A flat-panel display (FPD) is an electronic viewing device used to enable people to see content (still images, moving images, text, or other visual material) in a range of entertainment, consumer electronics, personal computer, and mobile devices, and many types of medical, transportation and industrial equipment. They are far lighter and thinner than traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) television sets and are usually less than 10 centimeters (3.9 in) thick. Flat-panel displays can be divided into two display device categories: volatile and static. Volatile displays require that pixels be periodically electronically refreshed to retain their state (e.g. liquid-crystal displays (LCD)). A volatile display only shows an image when it has a battery or AC mains power. Static flat-panel displays rely on materials whose color states are bistable (e.g., e-book reader tablets from Sony), and as such, flat-panel displays retain the text or images on the screen even when the power is off. As of 2016, flat-panel displays have almost completely replaced old CRT displays. In many 2010-era applications, specifically small portable devices such as laptops, mobile phones, smartphones, digital cameras, camcorders, point-and-shoot cameras, and pocket video cameras, any display disadvantages of flat-panels (as compared with CRTs) are made up for by portability advantages (low power consumption from batteries, thinness and lightweights).
Most 2010s-era flat-panel displays use LCD and/or light-emitting diode (LED) technologies. Most LCD screens are back-lit as color filters are used to display colors. Flat-panel displays are thin, lightweight, provide better linearity and are capable of higher resolution than typical consumer-grade TVs from earlier eras. The highest resolution for consumer-grade CRT TVs was 1080i; in contrast, many flat-panels can display 1080p or even 4K resolution. As of 2016, some devices that use flat-panels, such as tablet computers, smartphones, and, less commonly, laptops, use touchscreens, a feature that enables users to select onscreen icons or trigger actions (e.g., playing a digital video) by touching the screen. Many touchscreen-enabled devices can display a virtual QWERTY or numeric keyboard on the screen, to enable the user to type words or numbers.
A multifunctional monitor (MFM) is a flat-panel display that has additional video inputs (more than a typical LCD monitor) and is designed to be used with a variety of external video sources, such as VGA input, HDMI input from a VHS VCR or video game console and, in some cases, a USB input or a card reader for viewing digital photos. In many instances, an MFM also includes a TV tuner, making it similar to an LCD TV that offers computer connectivity.
The first engineering proposal for a flat-panel TV was by General Electric in 1954 as a result of its work on radar monitors. The publication of their findings gave all the basics of future flat-panel TVs and monitors. But GE did not continue with the R&D required and never built a working flat panel at that time. The first production flat-panel display was the Aiken tube, developed in the early 1950s and produced in limited numbers in 1958. This saw some use in military systems as a heads up display and as an oscilloscope monitor, but conventional technologies overtook its development. Attempts to commercialize the system for home television use ran into continued problems and the system was never released commercially.
The Philco Predicta featured a relatively flat (for its day) cathode ray tube setup and would be the first commercially released "flat-panel" upon its launch in 1958; the Predicta was a commercial failure. The plasma display panel was invented in 1964 at the University of Illinois, according to The History of Plasma Display Panels. As of 2012, 50% of global market share in flat-panel display (FPD) production is by Taiwanese manufacturers such as AU Optronics and Chimei Innolux Corporation.