The rapid pace of evolution in consumer electronics

The rapid pace of evolution in consumer electronics

The evolution of consumer electronics, high definition displays, digital broadcasts, displays and media is happening at an ever faster pace. Advances in technology are happening much faster than before, reducing the time to bring new technologies to market at an exponential rate. The algorithm for designing and delivering new technology is almost a fifty percent reduction in time with each significant breakthrough. In such a fast-paced race for invention, the simultaneous introduction of different technologies is as inevitable as price erosion and shortened life cycles for what is considered “new” in consumer electronics.

A brief history of television and the advancement of display devices highlights the incredibly fast pace of technological development.

In 1876, Eugene Goldstein coined the term “cathode ray” to describe the light emitted when an electric current is passed through a vacuum tube. Fifty years later in 1928, GE introduced the Octagon, a television with a spinning disc and a neon lamp that produced a reddish-orange picture that was half the size of a business card. By 1948, twenty years later, the demand for black-and-white television began a transformation in communications and entertainment. By 1949, several well-known brands were fighting for a share of the booming market. These brands include familiar names such as Admiral, Emerson, Motorola, Philco, Raytheon, RCA and Zenith. The market was also saturated with brands such as Crosley, Du Mont, Farnsworth, Hallicrafters, Sparton and Tele-Tone. In 1951, CBS aired an hour-long color Ed Sullivan Show, but there were only two dozen CBS televisions that could handle the color broadcast. In 1954, RCA brought the first color television to market, but only 1,000 units were sold to the public that year. In 1956, Time magazine called color television “the loudest industrial failure of 1956.”

The plasma display panel was invented at the University of Illinois in 1964 by Donald H. Blitter, H. Gene Slottow, and student Robert Wilson. The original monochrome displays were popular in the early 1970s because they did not require memory or circuitry to refresh the images. By 1983, IBM introduced a 19-inch monochrome display that could display four virtual sessions simultaneously. By 1997, Pioneer began selling the first color plasma televisions to the public. Screen sizes increased to 22 inches by 1992, and in 2006, Matsushita unveiled the largest plasma video display at 103 inches at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

DLP was developed at Texas Instruments in 1987 by Dr. Larry Hornbeck. The image is created by selectively reflecting colored beams of light onto a digital micromirror device (DMD chip). Each mirror represents one pixel on the projected image. The number of pixels represents the resolution. For example, 1920 x 1080 resolution refers to a 1920 x 1080 grid of individual points of light created by the beam of light reflected by the same number of tiny mirrors on a chip smaller than a postage stamp. Concentrated light from a bright mercury arc lamp is emitted through a small rotating color wheel of red, green, blue and sometimes white. Light passing through the color wheel is reflected off tiny mirrors, acting independently to direct the colored light toward or away from the pixel target. Colors perceived by the human eye are a mixture of combinations of red, green and blue reflections in each pixel, and the combination of pixels creates the overall image. This technology was widely used in digital projectors and gradually became a competing technology for CRT projection televisions, at least until consumers discovered the cost of replacing high-intensity projector lamps.

In 1904, Otto Lehmann published work on liquid crystals. In 1911, Charles Mauguin described the structures and properties of liquid crystals. In 1926, the Marconi Wireless Telegraph company patented the first practical application of the technology. It wasn’t until 1968 that George Heilmeyer and a group at RCA introduced the first working LCD display. In December 1970, M. Schadt and W. Helfrich of the Hoffman-LaRoche Central Research Laboratories in Switzerland filed a patent for the twisted nematic field effect in liquid crystals and licensed the invention to the Japanese electronics industry for digital quartz watches. By 2004, 40-inch to 45-inch LCD TVs became widely available on the market, and Sharp introduced a 65-inch display. By March 2005, Samsung introduced an 82-inch LCD panel. Then in August 2006, LG Philips introduced a 100-inch LCD display. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada in January 2007, Sharp once again took first place in size as it introduced the 108-inch LCD panel under the AQUOS brand. From tiny liquid crystals to the battle for supremacy and 108″ displays, the quest for bigger size and sharper contrast in high-definition video has proven once again that size matters.

By 2006, there were more than 220 TV manufacturers, and the list is growing just as the types of display technologies are expanding. Other display technologies include vacuum fluorescent display (VFD), light emitting diode (LED), field emission display (FED), not to be confused with K-FED, and liquid crystal on silicon (SED). As the ability to generate and deliver high-definition broadcasting on demand continues to evolve, the demand for improved quality and larger displays will continue to grow proportionately. The technology to watch for the next major leap in high resolution and quality image reproduction will be the Surface Electron Emitter Display (SED).

So where will the high resolution images come from? This pace of technology and the format battle is racing even faster than the development of display devices.

Ampex introduced the first commercial VCR in 1956, priced at US$50,000. The world’s first VCR for home use was introduced by Philips in 1972. By 1975, SONY introduced the Betamax. The first VHS VCR hit the market in 1977, JVC’s HR-3300, setting off a format war that raged for market share in the 1980s. In 1990, the battle for dominance between VHS and Beta was replaced by a new battle between MultiMedia Compact Disc from SONY and Philips, against Super Density Disc supported by Time Warner, Matsushita, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Toshiba and Thomson. Amazingly, it was Lou Gerstner, president of IBM, who stepped forward and acted as a matchmaker to convince the rival camps to cooperate and combine the best of both technologies into one standard. The result was the DVD Consortium, later known as the DVD Forum. Competing technologies collaborated on standards to produce common-format DVD products until, in 2006, the battle for supremacy reignited between HD DVD and high-definition Blu-Ray video.

It took migrating from a $50,000 commercial device to a home VCR. It was a nearly 20-year battle in the format war between VHS and Beta as rival camps led by Lou Gerstner collaborated on a common DVD format. The generic DVD format lasted only ten years as competing technologies re-entered the fray to claim dominance of the high-definition video market, while HD DVD and Blu-Ray battled for supremacy, movie titles, profit and bragging rights for setting the next standard in the evolution of video. At this rate of technological development, progress is happening twice as fast or in half the time of the next era. At this rate, we can expect the announcement of the next significant advancement in technology and another format within the next five years. Will the next format combine the best technologies of HD DVD and Blu-Ray? Will the next step in evolution be based on using more colors of the spectrum to create even greater definition? Will the storage media format war like VHS tapes and Blu-Ray discs become obsolete as the new medium transforms to wireless video-on-demand streaming? One thing is for sure, it won’t take long to find out. Hold on to your VHS movies, CDs and DVDs because they will be collectibles and museum pieces before a child born today graduates from college.

Are you concerned about having the latest technology when making your next consumer electronics purchase? Worried about choosing the right format so your movie library and media collection outlasts your stack of LPs and eight-song tapes? Choose a display that supports Digital High Definition, learn about the INPUTS types for your display device or TV, and then choose the one that fits your budget. INPUT types and connections are important to get the best possible display from your TV or display device. When it comes to recorded media, take your chances with the media that has the largest selection of titles and is compatible with your other entertainment devices. There’s a good chance the state-of-the-art technology you buy today will be outdated before your extended warranty expires, so sit back and enjoy the evolution.

Wise words

“The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity.”
– Richard Dawkins

“Television is the first truly democratic culture—the first culture accessible to all and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what the people want.”
– Clive Barnes

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
– Arthur C. Clarke

#rapid #pace #evolution #consumer #electronics

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *