History and 50th Anniversary

SID's founding meeting was called by Dr. Luxenberg September 29, 1962 at UCLA in Boelter Hall. There were 39 attendees, many representing major high-tech firms. The location of the initial meeting is significant since the birth place of the internet also occurred at Boelter Hall over 40 years ago. SID's LA Chapter Director and SID past president, Larry Tannas, was an instructor of displays at UCLA Extension for 20 years after taking over Luxenberg's class in 1980 when Luxenberg moved to Chico, CA.

Photo showing part of SID's UCLA Boelter Hall room 3400 exhibit on the evolution of electronic displays

Moving forward to SID's 50th anniversary in 2012, UCLA's Professor Yang Yang now holds the first Engineering Chair in the world devoted to electronic information displays, which is the Carol and Lawrence E. Tannas, Jr., Endowed Chair in Engineering. Mr. Tannas is helping drive the effort to commemorate the founding of SID by placement of a plaque bearing this content at Boelter Hall. The placing of the plaque took place as part of a day-long symposium and banquet event on September 29, 2012:

Evolution of SID and LCDs
(A perspective on SID's history)

By Lawrence E. Tannas, Jr. President, Tannas Electronics Fellow and Past President, SID Chairman, SID 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee

Photo showing SID's 50th Anniversary Plaque with UCLA Boelter Hall's room 3400 exhibit

L-R - Larry Tannas (1988-89), Erv Ulbrich (1976-77), Brian Berkeley (2012-2013), Paul Drzaic (2008-9), Larry Weber (2006-07). The man sitting down is Phil Damon (1970-71).

SID 50th Anniversary Ceremony: L-R - Bob Knepper (Charter Member who attended first meeting), Larry Tannas (50th Anniversary Chairman, Not Charter Member), Bob Schmahl (Very Early Active Member), Erv Ulbrich (Charter Member/Ceremony Chairman), Pete Baron (Gave Paper at First SID Conference), Dail Doucette (Charter Member who attended first meeting), Phil Damon (Charter Member who attended first meeting).

In the Beginning

The Society for Information Display and liquid crystal displays are interwoven more than any other technical component can be with an engineering society; SID and LCDs have evolved together. Electronic displays are the most multidisciplinary components in the world and SID has a single objective: to advance electronic information displays.

In the beginning, at the very first organizational meeting held at UCLA on 29 September 1962, it was reported that the IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers) declined to create a new Section devoted solely to electronic information displays. This was the pivotal finding that caused SID founders to start their own society. The IRE and AIEE (American Institute of Electrical Engineers) merged to form IEEE in January, 1963. Thus, SID is older than IEEE by four months.

Dr. Harold R. Luxenberg (“Lux”) is credited as the founder of SID, and rightfully so. The concept of forming a society devoted to electronic displays grew out of Lux’s UCLA Extension Class “Information Display Systems,” first given June 19-23, 1961. I believe this to be the very first such class ever given on the multidisciplinary subject of display systems engineering. Lux taught this class for 18 years, through 1979, when Lux went to Chico State University to become a Professor of Computer Science. In addition to SID evolving from Lux’s classes, he and Rudolph L. Kuehn edited the class notes for the first book ever published on the subject, Display Systems Engineering (McGraw-Hill, 1968). Rudy Kuehn was a fellow lecturer and champion of SID publications. In 1973, Lux invited Lawrence E. Tannas, Jr., to add the subject of liquid crystal displays to his class.

Larry took over Lux’s class in 1980 and continued it through 2000, adding additional classes on related subjects. In 1983 Tannas edited a book based on his lecture notes, Flat-Panel Displays and CRTs (Van Nostrand-Reinhold). Among the very first books on the subjects was Sol Sherr’s Electronic Displays (John Wiley and Sons, 1979). It’s more than coincidental that SID was founded at UCLA. UCLA was in the center of the aerospace explosion in Los Angeles after Sputnik and Apollo, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science had a single, multidisciplinary curriculum conceived by the first engineering dean, Llewellyn M. K. Boelter.

Paradigm Shift

If one were to look at the three books mentioned above, it would be clear that a complete paradigm shift occurred in the evolution of electronic displays. In the beginning, electronic 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.

The year 1988 can be considered the mid-point in the process by which AMLCDs replaced CRTs as the primary electronic information display. Key events were the exhibits by Sharp and IDT (a consortium formed by 50% Toshiba and 50% IBM) at the Japan Electronic Show in 1988. Both companies predicted the future with their display of 14-inch AMLCDs in full color, using amorphous silicon as the active matrix element. Japan had become the leader in electronic displays – a transition that occurred after SID’s 25th anniversary.

Sharp’s speculative venture to build the first Gen. 1 AMLCD factory in 1992 was electrifying. Most industrial leaders conceded that the technology was feasible but believed the cost would be prohibitive. It was unimaginable then that one could manufacture a half-million transistors on a single substrate with very high yield. Now, Sharp is operating a Gen. 10 AMLCD factory with three million transistors per substrate.

Matrix Addressing

The history of the evolution of LCDs as a flat panel display was paced by the evolution of active matrix addressing using active elements at each pixel. This is called an AMLCD.

A TV image is easily implemented on a CRT because the image is created by a series of scan lines left to right, top to bottom, using passive analog techniques. This is called scan line addressing.

The matrix addressing of plasma panels is accomplished by using the nonlinear properties of gas discharge to prevent cross coupling. The success of the plasma panel has been due, in large part, to the fact that an active element is not needed at each pixel.

Evolutions of LCD

Discovery of the Williams Domain in LC material, Sarnoff Labs, 1962

Invention of twisted nematic mode of LCDs, 1971; and evolution of mathematical modeling of LCDs; Synthesis of cyanobiphenyl LC material in 1972;

Continuing improvement in LCD design, in-plane twist, compensating films, TFT structure, 3D, LED backlight, backlight addressing, , high frequency refresh, etc;

Observations on

It took 30 years for (a-SI) AMLCDs to evolve and another 20 years to perfect performance details and production technology;

Sharp in 1990 demonstrated “TV on the Wall,” and in 1992 proved the manufacturability of amorphous silicon LCDs;

AMLCDs required international collaboration of companies, laboratories and people; and the center of activity moved from the US and Europe to Japan and, now, Korea, led by Samsung and LG;

Competition has continued with plasma panels initially being used for the very large display market, and passive LCDs and AMOLEDs for the smaller display market. Now, LCDs are displacing plasma even in sizes up to 90 inches, and AMOLEDs are being positioned to begin a challenge to LCD in 55-inch TV; AMOLED and LCD are competing in the recently created market for very high-quality small and medium-sized displays for smart phones and tablets.

The Future

Clearly, AMLCDs are the leading technology today just as CRTs were until 1990. Active matrix OLEDs have now been publicly demonstrated to show superb performance at potentially a lower cost in 55-inch size by Samsung and LG. It’s like the 1990s all over again. Highly skilled display engineers are split on how the future may evolve.

Again, the answer rests in the techniques used in matrix addressing. Still, the stigma of poor life performance of OLED materials has not been eliminated. The future is bright. AMLCDs will be getting better and AMOLEDs promise to be the next generation of displays.