In Part I of our 50-Year Anniversary special article, we looked at the history of displays through parallel technology developments. Part II describes the history of the Society for Information Display.
Based on contributions from Robert Donofrio, Robert C. Knepper, Lawrence E. Tannas, Jr., Larry Weber, and others
IN THE FALL OF 1962, Dr. Harold R. Luxenberg, a Lecturer on Electronic Information Systems at UCLA Extension, called a meeting at the University of California Los Angeles that was the formative gathering of the Society for Information Display. The 39 individuals at that first meeting on September 29th learned that neither the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) nor the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), then merging to form the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), would create a new section devoted solely to electronic information displays. This was the pivotal event that caused SID founders to start their own society, a decision that was to be proven sound over and over again, through half a century of display development that progressed beyond the imagination of even the Society's founders.
Fifty years after that inaugural meeting, the Society's membership has grown from fewer than 100 individuals based mostly in the Los Angeles area to thousands of people all over the world. The first SID symposium was held in 1963 in Santa Monica, CA, with 92 attendees. In 2012, 49 years after that first symposium, nearly 6000 attendees visited Display Week in Boston, and the event has taken place in many different cities in North America. The LA Chapter, the first and founding chapter for the Society, has been joined by 27 additional chapters throughout the world (see the sidebar "The Founding of the UK and Ireland Chapter of SID" for just one of those stories.) SID today is an international engineering and scientific organization that promotes the business and technology of displays used in avionics, TVs, tablets, laptop computers, smartphones, digital signage, e-Readers, appliances of all sorts, and countless other products.
An Interwoven History
As SID Past-President Lawrence E. Tannas, Jr., observes: "The Society for Information Display and displays are interwoven as much as any technical component can be with an engineering society. Electronic displays are probably the most multidisciplinary components in the world and SID has a single objective: to advance electronic information displays."
In the earliest days of the Society, representatives from companies such as General Dynamics, IBM, and RCA participated in the meetings, as well as numerous individuals from the military and aerospace sector, including companies such as Hazeltine, Hughes Aircraft Company, and Lockheed. TV and aerospace continue to be key backgrounds for SID members, as are the automotive, industrial/medical, optical, and metrology industries as well as, of course, academia.
In terms of the evolution of both the society and the display industry, Tannas notes that a complete paradigm shift occurred between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, and this is demonstrated by three books published during that time. In 1968, Luxenberg and Rudolph L. Kuehn edited notes from "Lux's" electronic-displays class at UCLA Extension to create the first book ever published on the subject, "Display Systems Engineering" (McGraw-Hill). Among other early books was Sol Sherr's "Electronic Displays" (John Wiley and Sons, 1979). Tannas took over Lux's class in 1980, and in 1983, wrote a book with chapters from his lecturers entitled "Flat-Panel Displays and CRTs" (Van Nostrand-Reinhold). At SID's beginnings, wrote Tannas in Part I of this article, "displays such as galvanometers and CRTs were analog indicating transducers. Today, electronic displays such as plasma panels and LCDs are digital-matrix arrays of randomly addressable pixels."
As display technology evolves, so do the members and programs of SID. In years past, CRTs and field-emission displays were central to SID's agenda. Now LCDs, OLEDs, flexible technology, 3-D, touch and inter-activity, and much more are key to the industry, and hence to the society. At the same time, SID and its members contribute in a proactive way to the evolution of displays by sharing information through presentations, publications, and exhibits, and by spotting and supporting trends, including those in nascent stages. In Part I of this 50th Anniversary article in the July/August issue, Tannas and other display-industry experts discuss the highlights of CRTs, projection technology, LCDs, OLEDs, and plasma.
