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George Heilmeier headed the research group at RCA that invented the first liquid crystal display.

Heilmeier The first published suggestion for using liquid crystal materials for display came in 1963 from Richard Williams and George Heilmeier at the David Sarnoff Research Center, RCA's laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey. Heilmeier (1936-) went on to head a group at the lab--including Nunzio Luce, Louis Zanoni, Joel Goldmacher, Joseph Castellano and Lucian Barton--to investigate the use of liquid crystal displays for a "TV-on-a-wall" concept, a dream of David Sarnoff himself.

The digital time display was developed in order to market the LCD in a commercial product.

prototype LCD The challenge was to find a liquid crystal that would provide a display at room temperature, and by 1968 the RCA group had a display based on the dynamic scattering mode (DSM) of liquid crystals. But at the same time it was clear that large-screen LCD TVs were many years off, and the group set its sights on displays that could be incorporated more immediately in commercial products. A number of the RCA pioneers left to form Optel Corporation, in Princeton, New Jersey, where they perfected techniques for the manufacture of LCD displays and digital watches. Beginning in 1970, Optel designed and produced LCD watches for several watch companies. Optel later marketed LCD watches under its own name.

In the dynamic scattering liquid crystal display, an electrical charge is applied which rearranges the molecules so that they scatter light. These early DSM displays proved unsatisfactory, suffering from relatively high power consumption, limited life, and poor contrast. An improved liquid crystal display was invented in 1969 by James Fergason at Kent State University based on the twisted nematic field effect.

Today the LCD is the most common digital watch display.

In the early 1970s LCD watches were in competition with LEDs for the electronic digital watch market. By 1977 consumers came to prefer LCDs over LEDs.

Before 1960 ~ After 1960

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