Feeds

Liquid crystals - Display genius no match for petty politics

How the LCD lost its Daddy

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

'When your passion leaves, you need to leave with it'

Unfortunately, in the mid-1960s, integrated circuits weren't up to the task. But Heilmeier knew that once they were, he had a flat-panel TV on his hands. When he unveiled the technology four years later at that 1968 press conference - showing off a few reflective alphanumeric displays and a window that turned opaque when you applied a current - some saw the possibilities. But RCA wasn't among them.

"The Japanese manufacturers recognized what we were doing and what it might lead to, but RCA had a little trouble. Not at the top of RCA, not at the David Sarnoff-level, but among people that were playing the internal politics shall we say...They didn't quite realize where it might lead once the integrated circuit caught up."

As RCA dilly-dallied, Heilmeier suggested he create his own company around the LCD. But RCA wouldn't have it. "They told me that if I left RCA to start my own company, it would be the biggest mistake of my life because they would sue the hell out of me."

George Heilmeier

George Heilmeier and an early LCD

The situation came to a head one rainy New York night as Heilmeier and two top managers took a limo home from the company's headquarters. As Heilmeier rode in the front seat, the two were in the back discussing his research as a means of "winning points" with a colleague. "I thought 'This is sick,'" he says. "And I told me wife 'I've got to get our of here. I've lost my passion for the whole thing.' When your passion leaves, you need to leave with it."

In 1970, he joined the White House Fellow program, becoming a special assistant to Secretary of Defense. By 1975, he was running DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and in 1983, he took over as chief technology officer at Texas Instruments, a post he would hold for the next eight years.

Meanwhile, RCA never did grasp the importance of the LCD. But the Japanese eventually took it to market - in spades. Not that any of this interests George Heilmeier one way or the other. He and his passion left liquid crystals almost forty years ago.

But there are times where he wonders what would have happened if RCA had let him start his own business around the LCD. "They never got a return on investment," he says. "The project never had same kind of passion that we had in the beginning." ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.