Edison, Steinmetz, Alexanderson, Coolidge, Langmuir, and other contemporaries: the electric light (1879), the electric meter (1882), the electric motor (1887), the steam turbine (1901), the X-ray machine (1913), the diesel-electric locomotive (1924), and the refrigerator (1925). The two other businesses, plastics and aircraft engines, also reflect breakthrough technology, though of 1950s origin. Engineering, research, and manufacturing were the elements that defined GE and made it a significant force in American life. The list of achievements and inventions seems improbable by today's standards. GE research gave us products as diverse as the first motion picture with talking sound, the first jet engine, the first synthetic diamond -- and the first children's Silly Putty. GE products were fixtures in nearly every sphere of American life: in the home, in the factory, in space, aboard trains, planes, and ships, in communications, in sports arenas, even in the Panama Canal. The GE system that runs the canal, including more than one thousand electric motors and countless relays, switches, and control devices, has operated continuously since the canal opened in 1914.
No decade better exemplified the old General Electric than the 1950s. A 1955 article in Fortune magazine summed up the company's scope in manufacturing this way: "One measure of GE's vast diversification is the fact that the company is presently engaged in manufacturing in twelve of the twenty-one major industries. Looked at this way, a share in General Electric might be called a share in an investment trust engaged in manufacturing." In 1956, Reader's Digest described "that factory of the future you've been reading about." The factory was Appliance Park, which when it opened four years earlier had represented an investment of $156 million, a white-goods colossus spread out over ninety-three acres of buildings in Louisville, Kentucky. In one day, more than 3,000 job applicants lined up in response to a GE announcement of additional hiring at the park.
Appliance Park was the vision of Ralph Cordiner, the then CEO, who hired Ronald Reagan. The future president was just what Cordiner wanted: Tall, handsome, and well spoken, he would project a presence that the public would soon come to associate with the GE way of life. The company furnished the Reagans' "all-electric home," which was featured in GE advertisements of that time: "Ronald and Nancy Reagan, circa 1954, relax in the living room of their GE all-electric home," proclaimed one ad, with Nancy gazing upon Ron while he sat and read. The home had gadgets not yet on the market, including a dishwasher with built-in garbage disposal. Reagan became America's most conspicuous consumer, fulfilling Cordiner's vision of a pitchman who would literally create demand. The future president also spent two of the eight years he was under contract to GE on the road, visiting each of the company's more than 130 manufacturing facilities in the United States and addressing all of its 250,000 employees. Reagan of course was best known as the host of GE Theater, the weekly Sunday night television drama that ran on CBS from 1954 to 1962. "In engineering, in research, in manufacturing skill, in the values that bring a better, more satisfying life," each segment began with a crescendo, "at General Electric, progress is our most important product."
It is impossible to tour the Hall of Electrical History in Schenectady -- its name is simply the Hall of Electrical History, with no reference to GE -- and not see truth in those words. The evidence is literally right before you, in the artifacts, photographs, and papers that the Hall preserves, a treasure trove of GE memorabilia that provides insight into the products that made GE great and the men who made them.
One of the most significant inventions that GE contributed to twentieth-century society was radio, which, contrary to popular misconception, wasn't invented by Guglielmo Marconi. Marconi's invention, "wireless telegraphy," was a means of sending Morse code through the air, and though it was an unqualified breakthrough, the next step of transmitting the human voice without wires wouldn't have been accomplished without the ingenuity of Steinmetz and his brilliant associates. GE's involvement with radio began in 1901, when Reginald Fessenden, a thirty-three-year-old university professor in Pittsburgh and former chief chemist to Edison, wrote Steinmetz a letter. Fessenden, an early radio pioneer and student of Marconi's wireless telegraph, asked Steinmetz to assist in the creation of a device that would generate electromagnetic waves strong enough to broadcast voices and music over long distances. The machine Fessenden envisioned would have to spin at tremendous velocity, a machine capable of spitting out one hundred thousand wave cycles per second. He had tried himself to build the elusive generator but had failed; it was an engineering feat that everyone Fessenden consulted said was impossible.
