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What happened to Plasma TVs?

In the technology industry, the  speed of evolution is considerably high and it doesn’t take long for a novelty to stand out from something before it. We can use televisions as an example: we currently have TVs, QLED, OLED, LCD and LED spreading easily, but Plasma TVs were once very popular.

It’s been a good few years since we’ve heard about Plasma TVs, and the question remains: what happened to them? In this post, we will talk a little about the fall of this technology.

Emergence and Popularity of Plasma TVs

The first Plasma TVs sold directly to end consumers appeared in 1997. Fujitsu  was responsible for manufacturing the first screens and a 42-inch device cost a whopping US$20,000 . Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Panasonic are also companies that have entered this new television market head on.

When it comes to how they work, TVs were made up of  gas-filled pixels (or plasma – hence the name) neatly positioned between two “sheets” of glass. They lit up in different colors when hit by an electrical current. As Omdia analyst Paul Gray explains: “There are grids of horizontal and vertical electrodes and a phosphorus matrix. The connection between the two is scanned, triggering the discharge at the intersection and causing the phosphorus to glow.”

Bedding of a plasma fabric.  (Wikipedia | Jari Lamanen via Techradar)Bedding of a plasma fabric. (Wikipedia | Jari Lamanen via Techradar)Source:  Techradar 

Plasma TVs offered great advances and evolved in a short period of time. They brought the display of deeper blacks, greater depth and range of colors, higher definition and  refresh rate  of images . Furthermore, it was this technology that made flat screens an everyday reality – the switch to plasma technology and the presence of millions of pixels made it much easier to increase screen sizes and make them much thinner at the same time.

Last but not least, it was the first time that a large TV (typically 42 inches to 63 inches) had the ability to be wall mounted.

According to data from Omdia, a global company that provides analytics across the technology ecosystem, six million plasma TVs were being shipped globally annually in 2005. Five years later, that number has peaked at  18.4 million .

Credit: IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science via Techradar.

Credit: IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science via Techradar.Source:  Techradar 

The Fall of Plasma TVs

Plasma TVs began to leave the scene just as other technologies gained strength and advantages over plasma. When the price of these appliances became more “reasonable”, their technology was already considered backward.

Other disadvantages of Plasma TVs included:

  • Phosphorus burning;
  • Shorter service life (burn-in);
  • Higher levels of energy consumption;
  • Lower brightness than LCD ;
  • Difficulty keeping up with the screen growth and weight of TVs.

Credit: Reproduction |  Getty Images.Credit: Reproduction | Getty Images.Fonte:  Getty Images 

The decline in popularity of this type of television made its “commercial sense” be rethought by manufacturers. The “last breath” of Plasma TVs was in 2014, when giants like Panasonic , LG  and Samsung stopped producing their screens, which effectively ended the use of this particular technology.

As Paul Gray said, “Essentially, the fundamental problem was the pace of innovation.”

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