The Secret Life Of Machines

The television

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Television sets have gone wide-screen. Although inside they haven’t changed much, I think its likely that in another ten years the ‘picture tube’ will be obsolete, replaced by a variety of other technologies. Liquid crystal TVs are sophisticated versions of the liquid crystal displays in watches (see the quartz watch episode in series 2). A white backlight, from tiny cold cathode tubes, shines through a large, multi-layer liquid crystal cell which creates the colours of the individual pixels. Some video projectors also shine the light through liquid crystal cells, though others use a Texas Instruments chip which reflects the light off thousands of tiny mirrors (one for each pixel). Plasma displays are similar in principle to fluorescent lights, the electricity exciting pixels of coloured phosphors to emit light in a vacuum. They are wonderfully bright, but too expensive to take over completely.

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