Flat Screen TV in 1958 (Jan, 1958)

I’m not sure this was real. It seems like if it really worked, we’d all have them. This is a Cnet article from 2004 about brand new flat CRTs and they are 16″ deep…

Update: This was real. It looks like it got abandoned more because of licensing and a standards battle than anything else. Here is a really interesting interview (pdf) done with the inventor from 1996.

AIKEN: “They finally agreed to a license. But, at the last minute, I guess at a Board of Directors’ Meeting for the final approval, somebody on the Board of Directors’ of RCA said, “Wait a minute, we’ve forgotten something. How are we going to explain to our stockholders that we wasted millions of dollars on the wrong tube?” And there was silence. And that did it. They said, “No, we will not take a license.”

Thin Tube Foretells Wall TV and Sky View for Air Pilot

BECAUSE OF NEW TECHNIQUES in the field of electronics, airplane instrument panels and home television sets may soon have something in common—a rectangular picture tube less than three inches thick. The thin cathode-ray tube was invented by William Ross Aiken and developed in the Kaiser Aircraft and Electronics Corporation laboratories. Military uses for the new TV tube were developed for the Douglas Aircraft Company. For the aircraft pilot, the thin TV tube will serve as an electronic windshield, showing an artificial picture of the terrain and sky conditions about him. For the TV viewer at home, the new picture tube may result in new designs for sets, with screens mounted in any wall or hung like picture frames. The picture tube, only 2-5/8 inches thick, is made of two rectangular pieces of plate glass with about an inch of space between them. The edges are sealed with powdered-glass solder to hold the vacuum. The surface of the thin tube is the equivalent of a 21-inch conventional screen. In the thin tube, the electron beam is injected at the bottom of one side. Deflection plates along the bottom edge bend the beam upward between the front and back glass walls. The inside of the front wall is coated with a new transparent phosphor which is said to improve the contrast. The thin TV tube also is reported to have sharper focusing properties. A new method of printing electrode elements on the inside surfaces of the glass eliminates the need for assembled metal parts. Printed circuits are used in the tube controls. The thin tube will replace many of the instruments needed for blind flying of an airplane and can be operated by a small electronic computer. A similar control system was developed by Allen B. Dumont Laboratories, Inc., for Bell Helicopter Corp.

15 comments
  1. MilanMerhar says: June 21, 20066:51 am

    Sinclair Radionics introduced its “Microvision TV1A pocket TV” in 1977 using the same side-scanning technology as described for the Aiken tube.

    The major technical problem such designs have is severe geometric distortion, the compensation for which greatly complicated the analog scanning circuitry of the day. In fact, Sinclair claimed it had taken them over ten years to perfect that aspect of their design.

  2. [...] In a comment on Flat Screen TV in 1958 MilanMerhar says: “Sinclair Radionics introduced its “Microvision TV1A pocket TV” in 1977 using the same side-scanning technology as described for the Aiken tube. [...]

  3. [...] [Source] [...]

  4. TecnoCHICA says: June 23, 200611:19 am

    La primera televisión pantalla plana del mundo…

    Me resulta casi imposible creer que la primera televisión pantalla plana del mundo fue fabricada en 1958, me llama mucho la atención porque para esa época no se usaban transistores sino tubos de vacio. ¿Qué como sé estas cosas?. Uno de mis hob……

  5. El primer televisor “plano”, en el 1958…

    Si le preguntas a alguien en qué año se inventaron los televisores totalmente planos (no tan solo su superficie, sino que el fondo del TV también), de seguro que te diría que a finales de los 1980 o inicios de los 1990, sin embargo, y como podrán ver e…

  6. Richard Kirk says: July 12, 20064:39 am

    These are real and they worked. The inventors Aitken and Gabor worked at Imperial College, London. The electron beam went in front of the display, and was directed onto the phosphor by charged lines under the phosphor. These lines were extended to a strip on the right of the display, so after writing a line of the image, the electron beam was then used to harge the strip, and so advance the beam to the next line. They were bright enough to be used as head-up displays in aircraft. A later development by RCA in the 1970′s added colour – red and green phosphors were on either side of a thin membrane, and the blue was a few mm underneath.

    The Sinclair display was closer to a Sony fat tube display of the sort you can still find used for entryphone systems. The beam went in front of the screen but it wasn’t as flat.

  7. Bill says: August 1, 20068:27 pm

    IEEE moved their oral history stuff. You can find the Aiken transcript here: http://www.ieee.org/web…

  8. [...] April, inspired by a scan on Modern Mechanix, I wrote this post about William Ross Aiken, who designed a workable flat-panel TV in 1958. [...]

  9. La primera pantalla plana says: May 19, 20084:07 pm

    [...] Fuente (inglés): Modernmechanix [...]

  10. techraptor says: May 31, 20088:33 am

    Damn he almost changed the history of man kind.Imagine if we had a flat TV. what if he had built a 3D display system.What happened to science these days that nothing new sounds interesting.He died in February,07.I feel sad…sad as a kid who couldn’t get to see his superhero.

  11. Adrian Gregg says: September 22, 20087:43 pm

    I have an article from a “radio and Hobbies” Mag from the same time (could be eriler) which shows a detailed Cutaway of the screen and loads of interesting details… Every couple of yeares from the late 40′s in R&H there is a new flat screen idea

  12. [...] Flat Screen TV in 1958 – Modern Mechanix [...]

  13. [...] William Ross Aiken una de las mayores promesas truncas en la historia de los inventos. Ni siquiera una nota en la reconocida revista Mecánica Popular de aquellos tiempos logró cambiar la fortuna del verdadero padre de las pantallas [...]

  14. [...] William Ross Aiken una de las mayores promesas truncas en la historia de los inventos. Ni siquiera una nota en la reconocida revista Mecánica Popular de aquellos tiempos logró cambiar la fortuna del verdadero padre de las pantallas [...]

  15. 1958 Flat Screen CRT says: October 4, 20108:41 pm

    [...] 1958 Popular Mechanics Issue. It is about a CRT flat screen made in 1958. Here is the blog article. Flat Screen TV in 1958 Here is a more recent interview in 2009 with the inventor of that 1958 CRT flat-screen-TV. [...]

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