Evolution of Television | Display Legacy | Corning

Corning’s innovation and leadership in the display business is rooted in the earliest days of television.

At the New York World’s Fair in April of 1939, RCA introduced a TV with a five-inch screen to crowds. The crowds were mesmerized. Making it work: a borosilicate-glass cathode ray bulb, made by Corning based on its experience with radar technology during World War I.

The phenomenon seemed poised for an enthusiastic market reception, and Corning filed patents to protect its innovations. But the onset of World War II later that year turned the attention of governments and businesses toward the war effort.

Corning continued manufacturing for radar and developed processes to produce glass components for cathode ray bulbs. By the end of World War II, it was ready to apply those processes to television, and the post-war public welcomed the innovation.

By the time families were gathering around televisions in the late 1940s, Corning was the undisputed leader in the fast-growing industry of television glass manufacturing.

And constant improvements in glass formulas and production processes would secure that position.

Perhaps most significant was an invention by Jim Giffen, an engineer with a reputation for trying bold new ideas. Giffen devised a way to drop molten glass into spinning molds, resulting in glass funnels that fit rectangular TV faceplates.

The 1949 invention –centrifugal casting– helped the young TV industry explode. The process made possible the mass-production of a cheaper bulb for cathode ray tubes (CRTs) with better performance than anything else on the market.

All through the 1950s and well into the 60s, Corning was the sole supplier of black-and-white TV tubes to American manufacturers. Television had become a primary form of family entertainment.

But researchers were already developing color TV technology, and Corning was at the heart of that challenging innovation, too. Corning scientists developed glass compositions to absorb energy from the high voltage of the color CRT. They also created a powdered glass to adhere glass pieces together.

Color TVs caught on with broadcasters and the public alike. By 1970, Corning was a major supplier in the thriving new field.

At the same time, the color TV market began a profound global shift. Asian innovators were leading the next generation of electronics development.

Corning’s alliance with Samsung in the 1970s allowed it to stay in the TV business longer than it might have otherwise.

And the Corning Asahi Video (CAV) joint venture, formed in Pennsylvania in 1988, supplied glass to Asian TV tube manufacturers who had set up operations in the United States. The operation grew steadily through the 1990s until it could no longer compete with lower prices from Asian suppliers.

By then, though, the next wave of television technology was building. Active-matrix liquid crystal display panels –with specialty flat glass by Corning– were thinner, lighter, with sharper images than anything bulky CRTs could show.

Once again, Corning glass innovations were making possible a whole new way to view the world.

The History of Glass...Continued