Celebrating 50 Years and Counting

by Stephen Atwood

It's hard to believe that we're about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Society for Information Display. A lot has happened in 50 years and to fully appreciate it, I guess you would have had to have lived it all the way through. Of course, I haven't had that privilege. I was less than a year old when the first SID chapter meeting was held in Los Angeles on the campus of UCLA in September of 1962. But there are still many people around who were there at that first meeting or who joined in the nascent next few years, and it is through their thoughtful recollections, combined with the work of several great contributing writers, that we're able to bring you this issue containing articles that celebrate the history of display technology.

The 50th Anniversary of the first SID meeting will be commemorated by a one-day technical and business conference titled "Displays and Technologies for the Future" on Sept 29, 2012 right at SID's birthplace, the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, CA. After a great day of technical presentations there will be a ceremony and plaque presentation along with a President's reception and banquet dinner. The full details and registration information can be found in the centerfold of this issue.

To get the full measure of how far we've come in 50 years with some of the key display technologies, we asked a few of the most experienced people in this industry to give us a perspective on the origins of various display technologies. Larry Tannas artfully summarizes the highlights of LCDs by pointing out the most significant achievements along the way, such as the invention of the active-matrix addressed panel. This is further expanded by a look at all the work done in the UK to further the fundamental technology of liquid crystals for displays, carefully recalled for us by Myrddin Jones. Larry Weber describes the early history of plasma technology and the original motivation for pursuing it as a research topic and then later as a commercial product. Chris Curtin takes on the ubiquitous CRT, which was already enjoying commercial success by the time SID was founded, and Matt Brennesholtz gives us a great look at the early days of projection technology, which went way beyond just very bright CRTs, even in the 1930s. SID past-president Munisamy Anandan, partnering with renowned expert Amal Ghosh, describes the seminal moments in the evolution of OLED displays, which have been the most significant headline grabbers these past few months. Putting this all together for us, Jenny Donelan found that the origins and evolution of the various pieces all followed somewhat similar paths that were marked by short bursts of demonstrated progress and then long periods of intense research, with occasional false starts and struggles along the way. We all know about the commercial successes that were achieved, but it's more interesting to ponder the countless lifetimes' worth of hard work and thoughtful innovation carried out quietly in the background that formed the basis for these achievements. My admiration and respect goes out to all the great inventors and innovators who brought this industry to where it is today.

But while the past is prologue, the present is where the action is, and there was no shortage of excitement at Display Week 2012 in Boston, MA. As we do every year, we bring you a full review of the most interesting things seen and heard at Display Week, written by our highly qualified team of guest reporters: Dr. Jason Heikenfeld with the University of Cincinnati for e-Paper; ID contributing editor Steve Sechrist for 3-D technology; Sung Kim and Barry Young of the OLED Association for OLEDs; and ID contributing editor Alfred Poor for LCDs. Collectively, this team captured a dizzying array of highlights that covers much more than any one of us could have gleaned on our own. Their full-length features each appear in this issue and I hope you find them as exciting to read as I did.

Incidentally, you may be wondering why I did not include touch technology in the aforementioned list. In fact, industry expert Geoff Walker also did a great job for us capturing the essence of almost 100 exhibits and presentations focused on touch. We're running his Display Week review along with an entire issue guest edited by Geoff devoted to touch technology next month (September). It looks to be an outstanding issue in the making.

I can't recall the first time I truly understood the mechanism by which a radio signal in the air became a picture on the TV set in my house, but I know I was always more fascinated with the "how?" than with any other aspect of the process. In high school I studied all the texts I could find on television and CRT technology, at times stumbling onto the publications of people I didn't know but would eventually meet many years later through SID. Using this knowledge, I stared at those glowing tubes and wires, trying to envision each step in the signal chain, always coming to the CRT display as the single most fascinating and compelling part.

My first professional job was in the display systems group at Raytheon Company, where I was privileged to be mentored by several people who in their careers had made great contributions to the field of CRTs. Through them I learned optical metrology, color science, electromagnetics, and many other important core skills that I still use today in my work. Without those mentors, and the opportunity to join SID, I never would have had the chance to contribute to so many exciting product developments and technology achievements during my career. Being able to ask questions and learn through the experiences of those in our field was more valuable than all the formal education I received.

That's why membership and involvement in the Society is more important now than it ever was. The display field grows in new directions and with exponential progress every year. The number of things any developer needs to know in order to efficiently implement good display designs, let alone create new displays, gets more daunting all the time. That's why we, as seasoned members of the industry, have an obligation to continue to mentor as much as we are able. Find the people in your company or institution who are curious and make time to teach them as much as you can. Direct them to the vast array of archived publications, invite them to local chapter meetings, and enable them to attend the annual SID events. You never know where the next Karl Ferdinand Braun, Jan Rajchman, Otto Schade, or Slottow– Owaki prize winner may come from. She could be the new junior scientist in your research group looking at a new polymer material, or the guy who sits in the back of the next chapter meeting wishing he knew a way to bring real-time holograms into your living room. SID members have a long and honorable history of supporting technical education and giving generously of their time and abilities to mentor others.

If the past 50 years of SID could be summed up by any one observation, I think it should be that the legacy of the last 50 years of vast achievements is not just the discoveries and inventions themselves, but the countless new generations of innovators who are succeeding now because of the enthusiastic training and mentoring of those who came before them. This will be the lasting legacy of the early visionaries who brought our Society to life. Such enthusiasm is vital not only for the health of the display industry, but for the longevity of SID itself. If you have been around long enough, you know that the success of the industry and the Society are deeply connected with each other. I hope that those of us active in the industry right now, busy as we are, will take the time to encourage and mentor the promising young display technologists among us. In this way, we not only share our own knowledge but that of the industry luminaries who came before us, and thus contribute to the incredible new developments that will happen during our lifetimes and beyond.

Here's to 50 years, and counting, of the Society for Information Display. May it prosper for at least 50 more. •