Just about 10 years ago, Bob Myers, a senior engineer for the Hewlett-Packard Co., wrote a paper called The End of the CRT?
In 2007, you can change the question mark to a period.
So certain are some that the cathode-ray tube - The Tube, to anyone over the age of 20 - is dead, that the snarky guys on the Gizmodo gadget Web site offered advice on how to turn that 15-inch tube-based computer monitor into a desktop trash can.
Sony, one of the premier television brands worldwide, will stop making CRT sets for the American market at the end of this month and will not import tube sets into the United States, either. We still make CRTs, but mainly for India, China, South America and markets other than the U.S., a company spokesman said.
Despite the rush by Western consumers to the flat-panel screen for their computers and televisions, the CRT, which has always been seriously unflat, maintained a loyal following because of its ability to display brightness, deep levels of black and true colors. Although the new kids in town - plasma and LCD, plus assorted minor players - are thinner and much lighter than CRTs, for years the pros stayed loyal to the tube for critical viewing.
It was presumed that eventually the new TVs would catch up with the CRT, to the point where the human eye was unable to distinguish differences, even if they did lurk somewhere behind the flat glass. New formulas such as SED (for Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display), LED and OLED (see below) open up the possibilities.
For some time now, the CRT has achieved a sort of elder statesman, if not antique, status at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. We show them in their natural habitat, and we have them roaming around naked, joked Carl Goodman, the museums director of digital media.
Plasma and LCD flat-panel televisions, as well as the occasional front-projector system, will be used for video displays at the museum, Goodman said, with the CRT relegated to the historic collections.
I like the CRT, he said. There is a kind of hypnotic glow to it. I see people staring at the screen. It is remarkably flexible in that it can show a whole spectrum of resolutions very well.
For those who would prefer to wait for the next big thing, video-wise, here are two developing technologies:
- OLED. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, visitors who strolled by the Sony booth were wowed by a video display, not because it was enormous - it was, in fact, only 11 inches - but because the picture was absolutely stupendous.
Sonys ultra-thin, prototype OLED screen - for organic light-emitting diode - will become a real product this year in Japan, part of a joint venture between Sony and Toyota Industries, but the price has not been announced.
OLEDs have been in use in smaller devices, including MP3 music players, but not on a large scale.
- LED. In rear-projection televisions, red, green and blue LEDs (light-emitting diodes) make the picture. Color LED systems have been around for more than a decade, most prominently in the huge video displays one finds on billboards or in stadiums.
LEDs produce rich images with high brightness levels and great details; they can, in fact, go beyond the highest range of the NTSC color standard.
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