A brief history of computer displays

From blinking lights and punch cards to LCDs and 3D flat panels, we trace the 70-year history of the tech that users rely on to see what a computer is doing.

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Early Days of the CRT Display

The first cathode-ray tubes first appeared in computers as a form of memory, not as displays (see Williams tubes). It wasn't long before someone realized that they could use even more CRTs to show the contents of that CRT-based memory (as shown in the two computers on the left). Later, designers adapted radar and oscilloscope CRTs to use as primitive graphical displays (vector only, no color), such as those in the SAGE system and the PDP-1. They were rarely used for text at that time.

Photos (clockwise from top): Computer History Museum, MITRE, DEC, Onno Zweers

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