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Plasma Screens Clearly Show the Future of Television

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RALEIGH — Digital broadcasting promises a new way of watching television that is cleaner, brighter and more realistic.

A new type of display known as a plasma screen is expected to be one of the most popular for watchinghigh definition television.

Plasma displays are bright and offer the clarity promised by digital television. The first plasma screen display was invented more than 30 years ago byDr. Donald Bitzer, now a professor atN.C. State.

"There's been a lot of work done since 1964 when we invented it," Bitzer said. "There's been a lot of progress and there'll be more progress in manufacturing techniques as time goes on."

The plasma panel was developed as an education tool; then licensed by theUniversity of IllinoistoIBMand several Japanese companies. Inside today's panels, gases act on the phosphor on the screen to create colors.

"They put different colors in different little sections and each one of those colors can be illuminated to," Blitzer said. "Nowadays, they have eight different bits or 256 shades for each color."

Plasma panels are expensive. Newer models costs about the same as a new car. Analysts say prices will come down, and shipments will go up from just a few thousand a year to more than a million in five years.

Bitzer says he thought plasma displays would be used for television back in 1964, but put little faith in his prediction.

"I must say that what the industry has done with it is much better than I thought they could have done with it at the time we invented it," Blitzer said.

High definition plasma displays are expected to hit the general market soon. But now, because of price, they remain out of reach for most consumers.

Dr. Bitzer was on the faculty of the University of Illinois when he invented the plasma screen.