By 1988, liquid crystal displays were taking over the world, and a lot of anglers weren’t too happy about it. The units had bad resolution at best. The computing power may have been state-of-the-art, but it was nowhere near where it had to be compared to the analog units they were replacing, flashers and paper graphs. Today in The Bottom Line 1988 we’ll look at one poor solution that Bottom Line put out to appease the old guard.
The new solid-state liquid crystal display technology was cool from a science and engineering perspective, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the old technology on several fronts such as speed and resolution. But that didn’t stop companies from completely bailing on the old tried and true technologies and force feed us the new.
Paper graphs and flashers had a stout following for one simple reason – they worked. One of the reasons they worked so well was they were analog, relying only on a signal from the transducer to either light a bulb or heat a stylus. Transmission of information was nearly instantaneous. In the water you dealt with the speed of sound (3,355 mph) from and to the transducer and once the signal got back to the unit, you were dealing with the speed of electrons (the speed of light) to send that signal to the business end of the unit. I’m taking a fast response.
With the new LCDs you still had the speed in water working for you but once that signal got back to the unit, it had to go through a bunch of electronics to decipher the signal and figure out how to place that data on a pixelated screen. Only then would that data be transferred to the screen for the angler to see. We’re talking about anywhere from a half second or more delay.
The other problem inherent with the LCDs was their resolution. For example, a paper graph had a resolution of 2100 pixels per inch. The LCDs of the day might have 200 pixels on a 5-inch screen. It left a lot to the imagination when a square would show up between the bottom and the surface. Is that a fish, a ball of bait, or nothing? With a paper graph you could easily determine a single fish over a ball of bait or even a tree.
As time went on, more and more anglers started hoarding flashers and paper graphs, refusing to buy the new-fangled equipment. To combat that, companies started producing LCD units that mimicked the old-school units. A good example of this was Boise, Idaho’s Bottom Line.
In 1988 they produced the TBL 210F LCD Graph and Flasher. It looked good from the outside, the concept was sure to sway the naysayers, but did it really convert the old guard? Nope. Anyone who knew anything about electronics knew it was all a farce.
What Bottom Line did was create a screen that converted the image from a typical picture you’d see on a straight line graph and turn it into a flasher-type display. Nothing but the screen changed with respect to the time it took the computer to process the data and figure out how to display it.
If you think back to that time, the biggest, baddest processor was an IBM 80286 with maybe 2 Megabytes of RAM. The box it came in weighed about 25 pounds and dwarfed any reasonably-sized depthfinder. The computing power of this giant of the day was 100s of times less than the phone in your pocket right now.
Unfortunately the LCDs of the day were operating on magnitudes of order less computing power and memory – hence their sluggish abilities and the exact reason that the LCD flasher suffered. It may have looked like a high-tech flasher but on the inside it was constrained by technology.
One thing is for certain, though. If it wasn’t for those pioneering companies back then force feeding us technology we didn’t want, we wouldn’t have the lightning-fast units we have today. Today’s units by Humminbird, Garmin, and Lowrance are as fast as any analog unit from the 1970s. On another front, I wish the powers that be would have waited for the technology to catch up so I could still have used the old flasher and paper graph.