How Does a Jumbotron Work?

A Jumbotron is basically nothing more than an extremely giant television, and if you have ever been to Times Square or a major sporting event, you have seen one.

History of the Jumbotron

General view of jumbotrons in Times Square
General view of jumbotrons in celebration of the 2012 Presidential Election night in Times Square on November 6, 2012 in New York City. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The word Jumbotron is a registered trademark belonging to the Sony Corporation, the developers of the world's first jumbotron that debuted at the 1985 World's Fair in Toyko. However, today jumbotron has become a generic trademark or common term used for any giant television. Sony got out of the jumbotron business in 2001.

Diamond Vision

While Sony did trademark the Jumbotron, they were not the first to manufacture a large scale video monitor. That honor goes to Mitsubishi Electric with Diamond Vision, giant LED television displays that were first manufactured in 1980. The first Diamond Vision screen was introduced at the 1980 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Yasuo Kuroki - Sony Designer Behind The Jumbotron

Sony creative director and project designer Yasuo Kuroki is credited with the development of the jumbotron. According to the Sony Insider, Yasuo Kuroki was born in Miyazaki, Japan, in 1932. Kuroki joined Sony in 1960. His design efforts with two others led to the familiar Sony logo. The Ginza Sony Building and other showrooms around the world also bear his creative signature. After heading advertising, product planning, and the Creative Center, he was appointed director in 1988. Planning and development projects to his credit include Profeel and Walkman, as well as Jumbotron at the Tsukuba Expo. He was director of the Kuroki Office and the Design Center of Toyama, until his death on July 12, 2007.

Jumbotron Technology

Unlike Mitsubishi's Diamond Vision, the first jumbotrons were not LED (light-emitting diode) displays. Early jumbotrons used CRT (cathode ray tube) technology. Early jumbotron displays were actually a collection of multiple modules, and each module contained at least sixteen small flood-beam CRTs, each CRT produced from a two to sixteen pixel section of the total display.

Since LED displays have much longer lifespans than CRT displays, it was logically that Sony also converted their jumbotron technology to LED based.

The early jumbotrons and other large scale video displays obviously were massive in size, ironically, they were also in the beginning low in resolution, for example; a thirty foot jumbotron would have a resolution of only 240 by 192 pixels. Newer jumbotrons have at least HDTV resolution at 1920 x 1080 pixels, and that number will only increase.

Photo of First Sony JumboTron Television

Sony JumboTron television
Sony JumboTron television at Expo '85 - The International Exposition, Tsukuba, Japan, 1985 The world's first JumboTron. Model: JTS-1. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

The first Sony Jumbotron debuted at the World's Fair in Japan in 1985. The first jumbotron cost sixteen million dollars to manufacture and was fourteen stories tall, with dimensions of fourty meters wide by twentyfive meters high. The name jumbotron was decided upon by Sony because of the use of Trini

tron tron jumbo jumbo

tron's enormous size.

Jumbotrons in Sports Stadiums

Jumbotron at Sports Stadium
Fans wait in their seats as a weather delay is displayed on the jumbotron prior to the game between the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 5, 2013 in Denver Colorado. Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Jumbotrons (both Sony official and generic versions) are used in sports stadiums to entertain and inform the audience. They are also used to bring close-up details of events that the audience might otherwise miss.

The first large-scale video screen (and video scoreboard) used at a sports event was a Diamond Vision model manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric and not a Sony jumbotron. The sports event was the 1980 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Jumbotron World Records

Jumbotrons are tested at MetLife Stadium
Jumbotrons are tested at MetLife Stadium ahead of Super Bowl XLVIII on January 31, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The largest Sony brand Jumbotron ever manufactured, was installed in the SkyDome, in Toronto, Ontario, and measured 33 feet tall by 110 feet wide. The Skydome jumbotron cost a whooping $17 million dollars US. However, costs have come down cosideralby and today the same size would only cost $3 million dollars with improved technology.

Mitsubishi's Diamond Vision video displays have been recognized five times by Guinness World Records for being the largest jumbotrons in existence.

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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "How Does a Jumbotron Work?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, February 16). How Does a Jumbotron Work? Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "How Does a Jumbotron Work?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).