My grandson is a computer guru for his age. He takes flat screen monitors and high definition TV for granted. He has seen little else. On the other hand I was born in the first half of the last century. I am amazed at technological advances in my lifetime. I wonder if my grandson will see the same degree of advancements in the next half century or so. To put this into context I’ll briefly list advancements in TV and monitor hardware. I combine the two because they are simple output devices which have been intertwined since early development.
Boy, ain’t technology grand. Mechanical TV used a bright light, rotating disks, a transmitter and receiver. The mechanical systems were broadcasting TV from 1925 to 1939. John Baird experimented with mechanical color TV in 1928. This was cutting edge stuff! A generally small and poor quality picture led to the demise of mechanical TV.
In 1907 Boris Rosing used a cathode ray tube (CRT) as the output device for a television system. This is something most of us can relate to because the CRT is used more than 100 years later. By 1935 electronic television was the predominate standard. Screens were small and round. My family purchased our first TV in 1953–black and white, two stations. I watched the Lone Ranger, Howdy Doody and the Cisco Kid. CRT technology was refined over the years with bigger and better screens. Color TV was available in 1954. The last CRT TV I bought was 37 inches on the diagonal, cost $700 and weighs nearly 150 pounds. It’s in the back bedroom. I’ve tried to give it away but nobody will take it. It’s a monster!
Early CRTs were primarily used in oscilloscopes and black and white TVs. CRTs were called video display terminals when used as computer monitors. CRT technology is still used but is being replaced with newer technology.
Flat screen monitors and LCD TV
The Austrian botanist Freidrich Reinitzer discovered liquid crystals in 1888. This is from a fascinating experiment involving mashed up carrots and observation of two distinct melting points in a resulting liquid–but this is beyond the scope of this article. We’ll move along.
The first viable LCD display was on a watch sold in 1972. The display was based on patents held by James Fergason. From here we can see how LCD has transformed monitors and TV. Modern monitors and TVs are sleek, large, crisp and lightweight. The 45 inch HDTV that replaced my old CRT TV cost $700, weighs maybe 30 pounds and has a near crystal clear picture. My 24 inch computer monitor requires a fraction of the space, weighs probably less than 10 pounds and provides great picture quality.
So where do we go from here? What is the future of monitor and TV viewing hardware?
No – I didn’t forget advancements in flat screen technology. There is OLED (short lived), plasma (expensive), LCoS (a dead end?), and others. One technology that shows promise is surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) which offers brightness and crispness in a flat screen format. Flexible screens? We don’t have to worry about any of this. Manufacturers will provide it, we’ll buy it–or not.
3D is a wonderful gimmick. As a kid I marveled at pictures viewed with a View-Master. View-Masters were introduced in 1938. Today Sony provides us with a 3D gaming system. 3D Movies and videos requiring special glasses are fairly common. Even glasses free 3D is being developed. Holographic 3D seems to be the holy grail for some people.
I don’t think 3D technology will go mainstream. Several problems. I already wear glasses. I’m not going to wear another set. Glasses free picture quality isn’t good. Human eyes have a convergence/focus issue which requires that our eyes focus where we look. We may be able to adapt to 3D trickery but it still causes nausea, confusion, eyestrain, and a slightly out of focus picture. High definition and superior viewing software will eventually make 3D not worth the trouble.
Virtual reality headsets–already used for gaming. Cumbersome.
Augmented reality glasses–Google glasses? Good potential here.
Augmented reality contact lenses? Why stop here. Let’s go on to:
Embedded direct brain stimulation. Sure – I’m getting pretty far out there now, but it is a possible avenue for the future. Who’s to say what will happen? A lot of the things around us today were science fiction and fantasy in years past. I hope I’m around to see it all.