End of an Era: Sony Trinitron

Traditional picture tube televisions have the three electron guns arranged in a triangle. The resulting geometry requires a screen that is curved both horizontally and vertically. 40 years ago, Sony engineers realized that you could put the three guns in a line, and use vertical stripes of phosphors instead of circular dots. And this resulted in a screen that was only curved horizontally; it was flat vertically.

This design was called the Trinitron, and overnight it became the gold standard for video display quality. The flat dimension of the screen greatly reduced glare, and vertical stripe phosphors reduced convergence artifacts. And the Trinitron technology played a large role in Sony’s dominant position in consumer electronics.

On Monday, Sony announced that it will end production of the venerable Trinitron line. The company stopped production in Japan four years ago, but still produced some elsewhere for the Latin America and Asian markets. Now, the demand for picture tube televisions is dropping like a stone, so Sony is finally calling it quits at the end of this month.

It remains a fact that nearly half the televisions sold worldwide are still picture tube models, but as demand for LCDs increases and the prices fall, it’s getting harder and harder for picture tube models to compete. And that’s especially true for a premium brand such as Sony. Still, it’s a little sad to say goodbye to Trinitron.