How RCA Lost The LCD

by Christopher Paul on January 10, 2013

Fascinating longread from Benjamin Gross on how RCA invented but “lost” the LCD. He starts:

In September 1967, Richard Klein and his boss, Lawrence Murray, traveled to RCA’s central research facility in Princeton, N.J. It was a familiar trip for Klein, an associate engineer at the company’s semiconductor division in nearby Somerville, whose work with light-emitting diodes kept him in close touch with solid-state researchers in Princeton. On this occasion, though, Murray assured him he was going to see something new.

Sure enough, upon arriving in Princeton, Klein and Murray were escorted to a room where electrical engineer George Heilmeier presented them with a seemingly ordinary piece of glass attached to a power supply. Then Heilmeier flipped a switch, and a familiar black-and-white image suddenly appeared on the previously transparent square. “It was a TV test pattern,” Klein recalled. “The thing pops up, and I almost fell over!”

RCA never seemed to think it as a viable product despite suggestions to the contrary. Even with such great minds looking at TVs, watches, and gauges as potential commercial/consumer uses, focus and funding just wasn’t there from management. RCA sold off the technology and the teams moved on. By the time LCDs started to take off, it was too late.

It’s great a story and a lesson on R&D with one of the most common technologies in use today.

via The Loop

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