AV at 40: TVs/Flat screens
Peter Lloyd, November 30, 2012
Old-fashioned CRT televisions were never that sexy, but played a vital role in training and education, says Peter Lloyd. But then flat screens came along…
For the first decade of AV magazine’s existence televisions were, frankly, just there. The main difference between the receiver-monitors used in classrooms or training rooms and domestic tvs were that (a) the professional versions were most robust and (b) that they were usually mounted in a lockable cabinet on wheels.
Adherence to the 625-line PAL television standard meant that the only room for innovation was the addition of a video port and, later in the decade, the use of flatter wider tubes.
But a few things started to happen. Components became modular and plugged in to the chassis rather than being hard-wired, making them easier to change and service. Valves gave way to transistors. And in the 1980s things started to change a lot – monitor style screens (without side panel tuning buttons) became popular and were widely adopted for in-store and videowall use.
Demand rose as more and more companies embraced corporate video, leading to the provision of lots of monitors and video players on roll-about stands in meeting
rooms. The advent of computer graphics, component video and RGB led to much more electronic sophistication.
However, CRT monitors were a mature technology and they were swiftly displaced by flat screens – first plasma, then LCD and now LCD with LED back lights.
Initially, flat screens didn’t have performance or price advantages, but as the technology developed and the production lines multiplied to meet consumer demand the equation changed. The 42in or larger screens were much more suited to both meeting rooms and digital signage applications than were 37in CRTs weighing 100kg, so flat screens were boosted by applications such as electronic presentations.
Recent history has seen screens get better and better (as well as much, much cheaper). The latest generations of both plasma and LCD offer full HD resolution, great picture quality, lower power consumption, lighter weight and built-in electronics that enable them to take their place in digital content networks. And you can get all this for a tenth of the cost in real terms of a 26in receiver-monitor in 1972.
So where will it all end? LCD and plasma screens have now become the mature technology that CRT used to be and we are waiting for OLED and other technologies to deliver even lighter, more flexible and higher quality screens. But in the meantime, today’s flat screens are a great delivery tool.
Key dates in the industry
Tv monitors are hardly thought about (or mentioned) but a 20in
Shibaden TU200K monitor was on sale for £135 from TeleTape, which was also offering a 13in Sony Colour Trinitron (KV1320UB) for £295.
CW Cameron launched Barco receiver-monitors and Electrohome production monitors in the UK. Barco’s 2631 becomes a de facto industry standard.
Barco’s CM66 26in monitor was the first ‘full screen model’ with no buttons, speaker grill or switches on a front panel. Sony, followed suit and built open chassis and reduced bezel monitors for use in CRT videowalls.
Mitsubishi previewed a 20in plasma display panel at the InfoComm show in the US and promised to ship a 40in unit for an in-store price of $10,000.
Others were not far behind. Fujitsu showed a 42in plasma scheduled to ship in 1997; NEC showed 33in and 42in prototypes; and a Sharp-Sony alliance expected to be in production by late 1997. Sharp also showed an SVGA 40in TFT LCD panel made by ‘seamlessly’ joining smaller panels.
CRT-based monitors on the market included models from Barco, Mitsubishi, Hantarex, NEC, Seleco, Sony and Vidikron. Prices and sizes ranged up to £8,395 for a top-of-the-range 37in machine (which weighed in at 100kg) from Mitsubishi or NEC.
NEC launched a 42in plasma tv – Plasma X –
on to the Japanese market, expecting to shift 10,000 units a year at £6,000 each. It then showed 33in and 42in screens at InfoComm and predicted that the market would reach three million units a year by 2000.
Fujitsu launched Plasmavision42, with a 852×480 screen resolution, at a US market price of $13,999. Pioneer also showed a new flat screen, a 40in panel. By December, when AV published its monitor guide, there were seven manufacturers’ 42in plasmas available in the UK at prices of around £8,000.
Twelve companies were now offering plasma screens in sizes up to 42in, with prices ranging from £6,000 upwards. There were hosts of entrants to the LCD panel market, but the biggest was still a 20in offering. In December, Fujitsu announced new plasma screens – including a 50in model – using its ALIS technology and offering 1024 x 1024 resolution.
There were now 18 brands offering plasma screens, including Akai, Conrac, Delphi, Fujitsu, Eiki, Grundig, Hantarex, Hitachi, JVC, Mitsibishi, NEC, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Sanyo, Sony, Thomson and Toshiba. Prices started at £6,000, but went up if higher computer data rate handling was required.
NEC plasma screens were used throughout the Millennium Dome for wayfinding and information provision. In the US, Pioneer embedded 135x 50in
plasma screens into the floor of its InfoComm stand.
Analyst Decision Tree Consulting (DTC) expected UK plasma screen sales to ramp up from 14,000 in 2000 to 232,000 units/year by 2004 at an average unit value of £3,000.
Twenty-plus brands were on offer, with the market leaders including NEC, Fujitsu and Pioneer. Prices for 42in panels had dropped by around 25 per cent year on year, but the 50in models now available were still priced at £10,000 or more.
InfoComm saw NEC and Panasonic launch 60in and 61in plasma screens. LG launched a 60in HD-XGA plasma through UK distributor, CRT. Sharp brought out a range of 28in widescreen LCD monitors.
Yet more companies joined the plasma market competition and prices on a ‘standard’ 42in screen started to fall below the £4,000 mark. Big screens stayed much more expensive, with Fujitsu’s 61in model at an SRP of £18,500
and LG’s 60in at just under £15,000.
The NEC-Mitsubishi joint venture set up to bring larger LCD flat screens to market came out with its first product – a 30in 1280×768 monitor selling for a ‘street price’ of just under £3,000.
Samsung launched into the flat screen market with a line-up that included a 63in plasma and a 40in LCD screen. Sharp brought out a 37in Aquos LCD TV and Barco came up with a 40in LCD display.
NEC-Mitsubishi brought out a 40in LCD screen selling at just under £4,000, 25 per cent more than a standard 42in plasma. Prices continued to fall and by September Maverick was offering its own-brand 42in Vision plasma for £999.
The biggest plasma in AV January’s buyer’s guide was a 65in Panasonic selling for £9,350, with Samsung’s 63in model close behind.
At the CES show in Las Vegas Panasonic showed a production version of an 80in plasma and a 103in prototype. Samsung unveiled an 82in TFT-LCD screen at CeBit.
Tesco now had 5,000 screens in 300 stores. A POPAI report, sponsored by Samsung, said that UK retailers were now using 22,000 screens at the point of sale. In industry and education, interactive overlays had come to market in sizes up to 84in.
Panasonic showed a 103in full HD screen at CES. The
first flat screen advertising panels appeared alongside London Underground escalators. Samsung started to offer consumers a 70in HD LCD display.
LCD started to take over from plasma. AV’s flat screen buyer’s guide listed 90 screens from 21 vendors, 52 of which were based on LCD technology. The biggest screens, in the 60-65in range, were still selling for more than £7,000.
Panasonic 65in plasma screens fitted with U-Touch overlays were used to control the interactive show on Ford’s Geneva Motor Show stand.
The 79 UK digital signage networks were now using 100,240 screens at 63,719 venues, said the latest edition of the POPAI/Samsung survey.
Public display and corporate markets were on track to buy 125,000 plasma or LCD screens in 2009, worth over £200m, said Futuresource Consulting.
Most manufacturers had full HD product in sizes up to 60-65in, with
Panasonic’s 103in plasma the largest on the market.