The History of Flat Screen TV

By Jerel Jacobs

While many people consider flat-screen TVs to be a new technology, that is actually only half true. In fact, flat-panel televisions existed long before high-definition and Blu-ray DVD content made them famous.


The first prototype flat screen TV was invented during the month of July in 1964. The invention would be made public later that same year.


The flat screen TV was co-invented by University of Illinois professors Donald Bitzer and Gene Slottow. The two men were assisted by graduate student Robert Wilson.


The flat-screen TV that the men invented output a single color, and used a technology that is similar to modern day plasma TVs. Therefore, it could be said that the plasma TV was the first flat-screen TV available. However, the resolution was very poor by modern standards.


Bitzer and Slottow's design worked by sealing an inert gas between two glass panels. The inside of the top outer facing panel was coated with phosphor. Passing electricity through the gas could excite the phosphor in a controlled manner to produce a picture.


The first flat-screen TVs offered had few practical uses. They were monochrome displays and were extremely expensive to produce. Their main function was as proof-of-concept devices for future use.

Modern Day

Using the flat-screen TV technology pioneered by Bitzer and Slottow, a Panasonic engineer named Larry Weber invented the present-day version of the plasma TV. This television was full color and was very thin and lightweight. Panasonic began selling the TV in 1997.