History of Plasma Television

First prototype for a plasma display monitor was invented in 1964

A modern plasma TV in a home theatre
Mark Lee / Flickr / Creative Commons

The very first prototype for a plasma display monitor was invented in July 1964 at the University of Illinois by professors Donald Bitzer and Gene Slottow, and then graduate student Robert Willson. However, it was not until after the advent of digital and other technologies that successful plasma televisions became possible. According to Wikipedia "a plasma display is an emissive flat panel display where light is created by phosphors excited by a plasma discharge between two flat panels of glass."

During the early sixties, the University of Illinois used regular televisions as computer monitors for their in-house computer network. Donald Bitzer, Gene Slottow, and Robert Willson (the inventors listed on the plasma display patent) researched plasma displays as an alternative to the cathode ray tube-based televisions sets being used. A cathode-ray display has to constantly refresh, which is okay for video and broadcasts but bad for displaying computer graphics. Donald Bitzer began the project and enlisted the help of Gene Slottow and Robert Willson. By July of 1964, the team had built the first plasma display panel with one single cell. Today's plasma televisions use millions of cells.

After 1964, television broadcast companies considered developing plasma television as an alternative to televisions using cathode ray tubes. However, LCD or liquid crystal displays made possible flat screen television that squelched the further commercial development of plasma display.

It took many years for plasma televisions to became successful and they finally did due to the efforts of Larry Weber. University of Illinois author Jamie Hutchinson wrote that Larry Weber's prototype sixty-inch plasma display, developed for Matsushita and bearing the Panasonic label, combined the size and resolution necessary for HDTV with the addition of thinness.