The Information Display Society – What's in a Name?


The Society for Information Display (SID) was founded in 1962 in the Los Angeles area, starting with a handful of electrical engineers with an interest in electronic displays. In the intervening 47 years, SID has grown steadily in both membership and scope, in ways that those early founders could not have imagined. As President, one of my tasks is to help chart SID's future, and as part of this process, it's important to look at the past to see how SID has gotten to where it is now. It's interesting to not only see what SID is, but also what it is not, as a guide to the future.

The name "Society for Information Display" provides some clues. SID is a Society, for sure, numbering around 6000 members and 32 chapters across Asia, Europe, and North America. SID does many of the things that a Society does – hold meetings and conferences, publish a magazine and journal, support the development of standards, and provide many levels of display-technology education. SID also provides significant networking opportunities for both members and the companies involved in the display industry. So, that part of the definition is relatively straightforward.

"Display" is also an easy part of the name to understand. The modern SID has a nearly exclusive focus on electronic displays. Looking through the topics covered at SID meetings and publications, one could easily believe that the development of liquid-crystal displays, plasma displays, OLED displays, active-matrix backplanes, and the like dominate SID activities. Could the name "Society for Electronic Displays" be an accurate name for the present day SID? That sounds a workable definition for today's SID, but doesn't completely capture SID's scope.

Things get a bit ambiguous when considering "Information." For those unfamiliar with SID, the focus of the name could be on the word "Information" rather than "Display." Information gets conveyed in many different ways, from static images on paper, to electronic displays, to audio and tactile sources. "Display" implies a visual medium, though, and the modern SID focuses nearly exclusively on visual information transmission. While topics such as sound quality and audio compression would not necessarily be unwelcome at a SID meeting, that is not a community that plays a major role at SID.

What about other aspects of information display? Human perception is an area of "Information" that has a major focus at SID. Understanding how the human visual system receives the stimulus from an electronic display, along with how to do configure the display to provide the desired experience to the viewer, is a critical component for an effective electronic display. This is an area with both a substantial past and a promising future. With the growing interest in 3-D displays, and the active community within SID developing and evaluating 3-D technologies, this human link will remain an important and growing component of SID activities.

This discussion so far has centered on technology, but in recent years SID has taken a more holistic approach toward the entire display industry. While technology remains central, there is strong recognition that the business cycle impacts the ability of technologist to do their jobs, and that the business of displays plays a major role in setting the technical agenda for display engineers. So, SID has embraced its role in providing information and insight to the people responsible for charting the course of the companies that make up the display industry.

So what's in a name? Today's SID has certainly transcended the scope intended in its first naming, and evolved in interesting ways to meet the needs of its members. Using "meeting the needs of members" as a working definition, there are many paths to follow in charting the future of SID. For sure, the technology behind electronic display devices will remain the central focus of SID for some time, but it's fun to think about ways that things may evolve in the future.

For example, many companies that fabricate active-matrix backplanes have noticed that their technology is useful in fabricating photovoltaic panels. Similarly, technologies useful in fabricating displays and backlights, such as organic and inorganic LEDs, also have important roles to play in solid-state lighting. The companies manufacturing active-matrix backplanes and solar panels, and OLEDs and LEDs for display or solid-state lighting, take a more holistic view of their technology base. Could some of this thinking leak into SID? Time will tell.

Similarly, there are tremendous innovations ongoing in materials – organic semiconductors, organic light emitters, printable silicon and other semiconductors, and flexible-display devices. Some materials have had a long history at SID (think silicon), while other materials have only recently been an area of focus (think organic materials for OLEDs). SID organizing committees are stepping up their activities in these areas, so it's safe to say we may see a few more chemists and chemical engineers sitting alongside their electrical-engineering cousins in future conferences.

What about consumer devices? While SID will not be competing with mega-events such as CES, there is strong interest by consumers in obtaining honest evaluation of displays, and getting a heads-up on where display technology is heading. SID can play a role as a source of information useful to the people manufacturing the devices that incorporate displays, and to the people that buy them.

So what's in a name? For SID, the words "Society for Information Display" have tran-scended the individual components to represent something more. The SID "brand" stands as the premier source for authoritative information on topics associated with display technologies. The details of what SID organizes and presents depends in large part on the interests of its members, coupled with the requirements for high quality. So, as SID approaches 50 years of existence, it's safe to predict that it's not predictable where the next 50 years will lead.

Paul Drzaic
Society for Information Display