TVs have come a long way over the past century, with screen sizes and display technologies evolving dramatically. In the early days of television, screens were very small by today‘s standards. But over time, TV screens gradually got bigger and bigger, culminating in some truly massive “big screen” TVs. Let‘s take a look at the evolution of TV sizes throughout history and some of the biggest old TV sets ever made.
TV Screen Sizes Through History
1920s-1930s – The earliest TVs had screens that were just a few inches across. In 1928, John Logie Baird gave the first public demonstration of a mechanical television with a 30-line vertically scanned image. The screen was just 3 inches wide. Even in the late 1930s when electronic TV broadcasts began, screens were still only about 5-10 inches diagonally.
1940s – In the 1940s, most TV screens ranged from 10-15 inches diagonally. These early electronic TVs were bulky devices housed in large wooden cabinets. A 15-inch screen was considered generous for the time.
1950s – By the 1950s, screens started getting a bit bigger, averaging 16-21 inches diagonally. A 21-inch screen was a luxury model at the time. The aspect ratio was 4:3, resulting in a nearly square screen shape.
1960s – Color TVs became mainstream in the 60s, with average screen sizes growing to 19-25 inches. The bulky wooden cabinets remained, however. Anything over 21 inches was still high-end.
1970s – Bigger console TVs emerged in the 70s, reaching 25-27 inches on average. Portable TVs with 12-15 inch screens also became popular. Aspect ratios were still 4:3.
1980s – In the 80s, even larger screens up to 32 inches became affordable for the average consumer. Squarish CRT screens with 4:3 aspect ratios remained the norm.
1990s – Real innovation in screen size happened in the 90s with rear projection TVs. These allowed screen sizes of 50 inches and up for the first time. Aspect ratios grew to 16:9, moving away from the square shapes of earlier decades.
2000s – The 2000s saw the rise of flat panel displays like plasma and LCD, allowing TVs to become thinner and larger. Average screen sizes grew to 36-55 inches. High-end TVs over 60 inches emerged using rear projection.
2010s – Improvements in LED, LCD, and OLED allowed screens in the 50-70 inch range to become mainstream. Curved screens became a fad. 8K resolution screens over 80 inches were introduced but not widely adopted.
2020s – Today the average TV screen size is 55 inches. High-end home TVs go up to 85 inches. 8K TVs are now available over 100 inches. Displays keep getting thinner while screens get ever larger.
So in summary, TV screens were very small in the early days, averaging 10-20 inches until the 1980s. Only in the last few decades have TVs ballooned in size, with screens over 70 inches now common in home theater setups. Next let‘s look at some specific examples of the biggest old TV sets.
World‘s Largest Domestic CRT TV – 67 Inches
Up until the late 1990s, most TVs used bulky cathode ray tube (CRT) displays. While LCD and plasma flat panels existed, they were still exotic technologies. CRT was a very mature technology that had been around for decades, allowing TV manufacturers to make CRT screens pretty large.
The biggest domestically-produced CRT TV was a massive 67-inch model sold by Mitsubishi in 1999 under their Diamond Vision brand. Keep in mind this thing used a traditional CRT tube – that picture tube was almost 5 feet diagonally!
To give you an idea of how gigantic this TV was, it weighed over 800 pounds including the floor stand. It consumed nearly 800 watts of power. And it cost a whopping $15,000 at launch. Only the most hardcore home theater enthusiasts would buy this beast. While you could get a big screen, CRT picture quality degraded severely at such a large size.
World‘s Largest Rear Projection TV – 152 Inches
While CRT tubes maxed out at around 70 inches before image quality suffered too much, rear projection TVs used an entirely different technology to deliver much larger screen sizes.
Instead of pointing electron guns directly at the screen, rear projection TVs shone the picture from a small CRT or LCD panel onto the back of the screen using mirrors and lenses to enlarge it. This allowed the overall TV to be slimmer while scaling up the projected image.
The largest rear projection TV intended for home use was a 152-inch model sold in 2011 by Mitsubishi. It used DLP projection onto a thin flexible screen to create an image over 12 feet diagonally! This allowed it to produce a bright image during daylight hours, unlike self-emissive technologies like CRT.
But with a $100,000 price tag, this gigantic TV was again only for the most devoted home theater fanatics. At a weight of 1,760 pounds split between the screen and projector, installation was also a huge undertaking. Only the wealthiest TV enthusiasts would buy this behemoth of a screen.
World‘s Largest Display TV – 370 Inches
If you really want to talk about enormous TVs, displays built for commercial use like Times Square billboards are in a whole different league. We‘re talking screens measured in feet and yards rather than inches.
The largest TV display built to date is the aptly named “The Wall” from Samsung, measuring an incredible 370 inches or almost 31 feet diagonally! This LED video wall can even be divided into multiple independent displays when not being used as a single giant screen.
With a resolution of 8K, The Wall has over 33 million pixels – four times as many as even the largest consumer 8K TVs today. This allows the image to remain extremely sharp even at such a massive size.
Of course at $1.6 million, this giant TV is far outside the realm of normal consumers. It‘s intended for commercial installations like stadiums, Fortune 500 lobbies, and mega-rich sheiks‘ palaces. But it represents just how gigantic TV engineers can make screens using today‘s technologies.
What Limited Old TV Size?
So what technical constraints prevented old cathode ray tube televisions from achieving the mammoth proportions of today‘s screens? There were a few key limitations of CRT that capped how large they could be manufactured:
Difficulty Bending Electron Beams – CRT TVs work by firing electrons from an electron gun onto phosphors coated on the back of the glass screen. Bigger tubes require deflecting the beam over a wider angle, reducing focus and precision.
