Electronic devices have become omnipresent in our lives. Nowadays, we take our portable personal devices, flat screen televisions and monitors and wireless audio and video connectivity for granted. Yet most of these technologies would have seemed like science fiction only a generation ago.
Televisions – from wooden cabinets to flat screens
Televisions were the first ‘modern’ electrical appliances to be found in virtually every home. Initially, these were large, bulky, and immobile, relying on traditional materials such as wood and metal in their construction.
However, as consumer demand increased exponentially (colour television sets started to become commonplace in the 1960s) so did the demand for more user-friendly design. What emerged reflected the revolutionary developments in design and technology of the late 1960s and 1970s. The key was the steady replacement of wood and metal with plastics. Initially, plastic use in TVs was restricted to ‘non-visible’ components – back panels and a few internal components. However, this in itself was a revolution; previously, plastics had been viewed as an indication that goods as cheap and low-quality. Ultimately, however, they became the main constituent.
The use of plastics offered numerous advantages; it could be injection-moulded into relatively complex, sophisticated shapes. However, before this could happen, there was important consideration – fire safety. Older televisions, which used cathode ray tubes rather than modern LCD or LED displays, consumed a great deal of energy and created a considerable amount of heat. For this reason, it was important that the plastics used in these televisions were fire-resistant.