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In 1970, Fergason published a paper that broadly defined approaches for manufacturing nematic liquid crystal displays. He left the Liquid Crystal Institute and founded the International Liquid Crystal Company (Ilixco) to pursue his research and commercialize LCDs.
Fergason's article struck a chord almost immediately in the electronics community. "I got 1,200 reprint requests, which is highly unusual for someone in my business," he said. Companies from medical devices manufacturers to photocopier manufacturers were interested in the possibilities afforded by a low-power, low-voltage display that was compatible with integrated circuit drivers and produced a good contrast.
Calculators and watches were the first products to benefit from Fergason's LCDs. Until then, products with digital displays lost their battery life quickly, making them undesirable to most consumers. LCDs were ideal for these low-voltage applications.
The Gruen Watch Company was the first to use Fergason's technology and to produce a digital watch with his display. "Everybody wanted a James Bond watch," Fergason recalled, "but when they found out they had to change the battery every two weeks they weren't too interested. When they found out they could have a digital watch and keep the battery for two years, it became one of the top sellers."
Despite the popularity of early LCD devices, their mass-market penetration in other applications still took another decade.