Mitsubishi’s Large-Scale Display Changed the Way We Watch Live Sports

The system, installed at Dodger Stadium in 1980, receives an IEEE Milestone

16 March 2018

In the summer of 1980, baseball fans in the upper deck at Dodger Stadium, in Los Angeles, no longer had to squint to see which player was taking the mound or stepping into the batter’s box. Mitsubishi Electric, an electronics company in Tokyo, installed Diamond Vision, the first really large-scale, video display system, one that showed high-resolution television-like moving images in color. The Diamond Vision screen hung on the stadium wall above the left-field seats, giving fans a closer look at the action and showing instant replays (a new concept at the time).

The US $3 million system was unveiled at Major League Baseball’s 1980 All-Star Game, held in the stadium on 8 July. The screen initially measured 6 meters high and 8.5 meters wide. It was enlarged a year later by a meter in each direction.

This month the technology was named an IEEE Milestone. Administered by the IEEE History Center and supported by donors, the Milestone program recognizes outstanding technical developments around the world.

IN LIVING COLOR

The Diamond Vision system was built at Nagasaki Works, in Japan, and flown to Los Angeles that May for installation. Although large-scale outdoor electronic color displays existed before 1980, they often were used to display a single image such as an advertisement. Mitsubishi developed the first screen that could show high-resolution videos in color. Close-ups of key plays as well as commercials, cartoons, and animated text could now be shown during the game.

According to an Electronic Engineering Times article, the screen incorporated tens of thousands of high-performance RGB (red, green, and blue) cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) as individual pixels arranged in a matrix controlled by a computer. High performance refers to the tubes’ ability to change color quickly enough to reproduce fast-moving images. Each tube consumed 2 watts, about one-tenth the power of incandescent bulbs, the standard at the time.

The display was extremely bright—which was necessary to produce clear images that could be seen in broad daylight. Mitsubishi’s display was 50 percent brighter than one with incandescent bulbs.

Mitsubishi’s CRT matrix was the forerunner of today’s superlarge LED displays, which show ultra-high-definition images and consume even less power. According to Mitsubishi’s website, the company has installed Diamond Vision screens in more than 950 locations worldwide, including NRG Stadium in Houston, the Tokyo Dome sporting arena, and New York City’s Times Square. The screens are found in all manner of sports and entertainment venues.

MILESTONE CEREMONY

The first Diamond Vision system was honored on 8 March at Nagasaki Works. A plaque mounted inside the building reads:

Mitsubishi Electric developed the world's first large-scale emissive color video display system and installed it at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California, in 1980. It achieved bright, efficient, high-quality moving images using matrix-addressed cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) as pixels. With increased dimensions and resolution, the system has entertained and informed millions of people in sports facilities and public spaces worldwide.

This article was written with assistance from the IEEE History Center, which is partially funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation.

This article is part of our March 2018 special issue on the future of television.

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