Feeds

Liquid crystals - Display genius no match for petty politics

How the LCD lost its Daddy

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

'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." ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.