Screen Weight and Strength – A CRT‘s glass screen must be thick enough to withstand the pressure of vacuum sealed inside. As screen size increases, the thickness and weight must increase.
Power Consumption – Larger tubes require more power to adequately illuminate the big screen area. This generates extra heat that must be dissipated.
Resolution Limitations – Analog CRT TVs had an optimal resolution best suited to smaller screen sizes. Bigger screens showed visible scan lines.
Projection Distortion – The curved CRT screen could cause distortion, blurriness, and focus issues around the edges at larger sizes.
So while CRT TVs peaked at around 70 inches, newer technologies like LCD, OLED, and LED displays are free of these limitations. Very thin screens can be made at any size. Resolution can be increased with digital signals. And solid-state microelectronics require far less power than electron beam tubes. This has enabled today‘s gigantic TV sizes.
What Was the Biggest Plasma TV?
Plasma displays were one of the first flat panel technologies able to achieve big screen sizes in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Plasma uses inert gases trapped between two sheets of glass that are electrically excited to produce an image. This allowed them to be millimeters thick and scale up easily.
The largest plasma TV manufactured was a massive 152-inch model sold in 2008 by Panasonic under their professional TH-152UX1 line. It provided a full high-definition 1920×1080 resolution with a 4:3 aspect ratio optimized for professional computer monitor use.
While plasma TVs have been discontinued in the consumer market, they are still manufactured for some niche commercial applications. Panasonic‘s 15-foot professional plasma displays demonstrate the technology was able to achieve huge screen sizes.
What Was the Biggest LCD TV?
LCD televisions use a matrix of tiny liquid crystal pixels sandwiched between polarizing filters that can manipulate backlight to produce images. This allows them to be incredibly thin and lightweight compared to CRT and projection designs.
One of the largest LCD TVs ever made was the 84-inch Sharp LC-90LE745U with a 1920×1080 full HD resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. It contains over 7 million LCD pixels illuminated by an LED backlight divided into 480 local dimming zones.
The thin LCD panel and LED backlight allow this TV to be just 4 inches thick while weighing only 141 pounds – incredible for such an enormous display! While prices have dropped significantly, this TV was $5,000 when introduced in 2012 due to its cutting-edge size.
What Was the Biggest OLED TV?
OLED (organic light emitting diode) televisions use organic carbon-based layers that directly emit colored light pixel-by-pixel. This gives them incredible contrast ratios and viewing angles. But manufacturing large OLED panels reliably has proven challenging.
The largest consumer OLED TV currently available is the 88-inch LG Signature OLED 8K TV (model Z2). With over 33 million self-illuminating OLED pixels providing 8K Ultra HD resolution, this TV provides some of the best image quality ever seen.
But achieving this required LG to develop special manufacturing processes to build such a large OLED panel. The organic materials and encapsulation techniques used do not easily scale to big screen sizes. As a result, this cutting-edge 88-inch OLED TV has an MSRP of $30,000 making it only accessible to the wealthy.
Projector TVs – Ultra Large Screen Sizes
Projection TV technology has evolved in parallel with direct-view display methods like CRT, LCD, and OLED panels. Modern projectors allow creating TV screens measured in yards rather than inches!
Using advanced mirror, lens, and image processing technologies, home theater projectors can throw a 150-inch or larger image onto a screen or blank wall. Short-throw models mounted just inches from the wall are available to fit smaller spaces. resolutions up to 8K are supported.
Projectors give the flexibility to have TV screens of virtually any size desired. Lower brightness than TV panels makes them suited for dedicated home theaters. But the ability to scale to theater-sized viewing makes projectors appealing for the ultimate big-screen TV experience.
What Is the Largest TV Screen Sold Today?
If you‘re looking for the biggest TV sold for home use today, here are some of the largest current offerings from major manufacturers:
– Samsung Q950TS QLED 8K TV – 85 inches
– LG SIGNATURE ZX OLED TV – 88 inches
– Sony Z9K Mini LED 8K TV – 85 inches
– Hisense 120L9G Laser TV – 120 inches
– Samsung The Wall TV – 292 inches
The largest reasonably affordable LED/LCD TV from major brands is in the 85-88 inch range. Going much bigger means stepping up to projector systems or commercial displays costing over $100,000.
But home theater enthusiasts with big budgets can get screens over 100 inches using laser or lamp projectors. Samsung‘s modular Wall TV is aimed at luxury installations and can scale up to a staggering 292-inch 8K display!
While vintage TV screens seem tiny by today‘s standards, they represented major technological achievements for their time. CRT and projection TVs gradually pushed the screen size envelope over decades, culminating in some impressively large vintage models.
The biggest CRT TV was a 67-inch monster. Projection models blew up to over 150 inches. And there were early attempts at large plasma and LCD displays. But each technology faced physical and economic constraints that limited maximum sizes.
New millennium advances like affordable flat panels, laser projection, and improved manufacturing have smashed previous size barriers. Screens over 100 inches are now practical for home use. Fanatics can enjoy custom TV displays measured in yards. The march to ever larger screens continues unabated.
So while 67-inches seemed impressively giant in old CRT days, today even that is considered a modestly sized TV. Display technology has transformed our concept of “big screen” viewing. Who knows how large home theater screens may become in another decade or two? Buckle up for the big screen ride!