LG Says 40-inch OLED HDTVs Are Coming in 2012

31 10 2009


LG has outlined its OLED roadmap, and there’s good stuff coming up. Its 15-inch panel takes on Sony in November, followed by 20- and 30-inchers in 2010 and 2011. LG also believes OLED will cost less than LCD by 2016.

Those 40-inch panels will still be “fairly expensive”, but LG says new manufacturing processes will drive down costs by 2016.

LG Display aims to achieve a 50% higher material cost and a 30% lower yield than those of LCD panels in 2012 and a 20-30% lower material cost and an equivalent yield in 2016.

That’s a pretty big call, but I like where their head’s at. [Nikkei via OLED-Display.ne]


Giz Explains: Why Every Country Has a Different F#$%ing Plug [Giz Explains] – from Gizmodo

29 10 2009


Ok, maybe not everycountry, but with at least 12 different sockets in widespread use it sure as hell feels like it to anyone who’s ever traveled. So why in the world, literally, are there so many? Funny story!

The more you look at the writhing orgy of plugs in the world, the sillier it seems. If you buy a phone charger at the airport in Florida, you won’t be able to use it when your flight lands in France. If you buy a three-pronged adapter for le portable in Paris, you might not be able to plug it in when your train drops you off in Germany. And when your flight finally bounces to a stop on the runway in London, get ready to buy a comically large adapter to tap into the grid there. But that’s cool! You can take the same adapter to Singapore with you! And parts of Nigeria! Oh yeah, and if said charger doesn’t support 240v power natively, make sure you buy a converter, or else it might explode.

And aside from a few oases, like the fledgling standardization of the Type C Europlug in the European Union, this is the picture all across the world.

I’d hesitate to refer to power sockets as a part of a country’s culture, because they’re plugs—they don’t reallymean anything. But in the sense that they’re probably not going to change until they’re forcefully replaced with something wildly new, it’s kind of what they are.


There are around 12 major plug types in use today, each of which goes by whatever name their adoptive countries choose. For our purposes, we’re going to stick with U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration names (PDF), which are neat and alphabetical: America uses A and B plugs! Turkey uses type C! Etc. Thing is, these names are arbitrary: the letters are just assigned to make talking about these plugs less confusing—they don’t actually mandate anything. They’re not standards, in any meaningful sense of the word.

And even worse, these sockets are divided into two main groups: the 110-120v fellas, like the the ones we use in North America, and the 220-240v plugs, like most of the rest of the world uses. It’s not that the plugs and sockets themselves are somehow tied to one voltage or another, but the devices and power grids they’re attached to probably are.

How This Happened

The history of the voltage split is a pretty short story, and one you’ve probably heard bits and pieces of before. Edison’s early experiments with direct current (DC) power in the late 1800s netted the first useful mainstream applications for electricity, but suffered from a tendency to lose voltage over long distances. Nonetheless, when Nikola Tesla invented a means of long-distance transmission with alternating current (AC) power, he was doing so in direct competition with Edison’s technology, which happened to be 110v. He stuck with that. By the time people started to realize that 240v power might not be such a bad idea for the US, it was the 1950s, and switching was out of the question.

Words were exchanged, elephants were electrocuted, and eventually, the debate was settled: AC power was the only option, and national standardization started in earnest. Westinghouse Electric, the first company to buy Tesla’s patents for power transmission, settled on an easy standard: 60Hz, and 110v. In Europe—Germany, specifically—a company called BEW exercised their monopoly to push things a little further. They settled somewhat arbitrarily on a 50Hz frequency, but more importantly jacked voltages up to 240, because, you know, MORE POWER. And so, the 240 standard slowly spread to the rest of the continent. All this happened before the turn of the century, by the way. It’s an old beef


For decades after the first standards, newfangled el-ec-trick-al dee-vices had to be patched directly into your house’s wiring, which today sounds like a terrifying prospect. Then, too, it was: Harvey Hubbell’s “Separable Attachment Plug“—which essentially allowed for non-bulb devices to be plugged into a light socket for power—was designed with a simple intention:

My invention has for its object to…do away with the possibility of arcing or sparking in making connection, so that electrical power in buildings may be utilized by persons having no electrical knowledge or skill.