Chapters: Underpinnings of an Organization
As has been noted, from that one meeting at UCLA in 1962, SID evolved into an international organization with thousands of members, numerous publications, and a world-class symposium and trade show. From one chapter in 1962, four chapters were operating by 1963: Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, and Washington. Between 1965 and 1967, four more chapters were added: New England, Bay Area, Delaware Valley, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The UK and Ireland Chapter was operational by 1977. In 2011, there were 250 members in SID's Beijing chapter alone and a total of 28 chapters. Much of what is vital to SID goes on at the chapter level; it is there that members can come together regularly and share ideas and insights (as well as dinner and the occasional beer). Chapter participation is vital to the health of SID; a chapter meeting is after all how the organization began.
Around 1984, a small group of UK SID members set up a new UK chapter. It was realized that displays were becoming increasingly important and a professional body could have a significant influence on developments in displays in the UK. Success depended on attracting as many members as possible. A number of companies were approached for help and a positive response was received from IBM, GEC, Philips, Phosphor Products, Racal, RSRE, Sinclair, and Thorn-EMI Brimar.
The temporary committee was chaired by Professor Mino Green, Imperial College. Other members included Dr. Barbara Needham, STL, as membership secretary, Derek Washington of Philips Research Laboratories as secretary, Alfred Woodhead as chapter European representative, and Harry Ellis as news-letter editor. Laurie Allard, Simon Bliss, Steven Elmer, and David Marshall were committee members. They prepared a set of by-laws and arranged for the first two technical meetings to be held on September 1, 1985.
Alfred Woodhead attended the European Steering Committee meetings, which discussed the development of SID activities in Europe. It was recognized that Europe had been poor at creating opportunities for the display business, and that SID had an important role to play in stimulating the European display community to make the most of opportunities in the market. The UK was the first European country to set up a chapter and it was hoped that others would soon follow suit, particularly France and Germany.
A message from the SID President appeared in Information Display, reporting that at the SID Board meeting on January 7, 1985, the formation of the UK and Ireland Chapter had been approved. He congratulated the UK members for their hard work in setting up the chapter and in particular Alfred Woodhead, who had taken up the chapter formation from start to finish. He also congratulated Dr. Andy Lakatos, who had coordinated the formation process and confirmed the appointment of Dr. Tuomo Suntola, who was appointed European Regional Director.
At the end of the first year of the chapter, there had been five technical meetings, with subjects including LCDs, applications, large-area displays, and an evening devoted to venture capital. The quality of the presentations had been high and attendance good, with most meetings oversubscribed. The chapter's existence had met with success beyond the dreams of its founders.
– John R. Mansell
It is often said that the technical program is the heart of Display Week, SID's annual Symposium, Seminar, and Exhibition. Without a doubt, the information presented in the symposium sessions is invaluable and cannot be matched elsewhere in terms of depth and breadth of content. Originally, SID held two symposia a year, one on the east coast and one on the west. That format changed in 1966 to one per year. The early symposia were run by their local chapters, but in the early 1970s, professional conference organizers were hired to assist with the growing event. An early technical symposium program from 1963 lists about 15 papers, including one called "Aims and Purposes of the SID." The annual Symposium now includes over 400 papers.
Over the years, Display Week (which began life simply as the SID symposium and exhibition), has been the scene of many exciting display developments. Among these are the DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) optical semiconductor from Texas Instruments. In 1995, TI's Digital Light Processing (DLP) engine for projection technology, which incorporated the DMD, won a Display of the Year award.
Plasma technology had many firsts at Display Week, including a 21-in. color panel shown during the last 2 hours of the 1994 exhibition. As inventor and SID Past-President Larry Weber explained, "It was not working before that and I was frantically working on the panel in a garage about 10 blocks from the San Jose Convention Center. If we had missed that deadline then the bank would have closed Plasmaco [Weber's company] for good the next day." (This story is recounted in "The Perils of Plasmaco" in the December 1997 issue of Information Display.)
In 1999, a 60-in. plasma panel was shown for the first time publicly during a Monday seminar lecture given by Weber. "It created quite a stir even though some people thought it was too big," says Weber." I think the key to its appeal was that up till then most people had not realized that the eye's visual acuity was limiting the perceived quality of the HDTV image. An HDTV signal on that 60-in. panel allowed the full quality of the HDTV signal to be easily seen by the eye and appreciated."
