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3-D Color TV for the Future?
May 1958 Radio News

May 1958 Radio & TV News
May 1958 Radio & TV News Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio & Television News, published 1919-1959. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

You can add to the long list of technical wonders promised - and not delivered - to us by the end of the twentieth century (this is now the 21st century, btw) a three-dimensional (3D) television set. This 1958 article from Radio & TV News magazine described efforts already made by the movie industry for generating 3D films that provided audiences with life-like projections that were designed to shock their senses by having scary or dangerous objects suddenly hurled at them. Pictures of a theater filled with people wearing the cardboard-framed red/blue stereoscopic glasses are a very familiar symbol of the scheme known as stereoscopy. Another method of 3D image perception was to use horizontal and vertical polarization along with appropriately configured glasses to separate the images entering the eyes and relying on the brain to convert a pair of two-dimensional pictures into a three-dimensional image. Designers who came up with the ViewMaster line of viewers used a different approach that used two cameras separated by some distance to record a unique perspective of the same scene and presenting the two images to the viewer's eyes. It was the most life-like scheme and, unlike the other described schemes, could be made in full color. This article reported on an electronic display that promised to generate holographic-like renditions of scenes by creating the actual picture in three dimensions - no hokey glasses or viewers required. Although distinctly different from the semiconductor- or plasma-derived displays, it fundamentally is similar because of the way an x-y matrix of signals energize each specific electro-fluorescent location on the screen rather than employing a steered electron stream. 

3-D Color TV for the Future?

3-D Color TV for the Future?, May 1958 Radio News - RF CafeBy Milton S. Snitzer, Technical Editor

Will the experimental 3-D display described here lead to "living theaters" in our homes of the future?

What will our TV sets of the future be like? Surely we should not have to keep our eyes glued to a rather small flat screen with tiny flat figures on it. Just imagine what depth and realism could come from a large three-dimensional colored image - just like a real-life play right in our own living rooms. This would not be an optical illusion but real 3-D.

Some 3-D Methods

The movie industry has experimented with two methods that can give the illusion of depth. In one, two differently colored images are superimposed on the flat screen. If the viewer then sees these through special glasses whose lenses match the colors of the images, he will see one image with one eye and another image with the other eye. The two separate pictures are combined in the mind of the viewer to produce a 3-D picture.

 - RF Cafe

Experimental unit made up of two sets of wire electrodes at right angles to each other supported and insulated on a glass plate. Tiny holes at the intersections of the wires are filled with a transparent electroflor and the assembly is sealed. The electroflor will fluoresce and give off light of various colors when electrically stimulated. Any number of these flat plates may be stacked together to produce a true 3-D display device.

Another idea is to project one image with light that is polarized in one direction, and project the other image with light polarized in another direction. Again, special glasses made up of polarized light filters could be used to produce the two separate pictures needed for 3-D. With this second method, full-color pictures can be given depth and realism.

Recently, General Electric has developed the world's first 3-D color television system for remote servicing of nuclear reactors. This system is strictly a closed-circuit setup that is not currently feasible for the living room. The technician who will view the picture will use special polarizing glasses like those used for 3-D movies.

But what about producing a picture that has true depth and does not require special glasses or other illusion techniques? The 3-D display device to be described may provide the answer.

3-D Electroflor

Electroflors are certain new materials that can store electrical energy. When an indicating material is added, the combination will give off light if electrically stimulated by fairly low voltages. Normally the material is crystal-clear. About 50 electroflors are available from such companies as Shannon Luminous Materials Co., Hollywood, California with a variety of colors and storage times.

In practice, a flat glass or plastic plate with a series of tiny holes may be used. A gridwork of fine wires criss-cross each hole, which is filled with the electroflor and sealed. The leads can also be evaporated metal coatings, thin enough to remain transparent. With 500 leads on a side and a 25-inch square, definition about equal to a conventional TV picture tube may be had. The plates may be made as large as needed.

By the use of 3 thin plates sandwiched together, each of which glows with a primary color, it is possible to produce a full-color display. Then by stacking a number of such plates together to any desired thickness a true 3-D display is produced. Experimental versions of such displays have already been made. Of course special scanning signals would have to be used to produce a TV-like raster.

Perhaps after we have added color and depth to our TV of the future, we may want to make the display even more real by adding odors. Can't you smell that sizzling steak now?



Posted September 20, 2023
(updated from original post on 12/26/2019)

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