Modular fluorescent lamp

In the wake of soaring energy prices in the 1970s, several manufacturers quickly introduced new lamp designs to meet a demand for efficient lighting devices. General Electric mounted a circular fluorescent tube on an adapter that housed a starter and ballast, and that could screw into an ordinary fixture. Called the Circlite, this hybrid product was introduced to the public in 1976.
Since circular fluorescent tubes were already a mature product (originally developed in 1943), GE could take advantage of existing research data and production lines for the Circlite. Also, retailers and consumers were familiar with circular lamps, which eased resistance to the introduction of the new unit. The modular design allowed users to replace the tube when it failed, without having to replace the more expensive ballast package. Ultimately, GE and other manufacturers produced several versions of the lamp and refined the product. A light-weight electronic ballast replaced the heavier, less-efficient magnetic ballast used in this 1978 model, for example. As of today Circlites remain in production.
Lamp characteristics: A modular fluorescent lamp with three components: ballast, mounting frame, and lamp. Ballast: aluminum medium-screw base with brass contact and a glass insulator. A plastic skirt houses a magnetic ballast and a receptacle for a circular fluorescent lamp frame. Mounting frame: a three-arm plastic frame (made in two halves) with a sliding switch to release the ballast. The ballast mounts at center of mounting frame. Lamp: circular fluorescent tube with soft white colored phosphor.
Currently not on view
Object Name
discharge lamp
fluorescent lamp
date made
ca. 1978
Date made
ca 1978
General Electric
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
glass (overall material)
metal (overall material)
mercury (overall material)
overall: 5 in x 10 in; 12.7 cm x 25.4 cm
Place Made
United States: Ohio, Cleveland
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Energy & Power
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from General Electric Lighting Company, thru Terry K. McGowan
Related Publication
Lighting A Revolution
Publication URL
Additional Media

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