They were a new technology at the time, and completely strange as a concept to electrical engineers. But someone made a profit out of them.
The Price of Lighting Up the ApocalypseIn 1999, the technology was super-expensive and difficult to work with. The white LEDs of 1999 had a tendency to pop all of a sudden in the presence of static electricity.
Far too temperamental for everyday use.
But with the, er... "threat" of Y2K looming, some forward-planning souls placed bulk orders with an enterprising independent retailer - one 'prepper' bought more than 1,800 of them at the high, high price of $1.60 per item (£0.61 in December 1999)!
That was only for the diode itself, too - the seller, who wrote under the name "OddOne," had plans to manufacture lighting modules that used up to 18 diodes.
They estimated the cost of production in the thousands.
Why Would You Bulk-Buy LEDs Before Y2K?Aside from the obvious advantage of energy efficiency (when you're running lights from a generator, that's what you need) and a long lifespan, the fact that LEDs produce little heat was touted as a benefit in "hazmat situations."
We don't know what that is, and we're not sure we'd like to.
They were also restricted in terms of the intensity and range of their light output, so LEDs were only really good for indicators and long-running emergency flashlights.
That said, post-apocalyptic bookworms would probably benefit from a self-sufficient LED reading light, too.
Luckily, we have one of those in store! It's amazing how far we've come in such a relatively short time. Nowadays the technology is more affordable and much more workable - even used in general lighting applications! So if you want something for your bug-out bag, a supply of LED lights might just be the thing. Unless there are zombies. While Sparks Electrical will be happy to barter for goods and lighting, we are not qualified to help you with zombie-related problems.