In 1968 a team of scientists and engineers from the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) announced the creation of a new form of electronic display that relied on an obscure set of materials known as liquid crystals. At a time when televisions used bulky cathode-ray tubes to produce an image, these researchers demonstrated how liquid crystals could electronically control the passage of light. One day, they predicted, liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) would find a home in clocks, calculators, and maybe even televisions that could hang on the wall. Half a century later RCA’s dreams have become a reality, and liquid crystals are now the basis for a multibillion-dollar global industry. Yet the company responsible for producing the first LCDs was unable to capitalize on its invention.
This talk considers how RCA scientists and engineers attempted to transform their early LCD prototypes into commercial products. Drawing on laboratory notebooks and internal reports from RCA’s corporate archive, as well as oral history interviews and artifacts from the Science History Institute’s collections, Gross explores the manufacturing and managerial challenges confronting members of RCA’s technical staff and the factors that led to the company’s ultimate withdrawal from the LCD market.
Benjamin Gross, Vice President for Research and Scholarship at the Linda Hall Library
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