Electronic visual display

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An electronic visual display, informally a screen, is a display device for presentation of images, text, or video transmitted electronically, without producing a permanent record. Electronic visual displays include television sets, computer monitors, and digital signage. By the above definition, an overhead projector (along with screen onto which the text, images, or video is projected) could reasonably be considered an electronic visual display since it is a display device for the presentation of an images, plain text, or video transmitted electronically without producing a permanent record. They are also ubiquitous in mobile computing applications like tablet computers, smartphones, and information appliances.



These are the technologies used to create the various displays in use today.

Additionally, Cathode-ray tubes were widely used in the past and microLED displays are under development.


Electronic visual displays present visual information according to the electrical input signal (analog or digital) either by emitting light (then they are called active displays) or, alternatively, by modulating available light during the process of reflection or transmission (light modulators are called passive displays).

Electronic visual displays
Active displaysPassive displays
present visual information by emitting lightpresent visual information by modulating light
Principle Liquid crystal display (LCD) + backlight
(this combination is considered an active display)
ExampleLCD TV screen, LCD computer monitorLCD watch (reflective)
see LCD classification
Principle Cathodoluminescence Electrophoresis
also see Electronic paper
Example Cathode ray tube (CRT)
Field emission display (FED)
Vacuum fluorescent display (VFD)
Surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED)
Research & manufacturing:

Principle Electroluminescence Electrochromism
Example(thin or thick film) electro-luminescence (EL)
(inorganic or organic) light emitting diode (LED, OLED)

gas discharge display (Nixie tube)
Research & manufacturing:
Principle Photoluminescence Electrowetting
Example Plasma display panel (PDP)Research & manufacturing:
Principle Incandescence
Electromechanical modulation
Example Numitron, a 7-segment numerical display tube flap display
flip-disk display
digital micromirror device (DMD)
Interferometric modulator display (IMOD)
FTIR (unipixel)

Display mode of observation

Electronic visual displays can be observed directly (direct view display) or the displayed information can be projected to a screen (transmissive or reflective screen). This usually happens with smaller displays at a certain magnification.

Display modes of observation
Direct view displayProjection display
transmissive mode of operationfront-projection (with reflective screen)
e.g. video projector
reflective mode of operationrear-projection (with transmissive screen)
e.g. rear projection television screen
transflective mode of operation
(e.g. transflective LCD)
retinal projection (with or without combiner)
e.g. head mounted display

A different kind of projection display is the class of "laser projection displays", where the image is built up sequentially either via line by line scanning or by writing one complete column at a time. For that purpose one beam is formed from three lasers operating at the primary colors, and this beam is scanned electro-mechanically (galvanometer scanner, micro-mirror array)) or electro-acousto-optically.

Layout of picture elements

Depending on the shape and on the arrangement of the picture elements of a display, either fixed information can be displayed (symbols, signs), simple numerals (7-segment layout) or arbitrary shapes can be formed (dot-matrix displays).

Layout of picture elements
Segmented displays
characters, numbers and symbols of fixed shape (may be multiplex addressed)
The following layouts are well known:
Seven-segment display
Fourteen-segment display
Sixteen-segment display
Dot-matrix displays
sub-pixels are arranged in a regular 2-dimensional array
(multiplex addressing required); arbitrary shapes can be formed and displayed

Emission and control of colors

Colors can be generated by selective emission, by selective absorption, transmission or by selective reflection.

Color emission and control
additive mixing
primary colors add up to produce white light
subtractive mixing
filters, dyes, pigments (e.g.printing) subtract (absorb) parts of white light
temporal mixing (additive)
e.g. rotating primary color filter wheel in projectors
spatial mixing (additive)
closely spaced sub-pixels
spatio temporal color mixing
combined spatial and temporal mixing [1]
arrangement of sub-pixels
for additive color mixing
see sub-pixel arrangements 1
see sub-pixel arrangements 2
see sub-pixel arrangements 3
subtractive color mixing does not require special sub-pixel arrangements
all components (e.g. filters) have to be in the same path of light.
PenTile arrangement, e.g. RGB+White

Addressing modes

Each sub-pixel of a display device must be selected (addressed) in order to be energized in a controlled way.

Addressing modes (selection of picture elements)
direct addressing
each individual picture element has electrical connections to the driving electronics.
multiplexed addressing
several picture elements have common electrical connections to the driving electronics,
e. g.. row and column electrodes when the picture elements are arranged in a two dimensional matrix.
active matrix addressing
active electronic elements added in order to improve selection of picture elements.
  • thin-film diodes (TFDs)
  • thin-film transistors (TFTs)
    • amorphous silicon (a-Si)
    • polycrystalline silicon (p-Si)
    • monocrystalline silicon
passive matrix addressing
the nonlinearity of the display effect (e.g. LCD, LED)is used to realize the addressing of individual pixels in multiplex addressing. In this mode only a quite limited number of lines can be addressed. In the case of (STN-)LCDs this maximum is at ~240, but at the expense of a considerable reduction of contrast.
The matrix of active electronic elements can used in transmissive mode of operation (high transmittance required) or a non-transparent active matrix can be used for reflective LCDs (e.g. liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS)).|

Display driving modes

Driving modes (activation of picture elements)
voltage driving
activation of pixels by voltage (e.g. LCD field effects). If the current is low enough this mode may be the basis for displays with very low power requirements (e.g. μW for LCDs without backlight).
current driving
activation of pixels by electric current (e.g. LED).