A generator capable of producing 100,000 cycles per second would have to operate at a speed of twenty thousand revolutions per minute. Steinmetz, whom the American writer John Dos Passos later called the most valuable apparatus General Electric had, accepted the challenge. A man of immense creativity and brainpower, Steinmetz had already formulated the law of hysteresis, a formula that put the properties of alternating current into mathematical form, and made electrification of the nation practical. Yet not even Steinmetz could produce the generator Fessenden wanted. Its speed was limited to four thousand revolutions per minute -- beyond that the armature began to fly apart -- and the waves of ten thousand cycles per second it generated were incapable of carrying sounds properly. Steinmetz gave up. But in 1904 Fessenden renewed his request, and Steinmetz gave the task to Ernst Alexanderson, a recently hired immigrant from Sweden. "The alternator was one of the inventions I had to make in order to hold my job," he later quipped. Within two years, Alexanderson's new alternator had arrived at Fessenden's radio station at Brant Rock, Massachusetts. The tapered disc that generated the waves rotated on a stationary armature at an incredible speed of seven hundred miles an hour at its periphery, yet because of its ingenious design wobbled no more than three one-hundredths of an inch. By Christmas Eve 1906, a few telegraph operators on ships in the North Atlantic heard not the usual dots and dashes but Fessenden reading from St. Luke's Gospel. As an encore, he played "O Holy Night" on his violin -- music that reached listeners as far away as Norfolk, Virginia. Soon, amateur radio operators in the United States and elsewhere were using Alexanderson's invention to chat with each other, hurling the sounds of a human voice across continents and oceans. Nor was he finished inventing: On a January afternoon in 1928, he transmitted from the lab to his home in Schenectady a video image three inches square. The image -- of a man removing his glasses, putting them back on, and blowing a smoke ring -- wasn't much to look at, but it marked the beginning of a device that would become even more powerful and influential than radio. It was the world's first television broadcast, and within four months of Alexanderson's demonstration, GE was broadcasting images three times a week.
The Alexanderson alternator was the most powerful generator of radio waves then known, and hence had tremendous commercial significance. In 1915, Marconi, whose American Marconi Company had already purchased one alternator for broadcasting purposes, agreed to pay $4 million for several more after touring the Schenectady General Electric plant. GE was about to install a huge two-hundred-kilowatt machine when the United States entered the First World War. Completed in 1918, the two-hundred-kilowatt alternator broadcast news of the armistice across the Atlantic, but the war had convinced many people in government that radio was more than merely a communications tool; it was a vital national interest. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then assistant naval secretary, did not want control of this equipment to pass into foreign hands. Bowing to pressure from Roosevelt and others in government, GE subsequently refused to sell American Marconi any additional alternators. It was a devastating blow in that Marconi was convinced that the Alexanderson alternator was the only means by which he could span the globe with wireless communications, an opinion seconded by David Sarnoff, a young Russian emigre and technical genius who had been asked by Marconi, his boss, to evaluate the machine.
The leaders of American Marconi subsequently accepted GE's proposal to combine their interests in a new American company, Radio Corporation of America, which when founded in 1919 was immediately a powerhouse in radio and, eventually, in television. Ironically, thirteen years later, in November 1932, government trustbusters declared the radio monopoly anticompetitive, and forced GE to give up its ownership of RCA just three days after FDR swept to victory and four days before the case was set for trial. History would again reverse itself in 1986, when less aggressive enforcement of antitrust law, this time under the administration of former GE pitchman Ronald Reagan, would allow GE to reacquire RCA.
A discussion of GE's technological achievements wouldn't be complete without some mention of the lightbulb, of which there are dozens, of varied vintage, on display in the Hall of Electrical History. In solving the "electric light problem," Edison, who had only a grade-school education, and his chief assistant, Charles Bachelor, had methodically tested dozens of carbonized materials, including cedar, coconut hair, and fishing line, before hitting upon the one that worked -- cotton sewing thread. But the carbon in Edison-type lightbulbs evaporated readily. These bulbs also wasted electricity, making them costly to use, because they radiated much of their energy as heat rather than as visible light. At the turn of the century, there was considerable interest in other forms of electric lighting that might rely on new physical principles or employ new filament materials. Tungsten, an intractable, brittle metal, offered great promise; hard to work with, costly to fabricate, it nonetheless had unique physical properties, among them a very high melting point, which made it the ideal metal as a substitute for metallized carbon filament. In 1905, Willis Whitney, director of the GE Research Laboratory and a onetime chemistry professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hired William Coolidge, a former MIT colleague, who immediately took up the task that had confounded Whitney -- the taming of tungsten.
