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Science Technology

New Substrate Tech Creates System LCDs 129

smartalix writes "Sharp Microelectronics has recently developed a new LCD substrate technology called Continuous-Grain Silicon (CG-Silicon), that enables device integration on a scale previously impossible. The technology enables the creation of System LCDs that integrate all driver and operation circuitry -- including digital logic, LCD driver, power supply, I/O interfaces, and signal-processing circuitry -- onto the glass itself. Eventually even the device's CPU will be included on the substrate. A key SLCD feature is the ability to dynamically control the resolution and color depth, providing output in multiple-resolution modes while lowering overall power consumption. A 3.7-in. SLCD created with CG-Silicon had a power consumption of 14 mW for color VGA, 8 mW for color QVGA, and 2 mW for monochrome QVGA. The first commercially available product that incorporates the System LCD architecture is Sharp's Zaurus SL-C700 PDA, recently released in Japan."
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New Substrate Tech Creates System LCDs

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  • ... I think I'd rather have a CDL than an LCD.
  • QVGA? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pestie ( 141370 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:05PM (#5089635) Homepage
    What the bejesus is QVGA?
    • 320x240
      For some really strange reason, people think its neat to measure LCD screens with one or two letters followed by "GA" each different letter combination refers to a different screen size.
    • Re:QVGA? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:13PM (#5089703)
      QVGA []

      QVGA is an emerging standard for Palm Powered devices. Traditionally, Palm Powered devices have featured 160 x 160 pixel screens. QVGA screens feature a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels. The QVGA standard was originally adopted for the HandEra 330. New products with built-in QVGA technology are anticipated within the coming year.

      QVGA-aware applications include support for a high-resolution bitmaps, additional fonts, and a collapsible 'virtual' graffiti area. Optionally, they can also support landscape and portrait screen rotation.
    • Re:QVGA? (Score:4, Informative)

      by antop ( 533205 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:15PM (#5089720)
      Quarter VGA (320x240)
    • Re:QVGA? (Score:5, Funny)

      by hazyshadeofwinter ( 529262 ) <arto AT telusplanet DOT net> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:24PM (#5089779) Homepage
      See, over here it's a Quarter VGA with cheese, but in France they call that a Royale with Cheese.
    • google says: 240x320 or 320x240

      I am guessing that it stands for qurater vga, where vga is 640x480.

      I think what is happening is that marketeers have decided that the average joe consumer doesn't lke to look at math problems when making a purchase so they have done away with numbers when talking about resolutions. These range from uxga, which i *think* refers to 1600x1200 down to qcif which i *think* is some god awful tiny resolution somewhere around 50x100. This leads to increadible amounts of confusion when purchasing products such as digital cameras, PDAs, laptops, and anything else using pixels. Personally I avoid any product labeled w/ letters instead of numbers ... I have a degree in math ... I LIKE NUMBERS!
      • Re:QVGA? (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Wait a minute, most math (after about the 6th grade) is done with letters of various types (you know, like x = y), and when you use up all the letters in your own alphabet, they start throwing in letters from other alphabets. If you stay with math long enough, they just make up symbols.
        • Yep. I've seen it. Draw a big bracket over a horrific set of terms and set it equal to "star", then similarly group other items and set them to convenient things. Do some algebra on it, and finally plug the original values back in. Pretty nifty trick.

      • Ahh - CIF and QCIF. CIF is the Common Interchange Format, but it's not really Common at all because it defines different sizes for PAL and NTSC. PAL CIF is 352 x 288 @25fps (yep, Video CD) and NTSC is 352 x 240 @ 29.97fps. Weirdly, those same sizes are sometimes referred to as QCIF (Quarter CIF, although that could logically also mean 176 x 144 etc), implying that the 704 x 576 and 704 x 480 formats are the actual CIF sizes. These non-square pixel sizes are very much designed with MPEG1 and 2 in mind, and are still moderately well used today, despite Windows' inability to display non-square formats correctly now.
  • by eracerblue ( 473104 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:05PM (#5089637)

    okay great. now my LCD can think for itself.

    but what ever happened to OLEDs & flexible LCDs?
  • Good news... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:06PM (#5089649) Homepage
    The first commercially available product that incorporates the System LCD architecture is Sharp's Zaurus SL-C700 PDA, recently released in Japan.