See also

Related Research Articles

Liquid-crystal display Display that uses the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals

A liquid-crystal display (LCD) is a flat-panel display or other electronically modulated optical device that uses the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals combined with polarizers. Liquid crystals do not emit light directly, instead using a backlight or reflector to produce images in color or monochrome. LCDs are available to display arbitrary images or fixed images with low information content, which can be displayed or hidden. For instance: preset words, digits, and seven-segment displays, as in a digital clock, are all good examples of devices with these displays. They use the same basic technology, except that arbitrary images are made from a matrix of small pixels, while other displays have larger elements. LCDs can either be normally on (positive) or off (negative), depending on the polarizer arrangement. For example, a character positive LCD with a backlight will have black lettering on a background that is the color of the backlight, and a character negative LCD will have a black background with the letters being of the same color as the backlight. Optical filters are added to white on blue LCDs to give them their characteristic appearance.

Opto-electronics is the study and application of electronic devices and systems that source, detect and control light, usually considered a sub-field of photonics. In this context, light often includes invisible forms of radiation such as gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared, in addition to visible light. Optoelectronic devices are electrical-to-optical or optical-to-electrical transducers, or instruments that use such devices in their operation.

Photonics Branch of physics related to the technical applications of light

Photonics is the physical science and application of light (photon) generation, detection, and manipulation through emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and sensing. Though covering all light's technical applications over the whole spectrum, most photonic applications are in the range of visible and near-infrared light. The term photonics developed as an outgrowth of the first practical semiconductor light emitters invented in the early 1960s and optical fibers developed in the 1970s.

A flat-panel display (FPD) is an electronic display device used to enable people to see content in a range of entertainment, consumer electronics, personal computer, and mobile devices, and many types of medical, transportation and industrial equipment. They are far lighter and thinner than traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) television sets and are usually less than 10 centimetres (3.9 in) thick. Flat-panel displays can be divided into two display device categories: volatile and static. Volatile displays require that pixels be periodically electronically refreshed to retain their state. A volatile display only shows an image when it has battery or AC mains power. Static flat-panel displays rely on materials whose color states are bistable, and as such, flat-panel displays retain the text or images on the screen even when the power is off. As of 2016, flat-panel displays have almost completely replaced old CRT displays. In many 2010-era applications, specifically small portable devices such as laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, digital cameras, camcorders, point-and-shoot cameras, and pocket video cameras, any display disadvantages of flat-panels are made up for by portability advantages.

Display may refer to:

LCD projector Type of video projector

An LCD projector is a type of video projector for displaying video, images or computer data on a screen or other flat surface. It is a modern equivalent of the slide projector or overhead projector. To display images, LCD projectors typically send light from a metal-halide lamp through a prism or series of dichroic filters that separates light to three polysilicon panels – one each for the red, green and blue components of the video signal. As polarized light passes through the panels, individual pixels can be opened to allow light to pass or closed to block the light. The combination of open and closed pixels can produce a wide range of colors and shades in the projected image.

Display device Output device for presentation of information in visual form

A display device is an output device for presentation of information in visual or tactile form. When the input information that is supplied has an electrical signal the display is called an electronic display.

Liquid crystal on silicon is a miniaturized reflective active-matrix liquid-crystal display or "microdisplay" using a liquid crystal layer on top of a silicon backplane. It is also referred to as a spatial light modulator. LCoS was initially developed for projection televisions but is now used for wavelength selective switching, structured illumination, near-eye displays and optical pulse shaping. By way of comparison, some LCD projectors use transmissive LCD, allowing light to pass through the liquid crystal.

Video projector Device that projects video onto a surface

A video projector is an image projector that receives a video signal and projects the corresponding image on a projection screen using a lens system. Video projectors use a very bright Ultra-high-performance lamp, Xenon arc lamp, LED or solid state blue, RB, RGB or remote fiber optic RGB lasers to provide the illumination required to project the image, and most modern ones can correct any curves, blurriness, and other inconsistencies through manual settings. If a blue laser is used, a phosphor wheel is used to turn blue light into white light, which is also the case with white LEDs. A wheel is used in order to prolong the lifespan of the phosphor, as it is degraded by the heat generated by the laser diode. Remote fiber optic RGB laser racks can be placed far away from the projector, and several racks can be housed in a single, central room. Each projector can use up to two racks, and several monochrome lasers are mounted on each rack, the light of which is mixed and transmitted to the projector booth using optical fibers. Projectors using RB lasers use a blue laser with a phosphor wheel in conjunction with a conventional solid state red laser.

