The development of the LED video wall and the large-scale use of LCD and LED technology began with some of the smallest screens ever made.
The very first LCD television was the utterly tiny Epson TV Watch in 1982, which in 1984 was recognised as the smallest television in the world, and its small stature was based on technology that could be scaled significantly to create elaborate, high quality, high-resolution screens.
However, an alternative technology was also being developed around the same time, which in hindsight seemed destined to rapid obsolescence: a flat-screen cathode-ray tube display, developed by the late Sir Clive Sinclair.
The history of this ambitious and highly creative failure would start with the ambition, bordering on obsession, of Sir Clive to create a portable television.
He believed it to be what the people wanted, as well as an affordable electric transportation system, and he would work on the concept for nearly two decades.
The first attempt came in 1966, as Sinclair Radionics had been buoyed by early successes in miniaturising radios and creating kits for hobbyists.
The Microvision predated the invention of the liquid-crystal display, and so Sir Clive relied on miniaturised CRTs that were expensive to develop and required a lot of power to charge.
Eventually, despite showcasing the tiny, matchbox-sided TV at the 1966 Radio and Television show, Sinclair Radionics could not work around the difficulties in building and servicing the little device and it would take another ten years for him to try again.
The TV1A was released a decade later after ten full years, although still advertised as the Microvision, with a custom-built CRT designed by AEG Telefunken. It cost so much that ounce for ounce it cost more than solid silver.
This price point, combined with a lack of supply to meet initial demand led to a loss of nearly half a million pounds, during a time when Sinclair Radionics was already relying on the National Enterprise Board to survive.
Finally, after finally hitting success in the early 1980s with the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum home computers that revolutionised computer literacy in the UK, Sinclair Research released the TV80 in 1984.
Using an incredible innovative side-firing electron beam, the CRT screen could be made thinner than
ever before, and at a price of £80, Sir Clive really believed that people would buy his flat-screen dream.
Unfortunately, it was expensive to produce, had a very narrow viewing angle making it nearly impossible to use, and was already based on redundant technology, with both Casio and Epson creating LCD devices that would eventually dominate the whole television market.
The loss from this, combined with the C5 electric vehicle’s infamous failure and the failure of the QL computer led to the computer division being sold to Amstrad and Sinclair Research sticking to small-scale research and development until Sir Clive’s death in 2021.