Each day, as the buoyant Whitney greeted researchers at the lab with his characteristic "Having good fun today?," Coolidge toiled to find a way that would render tungsten pliable. After two years of heating, hammering, squeezing, rolling, and pressing the metal, Coolidge finally found that by drawing tungsten through hot diamond dies, it could be fabricated into wire thinner than a human hair yet stronger than any other substance known to man. The conquest of tungsten was a breakthrough as significant as Edison's own discovery, for it represented a giant leap forward in incandescent lamp technology. Introduced in 1911, Coolidge's lamp had a rugged tungsten filament that could withstand the vibrations of automobiles, railroad cars, and trolleys. It also yielded seven times more light per watt than Edison's first carbon lamps, while consuming just a fraction of the energy. The Coolidge process, which GE still uses today with only slight modifications, saved the nation $200 million in 1914 alone.
The next big breakthrough came just two years later. Irving Langmuir, the chemist who would go on to win the Nobel Prize, was curious as to why the bulbs of incandescent lamps blackened, dimming severely after only a few hundred hours of use. Following extensive inquiries into the gases inside the lamp, Langmuir found that a new coiled-helix filament sealed inside a globe of inert gas -- first nitrogen, and later argon -- would greatly enhance its efficiency and reduce bulb-blackening. He had arrived at the electric lightbulb in the form we use today. Protected by patents, it regained for GE the unassailable position that the company had previously held with its Edison-type bulbs. Langmuir's curiosity had a dual benefit as well: As part of his inquiry into gases inside the bulb, he had invented an exhaust pump that produced a higher vacuum than ever before achieved. Langmuir's mercury condensation pump left only one molecule of air in ten billion, a quantum leap from the one in a hundred thousand that was previously thought to be a vacuum. The breakthrough allowed Langmuir to patent a new type of vacuum tube, one that would succeed the Alexanderson alternator in the next generation of radio transmission technology. Langmuir's achievement would also aid Coolidge in his next breakthrough -- the modern X-ray tube. Introduced in 1913, the "Coolidge tube," as it was known, combined his knowledge of tungsten with Langmuir's vacuum achievements to create a device that has been the basis for all X-ray tubes manufactured since.
The number and quality of products that GE scientists and engineers invented and manufactured in the first half of this century leave one awestruck, as does the ideology that guided the creators' endeavors. It was a unique time in American history, a time when technologists everywhere were imbued with a sense of "civic religion." They believed that their inventions were advancing the "American way of life" and that they were building a better tomorrow. In the thirties, American engineers built the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building. Engineers were heroes, and the confidence of that age in technology was perhaps best represented in the 1939 New York World's Fair. Regular commercial television broadcasts began in New York on April 30, 1939, the fair's opening day.
At the General Electric pavilion -- one of the most popular sites at the fair, situated on the Plaza of Light just beyond the fair's theme structure, the towering, blazing-white Trylon and the squat Perisphere -- visitors gaped at lightning bolt demonstrations in Steinmetz Hall (which did not disrupt the FM broadcast signal they were also demonstrating). New gadgets were on display in the Hall of Electrical Living, such as an automatic electric dishwasher and a TV picture tube.
The ideology of that era is captured in a GE advertisement from 1939 that extols the virtues of electricity and the industrial progress it had wrought:
Fifty years ago, there were only 4,000,000 factory jobs in this country -- today there are twice as many. Because industry devised machines to make products at low cost, more millions of people could buy them.
General Electric scientists and engineers, by applying electricity to the machines of industry, have been responsible for much of this progress. Their efforts today are creating not only MORE GOODS FOR MORE PEOPLE AT LESS COST, but also MORE AND BETTER JOBS AT HIGHER WAGES.
1878 Edison Electric Light Company, GE's earliest predecessor, founded on October 15th.
1879 Started lighting business with Thomas Edison's invention of world's first practical incandescent lamp.
1882 Started power generation business with construction of America's first central power station.
1883 Thomson-Houston Company incorporated.
1889 Edison Electric Light Company changed to Edison General Electric Company.
1892 General Electric Company formed by merger of Edison Electric Light Company and Thomson-Houston Company on April 15.
1900 GE established nation's first industrial research laboratory in Schenectady, N.Y.
1903 Expanded power generation business by developing first steam turbine-generator big enough to power cities.
Expanded power transmission business by acquiring Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company.
