An Incredible Journey…
This past week, I had the opportunity to disassemble and examine a 75-inch Ultra-High Definition TV. At the 75 inch size, unpacking and handling this very large TV presented quite the wrestling match. This probably should have been a two-person effort, but over time I have learned how to handle even these large TVs by myself.
Once the back cover was off, what was most impressive was how little there was in the way of circuitry. There were two adjacent power supply boards, a signal input board, and one other small board for converting the input signals into the format needed to drive the addressing circuitry – which is hidden in the LC panel assembly. And that’s all. The rest is empty space that is the backside of the metal frame that holds the LC panel and the backlights.
What incredible progress we have witnessed in the span of just a few years. It was only 20 years ago that ten or twelve inch LC displays were of the passive type and were only used in the new laptop computers that were beginning to impact our lives. These displays were slow, had poor contrast, limited color capability, and were limited to no more than 256 rows. At that time, those of us in the display industry could not imagine that LC technology would ever be used for anything more than small or medium size displays.
Even in the beginning years of this century, the future for rear-projection TV and Plasma panels seemed secure for large-screen viewing. How could we have foreseen the incredible improvements that would be made in Liquid Crystal Display performance and manufacturing cost? The prevailing wisdom that TFT technology would always remain expensive because it was a “semiconductor-like” process for sure did not hold up. Perhaps we should have realized that the 10 micron features in a TFT are much easier to manage on large size substrates than the near nano-meter features of a modern microprocessor.
However, even as an active participant in the evolution of these displays, it causes me to stop and appreciate in wonder at just how much has been accomplished. Take apart an LC panel. All you will find is a barely visible soapy-feeling wetness between the two glass sheets. If you look under a microscope, on one sheet you may find a pattern of red, green, and blue rectangles or perhaps trapezoidal shapes. On the other side you may find the TFT tucked away in a corner of the pixel. It seems impossible that such a structure with a tiny amount of soapy film between can somehow create beautiful full-color video images.
During the last twenty years, we really have been on an incredible journey. Not only has LC technology exceeded our viewing expectations, it has done so with manufacturing improvements that allow it to be affordable for nearly all consumers. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that modest size LCD TVs were priced at well above a thousand or two thousand dollars? Today these same size sets sell for hundreds of dollars.
Where will this incredible journey end? With the advent of 4K television and ever-larger screens, we apparently still have travel opportunities ahead of us. It will be exciting to see what is around the next bend.
Should you wish to discuss this topic further, you may contact me directly from this site or by telephone at 425-898-9117. As I am sure you will agree, there is much for us to be thankful for during this year’s Thanksgiving Season.