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Talk Will Trace Development of Thin, Flat LCD Displays for TVs, Computers From Princeton to Japan to the World

July 31, 2002

Free Multimedia Lecture at Sarnoff Corporation on August 8


Dr. Hiro Kawamoto, an authority on liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), will give a free multimedia lecture on how LCDs moved from their invention at Princeton's RCA Labs (now Sarnoff Corporation) in the 1960s to Sharp Corporation's historic flat, wall-hanging, color television of 1988, and beyond to laptop computers and HDTVs.

The lecture, sponsored by the David Sarnoff Library, will be held on Thursday, August 8, at 8 p.m. in Sarnoff Corporation's auditorium. It will include video clips and demonstrations of the original products that introduced LCDs to the world.

"In the 1950s David Sarnoff challenged his scientists and engineers to create a television you could hang on the wall," says Dr. Alexander Magoun, executive director of the David Sarnoff Library. "LCDs made that possible. But it took nearly forty years for them to migrate from the laboratory to broad consumer acceptance."

"We are fortunate to have Dr. Kawamoto come from Japan to explain how scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs around the world competed and cooperated to make the flat-panel LCD a world standard for displaying digital images."

The talk is part of a series that began last November with two presentations on the invention of electronic color television at RCA Laboratories. It will continue this fall with events in honor of the 60th anniversary of the research facility. The lecture is free and open to the public; refreshments will be served. The David Sarnoff Library's exhibits, including one on the invention of LCDs at the RCA Labs, will also be open.

Directions to Sarnoff are available at www.sarnoff.com under the "Contact" link. For more information contact the David Sarnoff Library at 609-734-2636 or amagoun@davidsarnoff.org.

Summary of presentation

Shortly after RCA Laboratories' researchers in Princeton invented electronic color television in 1950, RCA chief executive David Sarnoff asked them to put television on a wall. In 1962, Dr. Richard Williams, a physical chemist at RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center, discovered the Williams Domain in liquid crystals, which he realized made the material suitable for flat-panel displays. Two years later Dr. George Heilmeier invented an LCD using his dynamic-scattering mode. He thought a wall-sized, flat-panel, color TV was just around the corner. By 1970, RCA staff conceived of techniques such as the Twisted-Nematic (TN) mode, Thin-Film-Transistor (TFT) arrays, and cholesteric doping, which are the bases of current liquid-crystal industry. However, RCA decided not to pursue the commercialization of LCDs. Project researchers left the labs and founded LCD companies such as Optel and Microma.

During the 1970s researchers at Hoffmann-La Roche, DRA, and Brown Boveri in Europe gained insight into the physics of liquid-crystal behavior. Chemical companies such as Hoechst, BDH, and Merck developed new materials for LCD applications. In Japan Sharp and Seiko supported LCD technology by designing and supplying small displays for niche market products such as wristwatches and calculators.

Finally, in 1988, researchers at Sharp developed a 14-inch full-color, full-motion, liquid-crystal display. Sharp's accomplishment led IBM, Toshiba, and NEC to join the liquid-crystal display industry. David Sarnoff's dream of a wall-hanging TV had finally become a reality. LCDs could now serve the markets for computers and television receivers. Today LCDs appear in calculators, watches, cameras, laptops, PDAs, airplane seat displays, computer monitors, and now high-definition televisions. Sales of LCDs surpassed those of cathode-ray tube (CRT) displays in 2000 and are expected to exceed the $50 billion mark by 2005.

About Hiro Kawamoto

Dr. Kawamoto received a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1970. For the next ten years he was a member of the technical staff at RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, where he received two Outstanding Achievement Awards. Between 1980 and 1985, he founded and ran Sony Corporation's Consumer Electronics Laboratory in Paramus, and the Princeton Community Japanese Language School. Between 1985 and 2001 he opened Sharp Corporation Laboratories in Europe and America. Dr. Kawamoto is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and a recipient of the IEEE Centennial Medal. He lives in Japan where he owns a consulting firm, Josephus International. Dr. Kawamoto's lecture is based on his article, "The History of Liquid-Crystal Displays" in the April 2002 Proceedings of the IEEE.

About Sarnoff Corporation

Sarnoff Corporation (www.sarnoff.com), the former RCA Laboratories and since 1987 a wholly-owned subsidiary of SRI International, creates electronic, biomedical and information technology for government and commercial clients. This includes integrated circuits and imagers; vision processing software and hardware; computational drug discovery; digital TV and video; high-performance computing; and wireless communications. The company also commercializes its technology through licensing and the creation of new venture companies.

About the David Sarnoff Library

David Sarnoff Library is a trade name registered and used by the David Sarnoff Collection, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It is devoted to the understanding and celebration of the innovative spirit personified by Mr. Sarnoff and realized in the accomplishments of those who worked at RCA, and to its encouragement in future inventors and entrepreneurs. The Library is supported by Sarnoff Corporation, which maintains a facility housing the Collection; by donations and photo sales; and by an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State.

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