Thanks, Harvey! He later adapted the original design to include a two-pronged flat-blade plug, which itself was refined into a three-pronged plug—the third prong is for grounding—by a guy named Philip Labre in 1928. This design saw a few changes over the years too, but it’s pretty much the type Americans use now.

Here’s the thing: Stories like that of Harvey Hubbell’s plug were unfolding all over the world, each with their own twist on the concept. This was before electronics were globalized, and before country-to-country plug compatibility really mattered. The voltage debate had been pared down to two, which made life a bit easier for power companies to set up shop across the world. But once they were set up, who cared what style plug their customers used? What were you gonna do, lug your new vacuum cleaner across the ocean on a boat? Early efforts to standardize the plug by organizations like the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) had trouble taking hold—who were they to tell a country which plug to adopt?—and what little progress they didmake was shattered by the Second World War.


ake the British plug. Today, it’s a huge, three-pronged beast with a fuse built right into it—one of the weirder plugs in the world, to anyone who’s had a chance to use one. But it isn’t Britain’s first plug, or even their first proprietary plug. In the early 1900s the Isles’ cords were capped with the British Standard 546, or Type D hardware, which actually include six subversions of its own, all of which were physically incompatible with one another. This worked out fine until the Second World War, when they got the shit bombed out of them by Germany, and had to rebuild entire swaths of the country in the midst of a severe shortage of basic building supplies— copper, in particular. This made rewiring stuff an expensive proposition, so the government was all, “we need a new plug, stat!”

Here was the pitch: Instead of wiring each socket to a fuseboard somewhere in the house, which would take quite a bit of wire, why not just daisy-chain them together on one wire, and put the fuses in each plug? Hey presto, copper shortage, solved. This was called the British Standard 1363, and you can still find them dangling from wires today. Notice how even in the 1940s and ’50s—practically yesterday!—the UK was devising a new type of plug without any regard for the rest of the world.

Now imagine every other developed country in the world doing the same thing, with a totally different set of historical circumstances. That’s how we ended up here, blowing fuses in our Paris hotel rooms because our travel adapters’ voltage warning were inexplicably written in Cyrillic. Oh, and it gets worse.


You know how the British had control over India for, like, ninety years? Well, along with exporting cricket and inflicting unquantifiable cultural damage, they showed the subcontinent how to plug stuff in, the British way! Problem is, they left in 1947. The BS 1363 plug—the new one—wasn’t introduced until 1946, and didn’t see widespread adoption until a few years later. So India still uses the old British plug, as does Sri Lanka, Nepal and Namibia. Basically, the best way to guess who’s got which socket is to brush up on your WW1/WW2 history, and to have a deep passion for postcolonial literature. No, really.

Is There Any Hope for the Future?

No. I talked to Gabriela Ehrlich, head of communications for the International Electrotechnical Commission, which is still doing its thing over in Switzerland, and the outlook isn’t great. “There are standards, and there is a plug that has been designed. The problem is, really, everyone’s invested in their own system. It’s difficult to get away from that.”

When Holland’s International Questions Commission first teamed up with the IEC to form a committee to talk about this exact problem in 1934. Meetings were stalled, there was some resistance, blah blah blah, and the committee was delayed until 1940. Then a war—a World War, even!—threw a stick in the committee’s spokes, (or a fork in their socket? No?), and the issue was effectively dropped until about 1950, when the IEC realized that there were “limited prospects for any agreement even in this limited geographical region (Europe).” It’d be expensive to tear out everyone’s sockets, and the need didn’t feel that urgent, I guess.

Plus, the IEC can’t force anyone to do anything—they’re sort of like the UN General Assembly for electronics standards, which means they can issue them, but nobody has to follow them, no matter how good they are. As time passed, populations grew, and hundred of millions of sockets were installed all over the world. The prospect of switching hardware looked more and more ridiculous. Who would pay for it? Why would a country want to change? Wouldn’t the interim, with mixed plug standards in the same country, be dangerous?


But the IEC didn’t quite abandon hope, quietly pushing for a standard plug for decades after. And they even came up with some! In the late 80s, they came up with the IEC 60906 plug, a little, round-pronged number for 240v countries. Then they codified a flat-pronged plug for 110-120v countries, which happened to be perfectly compatible with the one we already use in the US. As of today, Brazil is the only country that even plans to adopt the IEC 60906, so, uh, there’s that.