1910 Developed ductile tungsten for light bulb filaments, still used in virtually every incandescent lamp.
1913 Developed first practical X-ray tube, laying foundation for future medical systems business.
Introduced gas-filled incandescent lamp.
1915 Furthered electrification of America's railroads by delivering 42 electric locomotives to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad . 1918 Made major thrust into consumer products by forming Edison Electric Appliance Company.
1919 Created the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) to develop radio technology at the request of the U.S. government.
Formed International General Electric Company.
1922 Entered radio broadcasting with WGY in Schenectady, which broadcast the first U.S. radio drama: "The Wolf."
1927 Introduced "Monitor Top" refrigerator.
1928 Began broadcasting television programs, including first play ever to be shown on TV: "The Queen's Messenger."
1929 Formed General Electric Supply Company to act as distributor of electrical product
1932 Established General Electric Credit Corporation to finance consumer purchases of GE appliances, later expanding GE Credit into broad-based financial services unrelated to GE products.
Divested interest in RCA due to antitrust considerations.
1940 Started silicones business by inventing new silicone chemistry. Expanded broadcasting business by relaying TV broadcasts from New York City and starting FM radio broadcasts.
1941 Started radar business with outbreak of World War II.
1942 Entered military engine business by developing engines for nation's first jet- propelled aircraft.
1946 Began study of nuclear power generation.
1949 Introduced MS3001 gas turbine, giving utilities and other customers an easily installed, flexible power generating source.
1953 Started modern plastics business by inventing Lexan® polycarbonate resin.
1954 Expanded factory automation business by inventing industrial application of numerical control for machine tools.
1955 Expanded materials business by inventing industrial-grade (Man-Made™) diamonds.
Expanded aerospace business by developing Mark 2 re-entry systems.
1956 Entered commercial aircraft engine business by introducing commercial derivatives of the J79 military engine.
Developed Lucalox® and Multi-Vapor® lamps for use in lighting cities, streets, factories, parks and stadiums.
1957 Opened world's first licensed nuclear power plant. Entered mainframe computer business.
1960 Expanded GE Credit from consumer financing into commercial and industrial leasing and lending.
Launched TIROS 1 weather satellite.
1965 Started information services business with commercial introduction of computer timesharing concept.
Pioneered quantum leap in aircraft engine technology with introduction of high bypass jet engine.
1969 Supplied Lexan® resin for space helmets worn by Apollo 11 astronauts during Walk on Moon.
1970 Sold mainframe computer business to Honeywell.
1974 Continued expanding commercial aircraft engine operations by forming CFM International with SNECMA of France.
Moved corporate headquarters from New York City to Fairfield, Connecticut.
1976 Entered natural resources business by acquiring Utah International, with interests in coal, copper, iron, uranium and natural gas.
1977 Expanded into computerized medical diagnostic systems by introducing high resolution CT scanners.
1981 Acquired semiconductor manufacturer Intersil and CAD equipment developer Calma.
1983 Expanded medical systems business by introducing Signa® magnetic resonance systems.
Sold most broadcasting operations.
Refocused nuclear energy business on fuels and services.
1984 Acquired Employers Reinsurance Corporation, expanding the scope of GE Financial Services (formerly GE Credit) into the reinsurance business.
Sold the Utah International mining operations, the small appliance business and cablevision operations.
1985 Replaced sector structure with direct-report organization, putting more control in hands of key business leaders.
1986 Acquired RCA and its National Broadcasting Company subsidiary, expanding GE's operations in aerospace, consumer electronics, semiconductors and broadcasting
Entered investment banking by acquiring Kidder, Peabody.
Relighted Statue of Liberty to commemorate statue's 100th anniversary.
1987 Traded consumer electronics business to Thomson S.A. of France for CGR, Thomson's medical equipment business.
Formed factory automation joint venture with Fanuc of Japan.
1988 Acquired Borg-Warner's chemicals business.
Expanded major appliances business by acquiring Roper Corporation.
Acquired Montgomery Ward Credit Corporation.
Sold semiconductor business to Harris Corp.
1989 Signed joint venture agreements with GEC of the United Kingdom in medical systems, appliances, power generation and electrical equipment businesses.
