December 17, 2003
TV sets as ceramic tiles – it's getting nearer

And the technology of visual display continues to race ahead. This from today's NYT:

AN FRANCISCO, Dec. 16 – The Intel Corporation is planning to do to digital television what it has already done to computing.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which opens on Jan. 8, Intel is expected to disclose the development of a class of advanced semiconductors that technologists and analysts say will improve the quality of large-screen digital televisions and substantially lower their price, according to industry executives close to the company.

Intel's ability to integrate display, television receiver and computer electronics on a single piece of silicon is likely to open new markets for a class of products - including plasma, projection and L.C.D. TV's - that now sell for $3,000 to $10,000.

Intel, as well as other large chip manufacturers, should be able to expand the benefits of Moore's Law, named for Gordon Moore, a founder of Intel, which accurately predicted decades ago that computer chips would continue to double in capacity roughly every 18 months, while their price would continue to fall.

"I think this brings Moore's Law to digital television," said Richard Doherty, a consumer electronics industry analyst who is president of Envisioneering, a consulting firm based on Long Island. He predicted that the low-cost display technology, which can be incorporated into the traditional rear-projection television sets, could lead to lightweight 50-inch screens only 7 inches thick for about $1,000, perhaps as early as the 2004 holiday season.

Wow.

I have long ruminated here to the effect that a whole new era of display will open up when people have more than one TV set, and that's a function of how small they can be made. Think of how the world will change when we can all have our walls covered in TV sets which no more unwieldy than framed pictures are now. You can only listen effectively to one machine, maybe two or three if you count my habit of combining classical music and TV sport (often both together) with other things. But you can have an entire wall full of simultaneous pictures. Any decade now our living rooms will sport those wonderful arrays of TV sets that you only now see in the TV shops, and with coordinated graphics controlled from one keyboard. That is to say, you'll be able to make the screens all combine together to show the same huge picture, or have separate pictures on each TV, or a combination of the two, to taste.

For this reason, much effort will in future go into making not just thin screens, but screens with thin frames, and ideally no frames at all. TVs will be like ceramic tiles, only with changeable graphics. A bit like this, come to think of it.

Movies to nod to: That one with Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer … The Witches of Eastwick? – where at the end the baby devil spawn was watching a whole wall full of TVs, all occupied by Devil Jack Nicholson; and: the original Rollerball, which I recall having walls of imagery; as did Total Recall, I seem to recall. And there must be many more.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:01 AM
Category: TVTechnology