I asked Gabriela if there was any hope, any hope at all, for a future where plugs could just get along:

Maybe in the future you’ll have induction charging; you have a device planted into your wall, and you have a [wireless] charging mechanism.

Last time I saw a wireless power prototype was at the Intel Developer Forum in 2008, and it looked like a science fair project: It consisted of two giant coils, just inches apart, which transmitted enough electricity to light a 40w light bulb. So yeah, we’ll get this power plug problem all sorted by oh, let’s say, 2050?

She took care to emphasize that the standards are still there for people to adopt, so countries could jump onboard, but even in a best-case scenario, for as long as we use wires we’ll have at least two standards to deal with—a 110-120v flat plug and the 240-250v round plug. For now, the Commission is taking a more practical approach to dealing with the problem, issuing specs for things like laptop power bricks, which can handle both voltages and come with interchangeable lead wires, as well as as something near and dear to our hearts: “We have to move forward into plugs we can really control,” Gabriela told me. She means new stuff like USB, which is turning into the de facto gadget charging standard. The most we can hope for is a future where AC outlets are invisible to us, sending power to newer, more universal plugs. My phone’ll charge via USB just as well in Sub-Saharan Africa as it will in New York City; just give me the port.

In the meantime, this means that things really aren’t going to change. Your Walmart shaver will still die if you plug into a European socket with a bare adapter, Indians will still be reminded of the British Empire every time they unplug a laptop, Israel will have their own plug which works nowhere else in the world, and El Salvador, without a national standard, will continue to wrestle with 10.

In other words, sorry.

Many thanks to Gabriela Ehrlich and the EIC, as well as the Institute for Engineering and Technology and Wiring Matters (PDF), and USC Viterbi’s illumin review. Map adapted from Wikimedia Commons by Intern Kyle

Still something you wanna know? Still can’t figure out how to plug in your Bosnian knockoff iPhone? Send questions, tips, addenda or complaints to tips@gizmodo.com, with “Giz Explains” in the subject line.

Triad’s DesignerSeries Invisible Loudspeakers Hit the Market in November – Completely Concealed, Grants Total Interior Design Flexibility

28 10 2009

Next month, custom solution provider Triad Speakers, Inc. will begin delivering dealers its DesignerSeries invisible speakers. Completely hidden and sealed behind walls or ceilings, these speakers are ideal for distributed audio and surround applications, and wet or humid areas such as pools or bathrooms. MSRP ranges from $550 to $1,050 per speaker.

The DesignerSeries speaker panels consist of a powder coated aluminum frame, an extremely rigid aluminum honeycomb core with paper skin surface and electro mechanical drive devices. The panels require only 25.5 mm of mounting depth; they are designed to fit easily between the wall studs in typical home construction. The paper skin provides a high bond surface for excellent adhesion to plaster skims.

he electro mechanical drive devices are transducers comprised of the finest rare earth neodymium-iron-boron magnets. The transducer, which functions much like a magnet and voice coil in a traditional loudspeaker system, is attached to the aluminum honeycomb core which serves as the vibrating element to generate sound waves. The principle is similar to that of a piano or guitar wherein the strings are amplified by the soundboard.

”The sound generated by using this vibrating soundboard technique offers truly remarkable off-axis listening,” says Triad Speakers Director of Sales and Marketing Paul Scarpelli, adding “this allows for extremely flexible placement in distributed audio zones and makes the DesignerSeries an excellent choice as a surround speaker in media or cinema rooms where placing traditional surround speakers would otherwise be very difficult.”

The DesignerSeries consist of three monaural and two stereo versions. The models use either one (small rooms), two (small/medium rooms) or four transducers (large rooms) each per panel providing 95, 99 and 105 dB maximum loudness respectively. All are capable of frequency response from 100Hz – 20 kHz and must be used with dual channel analog 120Hz filters with limiters. For deeper bass response, a Triad InWall Subwoofer may be added.

All DesignerSeries models measure 1-5/8″ deep, 13-5/8″ wide and 17-3/4″ high. Back boxes for solid walls (plaster) and hollow walls (stud and drywall construction) are also available.

