Plasma screens are not a new idea; the basic technology has been around for more than 40 years. However, modern computers are the thing that make the complex displays of today’s plasma TVs possible.
In a plasma TV, the computer at its heart lights, in the correct sequence and at the correct time, thousands or millions of tiny fluorescent spots (“pixels”). The lighting is done with electricity, and each pixel is red, green or blue. By combining pixels of these colors and varying their intensities, from which any color can be made, the plasma TV reproduces the entire color spectrum.
The reason it’s called a “plasma” TV is that the light itself is a plasma–a gas with charged particles. A plasma can be controlled by introducing electricity, using the beam of electrons mentioned above.
The gas in a plasma television is sanwiched in tiny cells between two panes of glass, coated with a special phospor material. The glass also contains a grid of tiny electrodes that can communicate electricity to the gas (plasma) in the cells. The electrodes charge and uncharge each cell tens of thousands of times a second. The phospors in the cell give off the colored light, determined by the type of phosphor, when they are charged. The computer controlling the TV varies the current flowing to the cells, which varies the intensity of the chosen color.
Plasma TVs are quoted in different resolutions, such as 800×600, or 1280×1024. Those are pixel counts; the higher the count the sharper the picture will be at the same screen size, relative to a lower pixel count.
Advantages of Plasma TVs
The chief benefit, at least from most consumers’ perspective, of a plasma TV is that it’s possible to produce a very large screen that does not weigh thousands of pounds, as a conventional TV would. The screen is perfectly flat, which eliminates the distortions that come along with curvature. The secondary benefit is that the image is very bright and viewable from most angles.
Other advantages of plasma TVs include higher resolution than conventional TVs; no scan lines (the moving horizontal lines sometimes visible on conventional TVs); and a high degree of color accuracy.
Disadvantages of Plasma TVs
Everyone would agree that, at least right now, the biggest disadvantage of plasma TVs is that they cost a lot. The largest plasma TVs cost more than $50,0000; and most consumer models are at least $3,000, for a large plasma TV. But prices are dropping rapidly, so for many people, plasma TVs are becoming the TV of choice.
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