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From the characteristics of current and voltage, the capacitive coupled external electrode fluorescent lamps are found to be similar to cold cathode fluorescent lamps having the ballast capacitors at both ends of the lamps. From the current–voltage characteristic for two types of lamps, the discharge mechanism is similar with respect to discharge process: initially a dark current, Townsend discharge with a firing voltage, followed by a normal glow. The slope and magnitude of the dark current have the same values since the gas species in the lamps are identical. At the Townsend discharge, the lamp current increases abruptly with a firing voltage of about 1 kV. In the normal glow region, the cathode fall voltage is sustained at about 600 V in the cold cathode discharge tube after Townsend breakdown at about 1 kV, while the voltage increases linearly as the current increases without negative resistance in both the external electrode lamp and the cold cathode lamp including the ballast capacitors.