Information Display Retrospective
Looking Back Over 50-Plus Years of Information Display
by Jenny Donelan
If you have ever wondered about the origins of Information Display magazine, you are not alone. When ID executive editor Steve Atwood came up with the idea to do a magazine retrospective, it seemed like it would be a straightforward matter to chronicle the complete history of Information Display. But it was harder than we expected. As it turns out, no one person set out with the intention of preserving a complete history when the magazine began and that history has proved difficult to unravel. There were years when the magazine came out more or less regularly and years when publishers, formats, and editorial staffs changed. There were even a couple of years (1971 and 1972) when the publishing rights to the magazine itself were under dispute. The Society for Information Display moved its headquarters several times, as did the editorial offices. As a result, there is no single complete repository of back issues.
Throughout the half-century of ID’s existence, its editors and publishers were doubtless more concerned about getting the next issue out on time than in preserving a record for posterity. (We, the editors of today, know from experience that this must be true.) But even though magazines are ephemera, some, including ID, contain invaluable records. Our searches through past issues have been filled with discovery – from the mundane (business attire in the early 1960s) to the awesome (articles on early plasma, LCD, and active-matrix technology). It’s exciting to discover the seeds of a technology that went on to flourish and also to see that the scientists, and the editors who chose to publish their results so many years ago, were on track.
We will continue to find new pieces of history. One aspect of the retrospective process that has been particularly satisfying is the scanning of back issues prior to 2005, the date that ID began to be posted in digital format on the Web (the scanning was another idea from Steve Atwood). This is an ongoing process and issues are slowly being scanned and posted to the archives at www.informationdisplay.org. They date from 1965 to the early 1990s to right now and are being added to every couple of weeks. Take a look. It’s a lot of fun. You might even recognize some names.
In the Beginning
ID was founded in 1964, 2 years after the Society for Information Display was established. There were only two issues that year, published in October and November/December. At that time, the Society already had a newsletter, which Information Display replaced. “Those first issues featured meetings, people, and activities. “It was a very informal publication,” says Lawrence Tannas, an early member of SID and founder of Tannas Electric Displays.
Ambitions for ID were initially modest – there was no master plan for its future role. Today, we do have a mission statement, developed several years ago by the current editorial staff. “As the official magazine of the Society for Information Display (SID), Information Display serves the display industry through unbiased and objective reporting on the business and technologies related to displays. By serving the display industry, ID also serves the membership of the SID.”
Even though the mission statement is recent, it seems clear that the ID magazine of the ’60s and onwards did basically meet the goals that statement describes. Below is a timeline that shows the evolution of the publication and how it reflected that of the Society for Information Display and the display industry itself.
1971: This year marks the start of a 2-year legal battle between the publisher of the magazine and the Society over who had authorization to publish the magazine. According to former SID historian and founding SID member Bob Knepper, the issue below was one of several that were published without the permission of the Society. Note that the tagline is now: “The Journal of Data Display Technology.”
Information Display is indebted to the following individuals and organizations who helped with the preparation of this timeline: Phil Heyman, Allan Kmetz, Bob Knepper, Larry Tannas, and Erv Ulbricht (who created the 50-Year SID History on which some of this timeline is based). •