In a more recent time frame, Display Week milestones in 2012 alone included a 5-in. 440-ppi LCD from LG Display that used an a-Si backplane, a 32-in. 4K x 2K LCD with an oxide backplane from Sharp, and 55-in. OLED TVs from both Samsung and LG Display.
As display technology evolves, technology tracks for the symposium are created or eliminated to reflect the changes. In recent years, for example, special topics on 3-D, Touch and Interactivity, Oxide TFTs, OLED TV, Lighting, and more have been added. In-depth short courses and seminars on particular areas of display technology also provide a knowledge boost to those new to the display industry as well as to seasoned veterans looking to learn about a new area. Display Week has grown over the years to include a three-day exhibition with hundreds of companies, and several days of conferences delivering specialized information in the areas of marketing, investing, and business. This year, SID added the Innovation Zone, a designated area on the exhibit floor where startups and other researchers could present prototypes and other cutting-edge research. Twenty-three companies' applications were accepted for the inaugural I-Zone and each received a free table on the Display Week exhibition floor. Traffic was brisk, as show goers flocked to see what technologies might become the displays of the future.
The Society confers annual awards on outstanding members of the display community, with prestigious prizes given in various areas of technical as well as education and service achievement. Awards for products as well as individuals have been established in order to promote and recognize industry innovation. The Display Industry Awards (formerly Display of the Year awards) have been presented at Display Week since 1995 in categories that now include Display of the Year, Display Application of the Year, and Display Component of the Year. In 2011, Best-in-Show awards were added to complement the DIAs (which are for shipping products) by honoring the most exciting products and displays on the show floor, whether they are commercially available yet or not. This year, a Best-Prototype award was added to honor the most outstanding product in the Innovation Zone.
Publications have always been an important activity and information-sharing vehicle for members. Following the initial organizational meeting in 1962, the SID Newsletter first appeared and eventually was replaced by Information Display magazine in 1964. The SID Symposium Proceedings, now called the SID Digest of Technical Papers, is issued after each symposium. And the monthly Journal of the Society for Information Display is a peer-reviewed publication founded in 1963 for original works dealing with the theory and practice of electronic information displays. (Before JSID, the journal was referred to as the Proceedings of the SID from 1963 through 1991 (issues 1–32)). From 1992 to the present, it has been referred to as the Journal of the SID. Recently, SID has begun hosting technical webinars as well.
Honoring Its Beginnings
With half a century under its belt, SID has a history that members have been increasingly acknowledging. At Display Week 2011 in Los Angeles, founding and charter members of the Society for Information Display came together to celebrate the society they helped create nearly 50 years earlier at UCLA. This year, for the 50th anniversary of the inception of SID, the SID Los Angeles Chapter is installing a plaque at UCLA honoring the society. For its birthday on September 29, 2012, SID will also hold a one-day symposium at the location of its founding, exactly 50 years later.
The Society for Information Display began when individuals involved in the business and research of displays realized that the technology was deep enough to merit its own society.
Those individuals, and their successors, encouraged continuous progress in terms of both cutting-edge research and commercial availability. Fifty years later, the Society continues to promote innovation and the sharing of information among members. It was not so very long ago that conventional wisdom had it that a large-area LCD was not feasible. Who knows what "unfeasible" developments will be made real during the next 50 years of the Society's existence, thanks to the spirit of innovation and cooperation fostered by SID?
Information Display would like to thank the following individuals for contributing their knowledge to the background of this piece: Robert Donofrio, Myrddin Jones, Robert C. Knepper, Lawrence E. Tannas, Jr., and Larry Weber. Some of this article was based on Robert C. Knepper's article, "History of the Society for Information Display," published in the August 1987 issue of Information Display. •