    If that's true, then it's about time. I can't count how many next-gen display technology announcements I've seen on /. about stuff that's supposed to make better displays cheaper, and then the product never comes to market.

    The fact that there's something already out there using it means that we're much more likely to see the technology become more widespread and adapted to other devices.
    • Re:Good news... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by First_In_Hell ( 549585 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:20PM (#5089753) Homepage
      Keep waiting. How long does it take for any new technology to reach an affordable implementation and price? Look at flat-panel monitors. Just now are they becoming affordable. We had to enture $1500 15' inch LCDs that now sell for $250 which had crappier quality than a low end laptop screen.

      Also, what is right for the Japanese market is not always right over here. The way they use cell phones over there borders on some science-fiction movies, while companies are still trying to get online cell phone games to catch on over here.

      • ... I am still waiting on an affordable flat-panel to replace this monitor. See, this is a 19" CRT, and I have yet to see a 19" flat-panel within my budget.
        • Yeah. I have an IBM P200 (20") which I essentially got for free doing a bit of Ebay wheeling and dealing with RS/6000 boxes. It will be a while before 20" LCD's are free. Also it is so heavy I loathe to carry it out to my truck to throw it away. Need a freight dolly. Now that I think about it, I did pay some shipping on it so it wasn't exactly free. Still, Ryan's Serious Sam BETA for Linux [] looks fan-fscking-tastic! Yessir, I like it!
      • It should be noted that the new Zaurus is already price competetive with similar high end PocketPCs (with only 1/4 the resolution) at around $700. While that's not exactly affordable to me, it compares pretty favorably with existing tech.

        BTW I saw the new Zaurus at CES last weekend and it has by far the best looking PDA display I've ever seen. It was incredibly sharp, bright, and readable even with very small fonts.

        • I am a happy owner of a Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 and I have to say that its display is wonderful. It really is true that it looks great in bright sunlight. Actually the brighter the better. This is the first LCD screen I have ever owned that has this quality, and it is a really nice feature. Otherwise, its QVGA display also looks very nice with the backlight on indoors. Sharp PDA's are excellent geek-toys. My PDA runs a FTP server and I can telnet to it... does yours? ;-P
          • Your PDA might run an FTP server and telnet, but it doesn't have a CG-Silicon screen.

            This is new tech for the clamshell shaped device.
  • That's nice. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    18mW for VGA, but you still need 6-7W at least for the backlight, nuuu???
    • No, you don't. (Score:2, Informative)

      by LightStruk ( 228264 )
      You need 6-7W for the backlight if you're using a CCFL (cold cathode flourescent lamp) to light the LCD, and then only for laptop screens. PDAs (and the new Gameboy Advance SP) use white LEDs, which run at low voltages and draw current on the order of milliamps, not amps.
  • by DeadMoose ( 518744 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:11PM (#5089688)
    As much as I love trusting the poster to have not made up a news is the actual press release. []
  • by Ninja Master Gara ( 602359 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:12PM (#5089699) Homepage
    It sounds truly awesome. Soon we'll be grafting pda's to our skin, as promised for decades. Dick Tracy watch?! Hah! I can play Tetris!

    Btw, a direct link to the news article is here []

  • by hobbs ( 82453 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:14PM (#5089715)
    Wanting more info on this, I found: Sharp Slashes LCD Power Consumption [] which is from Feb 2001 and appears to be an announcement of the tech. I really wanted to know the relative power consumption (since my e740 pocketpc sucks power), and this articles says:
    Compared to a conventional active-matrix display, which is refreshed between 60 and 70 times per second, the ULC (ultra-low-power consumption) technology only sends signals when the screen image is changed. This results in a
    drop in power consumption to one-third conventional levels for moving images and one-thirtieth for still images
    • I've seen this on "Tommorows World" (its a British geek thing) a few years back. Im supprised that it didnt get hit by the tommorows world curse.
      Anyway, Its like using SRAM reather than constantly refreshing DRAM.
      • With these screens ability to save power if less information changes maybe this will bring about a retro-revolution of cleaner simpler displays. I for one (being a computer user since MS DOS 5.0, yeah I know around here that's young) really enjoyed the simple low color depth interfaces of old graphical applications (Remember 3D Studio R3? No not 3D Studio MAX, but the original DOS version).
        These applications pushed the available architecture as far and as fast as they could. Then suddenly CPU cycles became massively abundant (FPS freaks will disagree but come on, how many GHz or even MHz do you need to write a essay) and interfaces became cluttered, background images for dialogue boxes and shiny glowing graphical buttons for each individual task started popping up all over that place.
        I know, I know, there where bad applications back then, but the landscape seemed more abundant with good applications. Well I should quit typing before I sound like a complete raving old fart ("back when I was a kid..." ect ect)... to late.
  • superman! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:15PM (#5089721) Homepage

    circutry on glass?

