History of display technology

Electrically operated display devices have developed from electromechanical systems for display of text, up to all-electronic devices capable of full-motion 3D color graphic displays. Electromagnetic devices, using a solenoid coil to control a visible flag or flap, were the earliest type, and were used for text displays such as stock market prices and arrival/departure display times. The cathode ray tube was the workhorse of text and video display technology for several decades until being displaced by plasma, liquid crystal (LCD), and solid-state devices such as thin-film transistors (TFTs), LEDs and OLEDs. With the advent of metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs), integrated circuit (IC) chips, microprocessors, and microelectronic devices, many more individual picture elements ("pixels") could be incorporated into one display device, allowing graphic displays and video.

Cathode ray tubeEdit

One of the earliest electronic displays is the cathode ray tube (CRT), which was first demonstrated in 1897 and made commercial in 1922.[1] The CRT consists of an electron gun that forms images by firing electrons onto a phosphor-coated screen. The earliest CRTs were monochrome and were used primarily in oscilloscopes and black and white televisions. The first commercial colour CRT was produced in 1954. CRTs were the single most popular display technology used in television sets and computer monitors for over half a century; it was not until the 2000s that LCDs began to gradually replace them.

A derivative of CRTs were storage tubes, which had the ability to retain information displayed on them, unlike standard CRTs which need to be refreshed periodically. In 1968, Tektronix introduced the Direct-View Bistable Storage Tube, which went on to be widely used in oscilloscopes and computer terminals.[2]

Monochrome CRTEdit

1922 Monochrome cathode ray tube:

Color CRTEdit

1954 Color cathode ray tube for the display of color television:[3]

Direct-View Bistable Storage TubeEdit

1968[2] The Direct-View Bistable Storage Tube CRT retains static information displayed upon it, written using a steerable electron beam that can be turned off. In principle the DVBST is similar to an Etch-a-Sketch, and was used in vector displays of early computers and in oscilloscopes.

Tektronix 4014 with a "DVBST" storage display screen

Flip-flap/disc displayEdit

1957 Split-flap display:


1961 Flip-disc display:

Monochrome plasma displayEdit

1964 Monochrome plasma display:

LED displayEdit

1968 LED display:

Eggcrate displayEdit

1968 Eggcrate display

Vacuum fluorescent displayEdit

1967 Vacuum fluorescent display as used in consumer electronics.

Twisted nematic field effect LCDEdit

1971 Twisted nematic field effect LCD [4][5]

Super-twisted nematic LCDEdit

1984 Super-twisted nematic display (STN LCD) to improve passive-matrix LCDs, allowing for the first time higher resolution panels with 540x270 pixels.

Pin screenEdit

Pin screen:

1969 Braille display:[6]


Thin film transistor LCDEdit

1986 Color Thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display:[7]

Digital Light ProcessingEdit

1987 optical micro-electro-mechanical technology that uses a digital micromirror device. While the Digital Light Processing (DLP) imaging device was invented by Texas Instruments, the first DLP-based projector was introduced by Digital Projection Ltd in 1997.

Full-color plasma displayEdit

1995 Full-color plasma display:[8]

Organic light-emitting diodeEdit

2003 Organic light-emitting diode display (OLED) [9]

2003 Active-matrix OLED (AMOLED):[10]

Electronic paperEdit

2004 Electronic paper:[11]

Electroluminescent displayEdit

1974 Electroluminescent display (ELD):[12]

Stroboscopic displayEdit

1960s Stroboscopic display:[13][14] In the 1960s RASA Calculator (Russian), a small motor spins a cylinder that has a number of transparent numerals. To display a numeral, the calculator briefly flashes a thyratron light behind the required number when it spins into position.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Cathode Ray Tube and its Applications". International Journal of Innovative Research in Technology. 1.
  2. ^ a b medical-answers.org – Tektronix 4014 Archived 2012-03-22 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "– earlytelevision.org – Picture Tubes, 15GP22 Color CRT". Archived from the original on 2017-01-01. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  4. ^ Voltage-Dependent Optical Activity of a Twisted Nematic Liquid Crystal (TN-LCD); M. Schadt and W. Helfrich. Phys. Rev. Lett. 27, 561 (1971)
  5. ^ Joseph Castellano, "Modifying Light', American Scientist, September–October 2006
  6. ^ U.S. Patent 3,594,787;
  7. ^ auburn.edu – Note on the Liquid Crystal Display Industry Archived 2012-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ indoclient.com – Television Development
  9. ^ rpi.edu – Lighting industry, Structure and technology in the transition to solid state
  10. ^ WP-de Organische Leuchtdiode 2011-05-17
  11. ^ hitech-projects.com – E-paper production flow – Adapting production workflow processes for digital newsprint Archived 2011-05-16 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ faqs.org – Patent application title: Personal article with electron luminescent display
  13. ^ Stroboscopic display on the Soviet calculator "RASA" (video)
  14. ^ Soviet made "RASA" electronic calculator with stroboscopic display