On Truly Distinguishing Greatness


by Steve Atwood

One of my first writing assignments for Information Display was to cover the SID Honors and Awards dinner and convey the feeling of that evening to the readers. It was a relatively hard job, but not for the reasons one might think. Usually, we tend to think of achievement awards as something of a formality, a rite of passage for those who have paid their dues or served long enough to make the top of the list. Similarly, awards dinners are typically perceived to be stodgy affairs steeped in formality and weak on meaningful drama. So, as I approached my first assignment for ID you can imagine that I felt like I was in for a difficult challenge to bring some energy to the story. In fact, what I learned that first time was that my expectations were all wrong, and that lesson has stayed with me ever since. As I listened to the recipients talk about their achievements, I was mesmerized by the fact that I was listening to the personal histories of the very individuals who had created the technology I love so well. These were not people who marked their time or just hung around. These were people whose life's work was to contribute some crucial component to the web of science that made display technology possible. And these were humble people who had dedicated their efforts to the honest pursuit of science, and did so without seeking much fame or fortune. (Of course we know how even more elusive fortune can be in the display business.)

What I have learned since that night is that true innovation takes serious work, does not come easily, and is elusive even to the best and brightest among us. Even if endowed with a gifted appreciation of the underlying science and the ability to tenaciously pursue their vision, many dedicated people never achieve that true breakthrough that changes paradigms and enables the birth of new products and markets. Therefore, it is truly spectacular when these breakthroughs do happen, and a humbling experience to meet the progenitors of those feats of science, especially those who have achieved breakthroughs multiple times. What is more amazing is that in many cases, the discovery itself and its impact on the world does not occur in a single moment; nor is it immediately appreciated. More often it evolves slowly through a body of work that may not make its full impact for 10 or 20 or even more years later. I have observed this in many areas of our industry, where we have seen discoveries from the 1960s and 1970s making a fresh impact on technological innovations of the 1990s and beyond. So, in some cases the full measure of someone's work may only become clear much later in that person's life.

The people who serve on the SID Honors and Awards Committee know all this and take a great deal of time and consideration in making their recommendations. They receive many qualified nominations, and the selection process is always hard, as it should be. These are highly meaningful awards that are conveyed only when truly qualified recipients are identified.

That first night I was humbled by what I learned, as I have been every year since when I read the citations and learn more about the work of the deserving people chosen for these honors. Of course, this year is no exception, and on behalf of the entire staff at IDmagazine, I heartily congratulate all the award winners.

In addition to announcing our SID Honors and Awards winners, this issue also previews the SID '09 Symposium, with highlights from all the technology tracks for you to browse. We hope this feature will help you plan your week in San Antonio and appreciate all the amazing work that is taking place in the display industry.

While most of this issue is devoted to the upcoming Display Week events, we also have a very interesting article on current and future applications for lasers in display manufacturing. Laser technology is an integral component of many product processes and continues to enable new ideas and innovations. We appreciate the efforts of author Rainer Paetzel from Coherent GmbH in bringing this enlightening contribution to us. •