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Why Are Plasma TVs So Slim?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | at 10:04 PM

If plasma TVs can be so thin, why have we spent decades with those bulky, oversized television sets taking up an entire corner of the room? The answer is in the technology.


To understand why plasma TVs can be so thin, you should start by understanding why traditional television sets of the past couldn’t be. Those televisions typically used tubes as the means to producing the pictures. There were several problems with tubes, including their size. The size of tubes inside a television set depended on the amount of screen space the picture was expected to fill.

The technology wasn’t put to the “size test” until people became disenchanted with the typical 20-inch screen and started demanding larger screens. Manufacturers were happy to meet the demands, but there was a problem. The dimensions of tubes are predetermined. If you want a bigger screen, you have to be prepared to project a larger picture. Larger picture demands a larger tube. It’s always been a given that the size of the television set was dependent on the amount of “stuff” that had to be fitted inside. Larger tubes meant larger cases.

If you consider the average size of a 20-inch television set that used tube technology, you can imagine how big the case would have to be in order to project a picture for a 32-inch, 40-inch or larger screen.

By contrast, a plasma TV doesn’t need the tubes in order to project the picture. Plasma TV, by its very technology, can be housed in a very thin case. Instead of having tubes that project a picture onto that big screen, the plasma TV works by lighting up the phosphorous coating at various times to create the images prescribed by the signal.

The result is that plasma TV screens require very little space other than the room for the screen and the phosphorous. In fact, the entire packages are actually thin enough that they can be mounted - creating a viewing experience only to be imagined with the tube-type television technology. It also means that the thickness of the screen can remain virtually constant, even while the width and height of the screen increases dramatically.

When you consider where the technology is, and where it’s come from, you’ll see that the huge television sets of a decade ago weren’t merely a fad. Those cases weren’t created that large simply to provide a shelf for mom’s favorite flower arrangement or the wedding photo. It was just a matter of providing a case for the technology.

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