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The History of Seven-segment display

Blaze Display Technology Co., Ltd. | Updated: Nov 27, 2018


A seven-segment display is a form of electronic display device for displaying decimal numerals that is an alternative to the more complex dot matrix displays.

Seven-segment displays are widely used in digital clocks, electronic meters, basic calculators, and other electronic devices that display numerical information.

Seven-segment representation of figures can be found in patents as early as 1903 (in U.S. Patent 1,126,641), when Carl Kinsley invented a method of telegraphically transmitting letters and numbers and having them printed on tape in a segmented format. In 1908, F. W. Wood invented an 8-segment display, which displayed the number 4 using a diagonal bar (U.S. Patent 974,943). In 1910, a seven-segment display illuminated by incandescent bulbs was used on a power-plant boiler room signal panel. They were also used to show the dialed telephone number to operators during the transition from manual to automatic telephone dialing.They did not achieve widespread use until the advent of LEDs in the 1970s.

Filament seven-segment display

Some early seven-segment displays used incandescent filaments in an evacuated bulb; they are also known as numitrons. A variation (minitrons) made use of an evacuated potted box. Minitrons are filament segment displays that are housed in DIP packages like modern LED segment displays. They may have up to 16 segments. There were also segment displays that used small incandescent light bulbs instead of LEDs or incandescent filaments. These worked similarly to modern LED segment displays.

Vacuum fluorescent display versions were also used in the 1970s.

Many early (c. 1970s) LED seven-segment displays had each digit built on a single die. This made the digits very small. Some included magnifying lenses onto the design in an attempt to make the digits more legible.

The seven-segment pattern is sometimes used in posters or tags, where the user either applies color to pre-printed segments, or applies color through a seven-segment digit template, to compose figures such as product prices or telephone numbers.

For many applications, dot-matrix LCDs have largely superseded LED displays in general, though even in LCDs, seven-segment displays are common. Unlike LEDs, the shapes of elements in an LCD panel are arbitrary since they are formed on the display by photolithography. In contrast, the shapes of LED segments tend to be simple rectangles, reflecting the fact that they have to be physically moulded to shape, which makes it difficult to form more complex shapes than the segments of 7-segment displays. However, the high recognition factor of seven-segment displays, and the comparatively high visual contrast obtained by such displays relative to dot-matrix digits, makes seven-segment multiple-digit LCD screens very common on basic calculators.

The seven-segment display has inspired type designers to produce typefaces reminiscent of that display (but more legible), such as New Alphabet, "DB LCD Temp", "ION B", etc.

Using a restricted range of letters that look like (upside-down) digits, seven-segment displays are commonly used by school children to form words and phrases using a technique known as "calculator spelling".



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