Once it invented the lightbulb, GE spent the better part of the next 105 years expanding everywhere into consumer and industrial electronics. If it had an 'ON' switch, chances are GE made it.
That's how the company became a solid investment. In fact, on Wall Street, GE was known as a "widows and orphans" stock - completely safe for regular investors to buy and hold. It was the bluest of the blue chips - a decent dividend-payer and a stock to pass on to your grandchildren.
The company continued to diversify into content creation and distribution, software, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and even capital.
And then, in 2008, the company imploded - spectacularly. It was that capital division that did it in the end.
GE Capital was very nearly fatal to the company. The king of American industry had to go begging for emergency funding of $74 billion to cover its financing needs. Millions of hitherto confident shareholders got slaughtered and watched the stock drop from a high of $42 down to $5.73.