    Sweet, so when can we have computers that come on crystals like in the superman movie.

    Oooh, can the glass go transparent? I'd love a window that doubles as a computer. I bet it can't :(
      • Oooh, can the glass go transparent? I'd love a window that doubles as a computer. I bet it can't :(
      Actually, I'm pretty sure it can be made to. Even many conventional LCD displays can be made to do this since LCD's are basically mechanisms to block or let light through. Certain projectors work this way (with a light that shines through an LCD panel).

      I remember some company making a laptop a few years ago (I don't remember the brand nor the model unfortunately) that doubled as a slide projector if you take the backplate off and put it on top of a conventional overhead projector.

      So in principle, it's not impossible today to make your LCD window.

      • IBM, Thinkpad 755CV. It's an old, but spiffy laptop...Ted Selker still has one (I believe it was his idea in the first place...), and I've actually played with it.

        See figure 6 of this document [] for a picture. See this article [] for more info. Then, if you want more, ask google.
    • >Sweet, so when can we have computers that come on crystals like in the superman movie.

      Uhhh, so silicon is, uhh like, already a crystal, or something...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      These will be the large display/touch screens like what were plastered all over every control panel, console, and corridor wall in the Enterprise D of ST:TNG
    • Windows XP Window Edition :)
    • Wait till the kids next door knock a baseball through your computer, then we will see if it is a good idea or not :)

  • by Tofino ( 628530 )
    Practical uses of this new technology include drawing the layman a picture detailed enough to explain it...
  • by ZaMoose ( 24734 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:22PM (#5089767)
    So then, what happens when I crack the screen? Time for an all-new Zaurus?

    Wait a tick... that's bloody brilliant on Sharp's part!

    I'm going to work on getting Sony and Nintendo to start integrating processing functionality into their controllers. Then, when somebody gets pissed and breaks one, they'll have to buy a whole new console!

    I'm off to the USPTO, suckers!
  • by binaryDigit ( 557647 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:23PM (#5089773)
    Oooh circuitry on the lcd panel itself. Does that mean that I'll get floating point errors and gp's if I press the glass to see the pretty colors?
  • Does this mean we'll be ablt to have those walkabout glass computer/tablet/pda/displays like on STNG?

    Something else cheaper that that can be ubiquitous computing? That I can sit on and break?

    Can the next DMCA outlaw back pockets?

  • by eieken ( 635333 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:37PM (#5089855) Homepage
    LCD driver, power supply, I/O interfaces CAUTION: To reduce the risk of electric shock, do not touch the screen.
  • Carppy transistors (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brejc8 ( 223089 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:40PM (#5089876) Homepage Journal
    A few months ago I was talking to someone who was working on using the transistors on LCDs to do actual computation. The problem was thet there is a hude varioation in speed between individual transistors. Making the worst case delay and clock distribution too painful to make the system usefull for anything.

    They were at the Async confrence and they were very intrested in doing everything asynchronously. It makes sence as implementing the logic in asynchronous circuits solves both problems.
  • I'm asking... maybe it already exists. But it seems to me that one of the biggest hurdles in consumer electronics is that everyone wants a computer the size of a writswatch that somehow magically has a 21" flatscreen. Thus you see Apple producing laptops with both 12" and 17" screens.

    Now one way to deal with the problem is to display to goggles/glasses. But that certainly has limits. Especially when cool embeded applications like the above are being developed.

    It seems like the ideal would be something that looks and feels much like a piece of paper (but less rippable). Fold/roll it up and put it in your pocket. Then unfold it and have a nice big surface you can view, touch, write-on, etc.

