Plasma televisions are today a popular commodity and used by millions all over the world. However, little is known about the history of the plasma television, when it was first invented and how it become so popular. Here we plot the development of this technology and who played key roles along the way.
It all started with a Hungarian scientist called Kálmán Tihanyi, an engineer who had previously designed television-based guidance systems for defense applications, including prototypes of an optically-controlled, pilot-less aircraft. He would also make significant contributions to the design of cathode ray tubes. In 1936 Tihanyi described the basic principles behind plasma television.
These ideas were taken on by David Bitzer, H Gene Slottow and Robert Wilson at the University of Illinois who together gave “birth” to the monochrome (black and white) plasma display in 1964. This display was part of a computer system project (by the name of PLATO. PLATO was shut in 1996 but incidentally was a trailblazer for major internet based concepts that we now as forums, message boards, e-mail, chat rooms, picture languages, instant messaging, remote screen sharing, and multi-player games.
Another key figure in the development of plasma displays was Larry F Webber who pursued postgraduate study under Bitzer and Slottow in the 1960s. Webbers research papers would eventually earn him 15 patents relating to the subject.
The worlds first full colour plasma display was made by Fujtsu in 1992. The same company was also responsible for the first 42-inch plasma display in 1997. Philips and Pioneer also started to sell plasma screens to the general public in this year also.
Up until the year 2000, the plasma was the most popular choice for flat panel displays as there was a host of advantages over competing technologies (notably LCDs) However significant improvements have narrowed that gap, however it is still widely believed that plasma display panels have the edge when it comes to large screens and this is borne out by Panasonic introducing a 152″ 2160p 3D plasma screen in 2010.