Digital Light Processing Set of chipsets

Digital Light Processing (DLP) is a set of chipsets based on optical micro-electro-mechanical technology that uses a digital micromirror device. It was originally developed in 1987 by Larry Hornbeck of Texas Instruments. While the DLP imaging device was invented by Texas Instruments, the first DLP-based projector was introduced by Digital Projection Ltd in 1997. Digital Projection and Texas Instruments were both awarded Emmy Awards in 1998 for the DLP projector technology. DLP is used in a variety of display applications from traditional static displays to interactive displays and also non-traditional embedded applications including medical, security, and industrial uses.

Spatial light modulator

A spatial light modulator (SLM) is an object that imposes some form of spatially varying modulation on a beam of light. A simple example is an overhead projector transparency. Usually when the phrase SLM is used, it means that the transparency can be controlled by a computer. In the 1980s, large SLMs were placed on overhead projectors to project computer monitor contents to the screen. Since then more modern projectors have been developed where the SLM is built inside the projector. These are commonly used in meetings of all kinds for presentations.

Electronic component Discrete device in an electronic system

An electronic component is any basic discrete device or physical entity in an electronic system used to affect electrons or their associated fields. Electronic components are mostly industrial products, available in a singular form and are not to be confused with electrical elements, which are conceptual abstractions representing idealized electronic components and elements.

Laser color television, or laser color video display utilizes two or more individually modulated optical (laser) rays of different colors to produce a combined spot that is scanned and projected across the image plane by a polygon-mirror system or less effectively by optoelectronic means to produce a color-television display. The systems work either by scanning the entire picture a dot at a time and modulating the laser directly at high frequency, much like the electron beams in a cathode ray tube, or by optically spreading and then modulating the laser and scanning a line at a time, the line itself being modulated in much the same way as with digital light processing (DLP).

Large-screen television technology Technology rapidly developed in the late 1990s and 2000s

Large-screen television technology developed rapidly in the late 1990s and 2000s. Prior to the development of thin-screen technologies, rear-projection television was used for many larger displays, and jumbotron, a non-projection video display technology, was used at stadiums and concerts. Various thin-screen technologies are being developed, but only liquid crystal display (LCD), plasma display (PDP) and Digital Light Processing (DLP) have been released on the public market. However, recently released technologies like organic light-emitting diode (OLED), and not-yet-released technologies like surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) or field emission display (FED), are on their way to replacing the first flat-screen technologies in picture quality.

A holographic display is a type of display that utilizes light diffraction to create a virtual three-dimensional image. Holographic displays are distinguished from other forms of 3D displays in that they do not require the aid of any special glasses or external equipment for a viewer to see the image.

LED display Display technology

A LED display is a flat panel display that uses an array of light-emitting diodes as pixels for a video display. Their brightness allows them to be used outdoors where they are visible in the sun for store signs and billboards. In recent years, they have also become commonly used in destination signs on public transport vehicles, as well as variable-message signs on highways. LED displays are capable of providing general illumination in addition to visual display, as when used for stage lighting or other decorative purposes. LED displays can offer higher contrast ratios than a projector and are thus an alternative to traditional projection screens, and they can be used for large, uninterrupted video walls. microLED displays are LED displays with smaller LEDs, which poses significant development challenges.

Electrically operated display devices have developed from electromechanical systems for display of text, up to all-electronic devices capable of full-motion 3D color graphic displays. Electromagnetic devices, using a solenoid coil to control a visible flag or flap, were the earliest type, and were used for text displays such as stock market prices and arrival/departure display times. The cathode ray tube was the workhorse of text and video display technology for several decades until being displaced by plasma, liquid crystal (LCD), and solid-state devices such as thin-film transistors (TFTs), LEDs and OLEDs. With the advent of metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs), integrated circuit (IC) chips, microprocessors, and microelectronic devices, many more individual picture elements ("pixels") could be incorporated into one display device, allowing graphic displays and video.

A text display is an electronic alphanumeric display device that is mainly or only capable of showing text, or extremely limited graphic characters. This includes electromechanical split-flap displays, vane displays, and flip-disc displays; all-electronic liquid-crystal displays, incandescent eggcrate displays, LED displays, and vacuum fluorescent displays; and even electric nixie tubes.

A see-through display or transparent display is an electronic display that allows the user to see what is shown on the screen while still being able to see through it. The main applications of this type of display are in head-up displays, augmented reality systems, digital signage, and general large-scale spatial light modulation. They should be distinguished from image-combination systems which achieve visually similar effects by optically combining multiple images in the field of view. Transparent displays embed the active matrix of the display in the field of view, which generally allows them to be more compact than combination-based systems.

Laser-powered phosphor display (LPD) is a large-format display technology similar to the cathode ray tube (CRT). Prysm, Inc., a video wall designer and manufacturer in Silicon Valley, California, invented and patented the LPD technology. The key components of the LPD technology are its TD2 tiles, its image processor and its backing frame that supports LPD tile arrays. The company unveiled the LPD in January 2010.


  1. Louis D. Silverstein, et al., Hybrid spatial-temporal color synthesis and its applications, JSID 14/1(2006), pp. 3–13

Further reading