Flat-panel displays are electronic viewing technologies used to enable people to see content (still images, moving images, text, or other visual material) in a range of entertainment, consumer electronics, personal computer, and mobile devices, and many types of medical, transportation and industrial equipment. They are far lighter and thinner than traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) television sets and video displays and are usually less than 10 centimetres (3.9 in) thick. Flat-panel displays can be divided into two display device categories: volatile and static. Volatile displays require that pixels be periodically electronically refreshed to retain their state (e.g., liquid-crystal displays (LCD)). A volatile display only shows an image when it has battery or AC mains power. Static flat-panel displays rely on materials whose color states are bistable (e.g., e-book reader tablets from Sony), and as such, flat-panel displays retain the text or images on the screen even when the power is off. As of 2016, flat-panel displays have almost completely replaced old CRT displays. In many 2010-era applications, specifically small portable devices such as laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, digital cameras, camcorders, point-and-shoot cameras, and pocket video cameras, any display disadvantages of flatscreens (as compared with CRTs) are made up for by portability advantages (thinness and lightweightness).
Most 2010s-era flat-panel displays use LCD and/or LED technologies. Most LCD screens are back-lit to make them easier to read or view in bright environments. Flat-panel displays are thin and lightweight and provide better linearity and they are capable of higher resolution than typical consumer-grade TVs from earlier eras. The highest resolution for consumer-grade CRT TVs was 1080i; in contrast, many flatscreens can display 1080p or even 4K resolution. As of 2016, some devices that use flatscreens, such as tablet computers, smartphones and less, commonly, laptops, use touchscreens, a feature that enables users to select onscreen icons or trigger actions (e.g., playing a digital video) by touching the screen. Many touchscreen-enabled devices can display a virtual QWERTY or numeric keyboard on the screen, to enable the user to type words or numbers.
A multifunctional monitor (MFM) is a flat-panel display that has additional video inputs (more than a typical LCD monitor) and is designed to be used with a variety of external video sources, such as VGA input, HDMI input from a VHS VCR or video game console and, in some cases, a USB input or card reader for viewing digital photos). In many instances, an MFM also includes a TV tuner, making it similar to a LCD TV that offers computer connectivity.
The first engineering proposal for a flat-panel TV was by General Electric as a result of its work on radar monitors.[when?] Their publication of their findings gave all the basics of future flat-panel TVs and monitors. But GE did not continue with the R&D required and never built a working flat panel at that time. The first production flat-panel display was the Aiken tube, developed in the early 1950s and produced in limited numbers in 1958. This saw some use in military systems as a heads up display, but conventional technologies overtook its development. Attempts to commercialize the system for home television use ran into continued problems and the system was never released commercially. The Philco Predicta featured a relatively flat (for its day) cathode ray tube setup and would be the first commercially released "flat panel" upon its launch in 1958; the Predicta was a commercial failure. The plasma display panel was invented in 1964 at the University of Illinois, according to The History of Plasma Display Panels. The first active-matrix addressed display was made by T Peter Brody's Thin-Film Devices department at Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1968. In 1977, James P Mitchell prototyped and later demonstrated what was perhaps the earliest monochromatic flat panel LED television display LED Display. As of 2012[update], 50% of global market share in flat-panel display (FPD) production is by Taiwanese manufacturers such as AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux Corporation.
Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are lightweight, compact, portable, cheap, more reliable, and easier on the eyes than cathode ray tube screens. LCD screens use a thin layer of liquid crystal, a liquid that exhibits crystalline properties. It is sandwiched between two electrically conducting plates. The top plate has transparent electrodes deposited on it, and the back plate is illuminated so that the viewer can see the images on the screen. By applying controlled electrical signals across the plates, various segments of the liquid crystal can be activated, causing changes in their light diffusing or polarizing properties. These segments can either transmit or block light. An image is produced by passing light through selected segments of the liquid crystal to the viewer. They are used in various electronics like watches, calculators, and notebook computers.
Some LCD screens are backlit with a number of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs are two-lead semiconductor light source that resembles a basic "pn-junction" diode, except that an LED also emits light. This form of LCD (liquid crystal display) is the most prevalent in the 2010s. This form of LCD is still a Liquid Crystal Display panel. It is not a separate technology from an LCD.
A plasma display consists of two glass plates separated by a thin gap filled with a gas such as neon. Each of these plates has several parallel electrodes running across it. The electrodes on the two plates are at right angles to each other. A voltage applied between the two electrodes one on each plate causes a small segment of gas at the two electrodes to glow. The glow of gas segments is maintained by a lower voltage that is continuously applied to all electrodes. In the 2010s, plasma displays have been discontinued by numerous manufacturers.
In an electroluminescent display (ELD), the image is created by applying electrical signals to the plates which makes the phosphor glow.
An OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is a light-emitting diode (LED) in which the emissive electroluminescent layer is a film of organic compound which emits light in response to an electric current. This layer of organic semiconductor is situated between two electrodes; typically, at least one of these electrodes is transparent. OLEDs are used to create digital displays in devices such as television screens, computer monitors, portable systems such as mobile phones, handheld game consoles and PDAs. A major area of research is the development of white OLED devices for use in solid-state lighting applications.
Volatile displays require that pixels be periodically refreshed to retain their state, even for a static image. As such, a volatile screen needs electrical power, either from mains electricity (being plugged into a wall socket) or a battery to maintain an image on the display or change the image. This refresh typically occurs many times a second. If this is not done, for example, if there is a power outage, the pixels will gradually lose their coherent state, and the image will "fade" from the screen.
Only a few of these displays are commercially available in the 2010s, though OLED displays are beginning deployment in smartphones and very recent in televisions.
Static flat-panel displays rely on materials whose color states are bistable. This means that the image they hold requires no energy to maintain, but instead requires energy to change. This results in a much more energy-efficient display, but with a tendency towards slow refresh rates which are undesirable in an interactive display. Bistable flat-panel displays are beginning deployment in limited applications (Cholesteric displays, manufactured by Magink, in outdoor advertising; electrophoretic displays in e-book reader devices from Sony and iRex; anlabels).
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