    Even more ideally, this tech would be embedded in such a way that you could mass-produce pieces of v-paper for cheap. So you'd use it like paper, but it would have full color display and internet connectivity.
  • Here's a picture... (Score:2, Informative)

    by rushiferu ( 595361 )
    Plenty more to be found on google.
  • The part that really interests me is the ability of the same screen to use less power depending on what you want to do. I own a monochrome PDA for battery reasons, but I'd love to be able to switch to color mode when displaying photos or color maps. I can imagine resolution changes too - QVGA (the Q IS confusing, here it means quarter, but QUXGA means Quad UXGA) might be fine for looking up an address, but for a 3" by 4" photo display, I'd want Quad XGA (320 dpi is not possible now, but someday). Then you could vary between (1/4, 1, 4) x VGA to save power.

    Of course, a flexible OLED would be great if it uses no more power and is flexible to boot.

    Dara Parsavand
  • The New Zaurus (Score:3, Informative)

    by yoz ( 3735 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:44PM (#5089908) Homepage
    One word: WANT.

    Here's the press release and spec sheet [].

    It's coming to the US... [] ... but Dynamism have done their own English port already. [] (Any stories/opinions of Dynamism?)

    Keyboard doesn't look great [] (but at least it's better than the original tiny Zaurus one)

    I've always wanted something tiny I could carry around that would give me decent QWERTY with a landscape screen capable of displaying VT100 readably (or, better, actual graphics) that could also connect to the net when I'm out and about. This looks like it (though expansion is limited to SD & CF - that's enough for WiFi and BlueTooth, though.)

    -- Yoz
    • Check out this page for a discussion that may interest you []

      I have an sl-5500 and while it's not for everybody, I definately like it.
    • Check out the Sharp Wizard OZ-770PC. (Big picture [], specifications [])

      It's got a HUGE (for a handheld) keyboard, big enough to actually touch type at probably 50-75% normal speed, and a nice backlit landscape screen that can do proportional text and graphics (B&W only tho). A pair of AA's lasts 3-6 MONTHS in this thing.

      It has 3MB of flash mem, and a genuine Z80 processor! You can code for this thing yourself in Basic, C, or even assembler, and there's lots of user written stuff to download. It's like having a complete 286-era system that fits in your shirt pocket.

      Now, it's not Net enabled per se, however, it has a serial port, and there is terminal software written for it, so in theory you can connect it to a cell phone and access the Net through that.

      It's several years old and discontinued, I lost mine recently and had to turn to E-Bay for a replacement. It's a really wonderful hacker's PDA though, and it has great community support. When I lost my original one, I did a bunch of searching for a modern PDA that has a similar design (large keyboard, landscape screen, clamshell case) and came up with nothing, especially for as low a price (it was $100 USD new)
    • Yummy indeed!

      While I've so far managed to avoid PDAs these Zaurus guys are making it increasingly difficult to avoid the temptation.

      At $700 the SL-C700 is really targeted for productivity applications, besides the usual organizer functions, but once their price drops to around $500 and they get the ability to stream broadcast quality video or TV (which I control remotely through a wireless IEEE 802.11 connection to my desktop doubling as DVR) and to (dis)play video CD/DVD discs through USB2 or Firewire-connected portable player I'm out of excuses.

      Now that's the kind of remote Linux terminal I could do with.
    • Drool...

      I've been watching the Zaurus line for a replacement for my aging Visor Deluxe ...this may be the one I buy. (It's English release ought to be timed nicely for when I'll actually have cash too. :)

  • Those all-glass systems were the coolest thing about that movie. That and the glove-based gestural navigation system that Tom Cruise uses at the beginning of the movie. UI designer's dream and nightmare, all in one!
    • I liked the part were a cereal box advertising display started spamming a commercial at Tom Cruise during a meal and he tosses it away. In minority rport, video displays were as cheap and ubiquitous a as paper. However, I think the inspiration was "electronic ink", a somewhat different technology.
  • This is a dup and was on Slashdot last year...
  • Cost? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by swasson ( 639367 )
    What kind of cost increase are we looking at here? Most of the higher end (higher res) PDAs are fairly expensive to begin with. Now throw in this new "innovation" and you're looking at increasing the price of something that's already pricey.

    • The SL-C700 is about $500, which isn't all that bad for a product that isn't in the states yet, and one that uses such cool technology. Comparable to retail prices for the Toshiba PDAs, actually.
  • by porky_pig_jr ( 129948 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:55PM (#5089966)

  • dupe 1 []
    dupe 2 []
  • All that and a stuck pixel.