MSRP for the monaural versions (small, medium and large rooms) are $550, $750 and $1,050 (each). MSRP for the stereo versions (small and medium rooms) are $740 and $1,040 (each).

Triad is offering two 120Hz high-pass filters: the HPF-2 is shelf-mounted for use with a pair of speakers and the HPF-8 is rack-mounted, designed for use with up to four pair of speakers (MSRP $100 and $730 respectively).

The Most Compact AV Routing and Control Solution release by Crestron

28 10 2009


The Crestron MPC family of AV room controllers delivers the most simple, cost-effective routing and control solution on the market today. Perfect for small classroom and meeting room applications, the 10-button MPC-M5 is now shipping. Featuring a built-in 2-Series control system, the MPC-M5 fits onto a standard 2-gang electrical box with space to accommodate all wiring and connections. Seamless integration with Crestron RoomView® software via Ethernet enables IT/AV managers to remotely monitor, manage and control every room on the network, and SSL encryption provides a totally secure network connection at all times, preventing unauthorized access to the system.

According to Vin Bruno, Crestron Director of Marketing, “the M5 is the most affordable model in the MPC line, and with PoE (Power-over-Ethernet), it’s the simplest to install, requiring just one wire for operation.”

A fully-programmable user interface, the MPC-M5 is available in black or white, and features an attractive and intuitive layout of 10 pushbuttons with corresponding LED feedback, customizable backlit labeling, and wireless remote capability. It can be programmed for any function, including system power, input source selection, transport control, volume adjustment, and lighting presets. Like all MPC models, the MPC-M5 mounts in a wall or podium.

Through its onboard control ports, the MPC-M5 interfaces directly with the video display or projector, DVD player or TV receiver, projection screen, lift, occupancy sensor, and other room devices. In addition to high-speed Ethernet, there is a bidirectional RS-232 COM port, an IR/serial port, two relays, and two input ports right on the rear panel.

The MPC line is easy for instructors to learn and use, and equally important, can be implemented consistently in every room, lecture hall or auditorium. The MPC-M5 communicates directly with Crestron’s exclusive RoomView help desk software, the industry’s most comprehensive facility-wide solution for remote monitoring and asset management. Built-in SNMP support also enables integration with third-party network management software, allowing full control and monitoring from the IT Help Desk or NOC in a format that’s familiar to IT personnel.


Worlds Slimmest 40″ LCD Panel @ Samsung – well this week anyway

26 10 2009


If you think about it, you’ll probably only need to hang your flat panel TV on the wall once. Maybe twice. Maybe three times if you really move around a lot, like in the middle of the night when you hear a knock on your door and thank god you slept in your clothes because there’s only enough time to put on a pair of Velcro shoes and grab your 40-inch TV.

Basically what I’m saying is if you want your one-time TV hanging experience to be as smooth as possible or if you have a habit of bolting down fire escapes in the middle of the night, then Samsung’s recently-unveiled 3.3 millimeter thick 40-inch LED TV might be right up your alley.

There’s not a whole lot of info other than that the TV contains a 40-inch, 120Hz panel, a total thickness of just 3.3 millimeters, and a contrast ratio of 5000:1 – pricing and availability (and weight) are unknown, althoughAkihabara reports that Samsung is looking to get the TV on the market as soon as possible

The $147.72 “audio grade” power socket

25 10 2009


You can get another $7 off this cryogenically-treated, gold-plated “audio grade” power socket, but only if you buy four. The customer reviews are splendid:

Finally something to go with my custom vacuum sputtered unobtainium circuit breaker contacts and calibrated studio grade Romex. Now if I can just get the power company to get rid of those pesky scalar waves in my zero point energy transmission system, I’ll be all set.

The vendor has also trademarked the phrase “Audio Grade.” Wattgate 381 Audio Grade Duplex Socket

[Parts Express]

Hitachi’s New 3000 Lumen Super Short Focus 3LCD Projector

24 10 2009


Introduced in Japan at CEATEC 2009, here’s Hitachi’s latest super short focus 3LCD video projector, the CP-A200J.

Thanks to its newly develop design, the CP-A200J projects a 80” worth image just 63cm away from it source while offering a bright image (3000 Lumen). While there is no price yet available, Hitachi is planning on releasing this baby December 1st in Japan.

via [akhibara]