Welcome to San Antonio


by Steve Atwood

In America, dancing has always played an important part in social gatherings, especially in the southern and southwestern parts of the United States. Among the many types of dance is one called "line dancing," in which large groups of people arranged in lines execute synchronized, well-rehearsed steps to music. This is not unique to the U.S., of course; the people in the English court of King Henry VIII engaged in line dances in the 1500s. But there is something special about line dancing as practiced in the southern U.S., and it flourishes today as a form of expression and celebration. One particular dance called the San Antonio Stroll consists of some 32 different moves and a fairly energetic choreography that requires lots of practice to master. Immortalized sometime in the 1970s, it has become synonymous with the Texas town it is named after, the place where we are all gathering for Display Week 2009. The dance has its origins in other line dances as well as square dance and it is hard to say exactly how long the San Antonio Stroll has been around, but it would be hard to imagine San Antonio without people line dancing in auditoriums or meeting halls to the signature sound of pedal steel guitars and fiddles driving the crowd along.

As Display Week 2009 gets under way, we are certainly a long way from LA and facing a very different technological and economic world than we did a year ago. I know that many of you will not be at Display Week this June, constrained either by travel restrictions and smaller budgets, or maybe by the need to keep your business activities afloat while covering for a smaller staff and fewer co-workers. It's not worth trying to pretend that all is well in the industry, because it isn't. But, just as people have always practiced their favorite dances regardless of their health or economic condition, so must we keep working on the things that make us more innovative and creative as technologists. Now more than at any other time, innovation will be the hallmark of successful endeavors and there is never a shortage of new opportunities for innovation in the display business. To be innovative, you need to be inspired, and one of the ways to get inspiration is to leave your desk or lab and do the dance with all the rest of us at Display Week.

If you are new to SID, welcome! As a veteran of Display Week, I strongly encourage you to look beyond the world-class exhibition and consider all the other things going on during the week as well, including almost 500 papers, as well as the short courses, seminars, the business and investors conferences, keynotes, application tutorials, and awards luncheons. I have been attending Display Week for too many years to count, and I still treat it like a trip to Disney World. I gather the maps and schedules; I mark off the things that are most important to me; I plan my days to try to minimize down time; I coordinate with colleagues to make sure the stuff I miss is covered by someone else; and I normally turn off my cell phone because this is my week to learn and grow with the industry. Usually there are a number of events I know I want to attend, but there are also many surprises that I can only discover if I explore as much as possible.

Maybe one of the biggest benefits of Display Week is simply the chance to meet so many other colleagues from around the world that I might never have the chance to visit otherwise. My memories of previous events are rich with chance meetings with people from Europe and Asia who have become friends and trusted advisors. Meeting people face-to-face establishes a relationship that e-mail and phone calls cannot do, and therefore Display Week is an important vehicle for this as well as its many other features. Often it is in those personal interactions and candid conversations that I get my inspiration. Just like people who seek the comfort of celebration even in the face of hardship, I think we all need the time to recharge our imaginations and get inspired by each other in order to take on an industry that seems to be more demanding than ever before.

Everything in this Display Week issue of Information Display is a tribute to this innovation and inspiration, with a healthy dose of hard work and endurance thrown in. In our feature, "The Plasmaco Story," author Jane Birk describes the amazing achievements of a small R&D company founded by SID Past President Larry Weber and his colleagues. Over the course of 20 years, Plasmaco literally invented the technology used today for color plasma televisions. While others around the world were also developing plasma displays at the time, Plasmaco was doing it with a very small, highly motivated staff and almost no money to pay the bills and buy equipment. It was the sheer will power to overcome financial hardship and the true imagination of the Plasmaco team that made plasma TVs what they are today.

Similarly, we unveil the recipients of the SID/Information Display Display of the Year Awards, and in each case you can see how imagination and innovation are alive and well in our industry. From the Samsung 240-Hz-refresh TV (yes, that is not a misprint) to the miniature Texas Instruments DLP imager, the products recognized form a tapestry of creative thinking that will be the foundation for many future products and new applications. Thanks to our Managing Editor Jenny Donelan, you can read about all the winners and appreciate how they have made real differences in their respective market areas. I'm really excited about the DYA program sponsored by SID because it is the only one of its kind to look beyond the products and also recognize the components and applications that enable the display products we love.

While we are all supposed to be impartial here at ID, I can't help but confess my fascination with e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle (our display application of the year Gold Award winner), which in some senses are really very specialized low-power tablet computers. At first, I was a bit skeptical, noting the lack of color in the displays and the burden of having yet another electronic device to charge and carry on my numerous trips. But as I look around me on some of the many airplane segments I fly each month, I constantly see people leaving their laptops in their bags and pulling out their e-book readers instead. It is clearly a practical solution to the problem of carrying around physical books, and the feature-rich array of digital publications available today makes having one of these e-readers almost a must. Once again, we see how display technology, in this case electrophoretic technology from companies such as E Ink, can literally make our lives easier – for example, by making my arms less tired after a trip!

So, welcome to Display Week in San Antonio. Whether you are new to SID or a regular member and ID reader I hope you enjoy this issue, and I thank you for your generous support of SID. •