The Evolution Of LCD

Last year, LCD TVs made up about 50 per cent of global TV sales. That's a huge number. Not bad for a technology that's only 40 years old or so...

If you're a fan of LCD TVs, then you owe a gentleman by the name of George H. Heilmeier your eternal thanks. Back in 1964 when he was working in the laboratories at RCA, Heilmeier discovered the ability to switch colours in liquid crystals through the application of electrical current. This discovery allowed a clear liquid crystal substance to turn milky, and was the first Liquid Crystal Display.

But a milky colour is a long way from the Full HD LCD TVs we see today. Heilmeier's LCD technology used something known as "Dynamic Scattering Mode" to align the liquid crystals, yet this technique required lots of energy and was limited in its scope. In 1970, Hoffman-LaRoche in Switzerland filed for a patent for the "Twisted Nematic Field Effect", which didn't require a flowing current to work, making it much more attractive a display technology. It was this development that saw LCD make its way into the first digital watches in the '70s.

In the 1980s, LCD made its way into computer monitors. The fact that it was a "thin" technology made it especially suited for this purpose, although the technology's slow refresh rate meant that it struggled with moving images, like scrolling text. In 1988, Sharp took LCD to the next level by launching a 14-inch LCD TV, although it still battled with refresh rate issues and the subsequent difficulties with movement on screen.

When it came time to expand into the larger screen sizes, in the late 1990s and early this decade, LCD struggled to compete with plasma. It had the benefit of brighter backlighting and lower power consumption, but the bigger screens made the refresh rate issue even more noticeable. However, as this decade proceeded, developments such as improved refresh rates and the introduction of 100Hz saw the technology not only catch up to plasma, but overtake it.

Nowadays, you're much more likely to purchase an LCD than any other display technology. Not bad for something that started out turning clear liquid to a milky substance, huh?

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.

Trending Stories Right Now