SED – or Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display – had a lot of hype back in 2004. The technology worked by using a network of tiny cathode ray tubes, with each tube representing one sub-pixel on the screen. It promised the benefits of CRT TVs, like high contrast levels, brightness and fast response times, while offering large, flat screen sizes like an LCD and drawing a lot less power than LCDs as well.
In other words, Canon and Toshiba would smash together plasma, CRT and LCD technologies, and after ditching all the crappy bits of each one, they would be left with SED.
But it was not to be. Originally slated to begin production in 2005, that date got pushed back to 2007. Both companies showed off prototypes at CES in 2006, which were lauded for their amazing picture quality. But then in December of 2006, a company called Applied Nanotech – which holds several patents for SED production – claimed that Canon had violated its licencing agreement by entering a partnership with Toshiba to build SEDs. To counteract the lawsuit, Canon bought out Toshiba’s half of their partnership company.
The court case raged on until December last year, at which point Applied Nanotech decided the legal costs weren’t worth the effort. But by that stage, the economy had changed. The GFC was in full swing, and the chances of SED TVs going into production had reduced to almost zero. Sure, there’s still a chance that one day we’ll all play Duke Nukem Forever on our glorious SED displays, but it’s not a bet I’d be willing to put money on…
History of TV is Giz AU’s month-long look back at the development of the world-changing medium and its influence on our daily lives.