Page 2

By Eric Lundquist  |  Posted 2006-08-21 Print this article Print

What is the fundamental display technology? You mentioned the display would be capable of being able to be fabbed in LCD factories—is it a variation of LCD? Yes, its a variation on liquid crystal display. Its a rethinking of it. Ive spent 20 years in the display industry and despite making fantastic laboratory demos of holographic video, projection systems, head-mounted displays, microdisplays, city-block size holograms, and even moon-tv, ultimately none of them have achieved mass production in the way CRT did, and LCD has. Many got into production, but the manufacturing infrastructure of LCD is larger than both DRAM and silicon foundries—worldwide—today.
Why LCD?
Usually more than 20 years pass from the first demo of a new display technology until mass production can be achieved. As I embarked on finding a display solution in record time, I knew that I had to use an existing manufacturing infrastructure with no process changes whatsoever to have a hope. There was only one choice. Even five years ago there was a question of which technology would "win" for HDTV, even two years ago—but look at the accompanying chart. Which technology would you choose if you were in charge of shipping 5-10M laptops next year and 50-100M laptops the year after? Is the display the final piece of the technology puzzle? We had the basic technology for everything else in the laptop, but we needed a high-resolution, low-cost, low-power display. I added the sunlight readability as I spent more time working with the developing world and because I realized that we could get that [sunlight readability] for free. How do you achieve the higher resolution without higher power consumption? One-seventh the power consumption and one-third the price is quite a claim. Can you elaborate? What I have done is re-examined the LCD for our laptop. I looked at the cost structure of LCD, and the needs of our users, the kids of the world, half of whom have little or no access to electricity. Many of whom spend much of their time outside. What I came up with: a dual-mode display. Mode 1 is 800x600 (or higher—even 1024x768 looks surprisingly good!) color backlit with 1W MAX power consumption. Mode 2 is high resolution 1200x900 black and white reflective sunlight readable with 0.2W MAX power consumption. Mode 2 is also room light readable with the backlight off at again 0.2W power consumption. There are several keys to making this display work—they all add up to a large impact. A working model of the $100 laptop steals the spotlight at MITX. Click here to read more. Can you provide more technical details? One. I changed the pixel layout to diagonal stripes of color—this allowed me to increase and decrease the resolution of the panel horizontally and vertically (not just horizontally, which is what a standard layout would do). Two. I eliminated part (or all) of the costly color filters with innovative backlight solutions. Truthfully I have a variety of solutions under development right now—the first version of this family of solutions just started working last week. This allows a lot more light throughput and thus much lower power consumption. Three. I decided to not constrain the pixels to be always a certain color. Any pixel can either be a pre-assigned color or "black and white." This turns out to be more powerful than it seems. The sharpness (or resolution) of the display can be much higher this way. Four. I eliminated much of the costly interface electronics. This allowed us to use a lower cost novel-TTL interface instead of the now typical LVDS (Low Voltage Differential Signaling). LVDS [is] expensive and power hungry and required for most LCDs for laptop resolution, but because for my display, each pixel can be color or monochrome we can achieve higher resolution than 95% of the laptops on the market today. Five. Cutting the cost of the optical films in the LCD through innovative liquid crystal "mode" design while increasing again the efficacy of light through them. Six. Moving to use LEDs in the backlight rather than traditional CCFLs (very small fluorescent lights). This is also better for the environment. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

Since 1996, Eric Lundquist has been Editor in Chief of eWEEK, which includes domestic, international and online editions. As eWEEK's EIC, Lundquist oversees a staff of nearly 40 editors, reporters and Labs analysts covering product, services and companies in the high-technology community. He is a frequent speaker at industry gatherings and user events and sits on numerous advisory boards. Eric writes the popular weekly column, 'Up Front,' and he is a confidant of eWEEK's Spencer F. Katt gossip columnist.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel