Electronics — June
By Tim Clark
|In the world of sunlight-viewable LCDs, wits deliver the nits.|
Ninety percent of the time the only advantage I get from my laptop computer's compact size is extra space on my desk for added clutter. But not long ago on a motoryacht off the Florida coast, the combination of fine weather and a looming deadline urged me to exploit its portability. Seated comfortably on the flying bridge under a cloudless sky, I flipped open the screen and waited as it chirped to life.
And I waited. And waited.
Minutes went by, and still it didn't boot up. Or so I thought. In fact, the unit was ready and willing as usual (it's actually a fine computer by a reputable company), but the sun was so bright that the screen looked utterly black. The only way I would have been able to get any work done up there was if I had cloaked my head, shoulders, and computer in a black velvet hood, like a 19th century photographer.
Defeated, I headed below with a new respect for the engineers in the marine electronics industry who are developing sunlight-viewable LCDs. These new screens are so bright that at recent boat shows I could tell them from non-sunlight-viewable displays even indoors. That they're hard to miss may also be due to the fact that a number of the new ultra-bright screens are large, conspicuous, nondedicated displays. Including OceanPC's Sunlite, Digital View's SeaView, and Laser Plot's BriteChart, among others, these series of monitors are designed to display PC-based and "black box" navigational systems such as radar, chartplotter, and depthfinder, plus in some cases, video images.
versatility alone bespeaks technological accomplishment. But I wanted
to know about the challenges posed by sunshine. So I called Kerry Crozier,
an applications engineer at Computer Dynamics, the Greenville, South Carolina,
firm that developed the 15-inch BriteChart with Auburn, Massachusetts-based
Laser Plot. I learned that much of Computer Dynamics' experience
came through developing ultra-bright flat-panel displays for oil companies
to use in the field. On those LCDs it managed to coax out 1,000 nits of
light (an average laptop LCD puts out about 400 nits). In marine applications
these wits are getting even more nits.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.