Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 22/05/2002Over in Boston, it's the Society for Information Display's annual shindig. Nurse, the screens!

Wednesday 22/05/2002

Over in Boston, it's the Society for Information Display's annual shindig. Nurse, the screens! And of course, they have panels. One such is looking at what's going on with organic light-emitting diodes -- colourful glowing devices made out of plastic instead of semiconductors. I've written about these for years, and like so much really good new technology they seem to take an age to arrive. But SID is excited, and SID knows what it's talking about. Fifty companies are making long-term investments. Prototypes look exciting. There are technical challenges, but everyone's bullish.

What seems to be most significant isn't that they save power over LCDs and other display technologies -- they do, to the point that they could make a serious impact on global energy consumption -- or that they're ideally suited to mass production at a cheaper price point than current displays. It's that they look gorgeous. As one panellist said, his kids were going to pick the organic LED Game Boy over the LCD model, every time. (Don't get too excited -- you can't buy an OLED Game Boy yet, but Texas Instruments was showing one off).

Timing? The best guess of the SID people is that OLEDs will happen roughly twice as fast as LCDs did. It took 30 years for LCDs to get from the lab to high-quality affordable desktop monitors; it'll take OLEDs 15, and they've been cooking for around five already. But we'll probably see the first expensive, rare yet commercialised panels in the next two to three years.