Launched CNBC, the business cable TV network.
Formed mobile communications joint venture with Ericsson of Sweden.
1990 Expanded lighting business by acquiring a majority interest in Tungsram of Hungary, a major manufacturer of lighting products.
Expanded assets and financial services of GE Financial Services through acquisitions in credit card operations, mortgage services, container leasing, equipment financing and fleet leasing.
Formed appliances joint venture with MABE of Mexico.
Disposed of Ladd Petroleum, an oil and gas developer and supplier.
Launched Work-Out program, helping create boundaryless organization.
1991 Acquired light bulb manufacturing business in United Kingdom from Thorn EMI.
Acquired aircraft engine service facility in Wales from British Airways.
NBC acquired Financial News Network (FNN) and sold its interest in the RCA Columbia Home Video joint venture.
GE Financial Services acquired various leasing, auto loan and consumer credit card operations, and disposed of most of its auto auction business.
1992 Signed joint venture agreements in lighting with Hitachi of Japan and with Apar of India.
Acquired two electrical distribution and control businesses in Spain. 1993 Completed transfer of aerospace businesses to Martin Marietta.
GE Capital Services (formerly GE Financial Services) acquired two annuity businesses (GNA and United Pacific Life), a mortgage servicing company (Shearson Mortgage), a European trailer leasing network (TIP-Europe) and leased aircraft (Guinness Peat Aviation).
Expanded power systems business by acquiring majority stake in Nuovo Pignone, an Italian electrical equipment manufacturer.
Agreed to form GE Jiabao lighting joint venture in China.
Acquired Super Channel, a pan-European satellite broadcasting service.
1994 Sold most of Kidder, Peabody operations.
Developed new AC locomotives.
Introduced Genura™ electrodeless lamp.
GE Capital acquired Harcourt General Insurance Companies, Minebea Credit of Japan and GTE Spacenet.
Acquired Focos lighting business in Mexico and expanded lighting operations in China, Indonesia, Germany and Italy.
1995 GE90 engine certified for Boeing 777 twinjet.
Launched Six Sigma quality initiative.
Acquired AEG low voltage business in Germany and Multilin relay business in Canada.
1996 Celebrated 100 years on Dow Jones Index, the only company remaining from the original Dow list.
NBC and Microsoft launched MSNBC.
GE Capital grew its information technology business by acquiring AmeriData in the United States and CompuNet in Germany and broadened its role in consumer savings and assurance by acquiring First Colony and Life of Virginia.
Expanded appliances business by acquiring majority stake in DAKO of Brazil.
Formed joint ventures with Harris Corp. in railway electronics and electric utility services.
Launched Trading Process Network, an Internet-based supplier network.
1997 Expanded aircraft engine services business by acquiring Greenwich Air Services and UNC.
GE Capital continued growth in Europe with acquisitions of Woodchester and Cargowaggon.
Entered residential water treatment business with SmartWater® appliances.
1998 Acquired Marquette Medical Systems and introduced new LightSpeed"! CT scanner. Expanded power systems product and service offerings by acquiring gas turbine division of Stewart & Stevenson. GE Capital expanded in Japan by creating a new life insurance company, GE Edison Life, and acquiring the Lake consumer finance business. Began Lexan® polycarbonate production at new plastics plant in Cartagena, Spain. Formed plastics joint ventures with Bayer of Germany in automotive glazing and silicones.
1999 Launched E-business as the fourth key business initiative.
Appliances introduced the Advantium speedcooking oven and the ultra-quiet Triton dishwasher.
NBC launched NBC Internet (NBCi), a publicly traded Internet company that merged the network's interactive properties with the Internet portal Snap and the online shopping and community Xoom.com.
Aircraft Engines selected by Boeing to develop the engine for its 777 fleet and won more than 50% of the world's engine orders for airline passenger jets.
Capital Services acquired Phoenixcor's commercial equipment portfolio.
Lighting announced a technology and marketing joint venture with Emcore and completed the acquisition of Spanish fixture manufacturer Hadasa.
Medical Systems introduced the Signa OpenSpeed open MRI.
NBC expanded its television business by taking a significant stake in Paxson Communications, the third largest independent television network in the United States, while NBC and GE Equity took a significant stake in ValueVision, the third largest cable television home shopping network.