  • This is bad news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by webmaven ( 27463 ) <webmaven@cox.nEULERet minus math_god> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @05:10PM (#5090075) Homepage
    Crap. This means that we'll be dealing with displays that have completely integrated copy-protection mechanisms.

    Even if current efforts such as Intel's HDCP [] are flawed [], future versions of these technologies may not be amenable to cryptographic attacks, and hardware based attacks will be extremely difficult if the circuitry is embedded in the screen itself.

    This falls perfectly in line with the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group's [] desire to mandate implementation of a broadcast flag that all devices must honor.
    • ... and for just about the same reason, which is that you can build communication systems with cryptographic protection that don't have hooks for wiretappers. It's really two sides of the same coin, with the big difference being who decides what features they want to include and who decides the content being communicated. If your one-piece-communicator has hooks in it that let the Department of Homeland Security listen in on your video calls, the same features can also let Joe Script-Kiddie copy the movies you're watching on it. And besides, you didn't really want to take the lame analog feed from your monitor or use a logic probe to extract the signals between your CPU and onboard video GPU or audio d/a converter anyway just to pirate movies as opposed to grabbing them digitally where you can transmit or compress them, so a device with integrated LCD and video display won't change that much.
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wazzzup ( 172351 ) <astromac&fastmail,fm> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @06:01PM (#5090407)
    This technology combined with technology derived from Apple's new patent application, I wonder if we could have iPod's where the case itself displays the funky visualizations?

    Just a thought.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here's a link: 1.htm [] You speak japanese, right?
  • how robust is the circuitry in the glass? I know on my iBook that on occasion when I try to move the screen back and forth to whatever position that I can see some slight discoloration around the area behind the screen where my fingers are pushing the screen into place. Will circuitry like this be able to handle that if it's put in a laptop? I would certainly like to think so, but am still curious about this.
  • by erlkonig ( 15872 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @08:04PM (#5091152) Homepage Journal

    On this flashy japanese page [] you can look at the C700 from different angles in both the input and viewing modes, as well as see the english specs.

    OS: Linux Embedix

    CPU: Intel XScaleTM(PXA250 400MHz)

    RAM: Flash 64MB (user area about 30MB) and SDRAM 32MB (workarea)

    Screen: 640x480 ("dots") 64K colors

    Cardslots: SD, CF type II.

    ?: 4 hours, 50 minutes

    Dimensions: 120mm W x 83 mm D x 18.6 mm H

    Mass: 225g

    The front page to get to this was from [] , from []

  • A 3.7-in. SLCD created with CG-Silicon had a power consumption of 14 mW for color VGA, 8 mW for color QVGA, and 2 mW for monochrome QVGA

    I guess I am supposed to be awestruck by this, but in my ignorance I don't have a clue what is common power consumption today. Anybody knows?

  • Here []

    At Oct.22, Sharp coporation announced CG silicon technology.
    CG silicon(continuous grain silicon) has continuity at grain boundary. Movement factor of electron is 600 times of that of amorphous silicon.

    Z80 CPU implemented on a glass []
    Z80 on a glass is really working on a MZ-80 computer []
    CG silicon has high movement factor of electoron []
    Road map of System LCD architecture []
  • Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to lead to big, cheap displays. Just better little ones.

    It's amazing how much technological effort is going into advanced technologies for tiny screens. Is this actually useful, or profitable?

  • Just the driver electronics for the LCD itself. Traditionally, amorphous silicon LCDs have driver chips (made of bulk silicon) flip-chip bonded to the substrate because the amorphous transistors aren't up to the task.

    Despite the publicity stunt of building a microcontroller on glass (which, if I recall, ran at about 8 MHz), they will be using this technology (at least right now) to make the display better, cheaper, etc, not to integrate all of the digital logic onto the display.

    Think about it this way: it's really cheap to build a microcontroller on a silicon wafer, and it works great when you're done. Putting a bunch of digital logic on the display would be cool (hey, I can see through my microprocessor!), but it's not going to happen right now because it would hurt yield too much. Also, while the mobility of these transistors is better (and probably more consistent), they're still thin-film devices. They wouldn't be appropriate for building a high speed microprocessor.


  • Wonderful. With all of the controller electronics _and_ CPU on the display itself, the MPAA will be able to plug their "analog hole" as they've always wanted to. You won't be able to disable it. The display itself will be able to accept and authenticate "protected" input. Oh well. I knew it had to happen someday.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson