Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting


Are We There Yet?...September 2001

The two girls, three and six years old, were peacefully observing the freeway traffic and the California landscape gliding past from the back seat of their parents' minivan on a typically-sunny Saturday morning. Their parents had decided to take a drive to explore a new area about fifty miles from their present home in the east bay. It was beginning to look more and more like there might by an interesting new career opportunity developing there. A new display start-up with a rather strange name, but with lots of investor money, had made Richard an offer that he just might not be able to turn down. And it was beginning to look like his wife Emily could also advance her career by a move to this new location.

As they drove, their conversation touched on a number of topics, one of them being why it was necessary to change homes and lifestyles every time a new job came along. What a disruption it was to have to sell their existing home, find and buy a new one, move all of their possessions, and find new doctors, dentists, and all those other services that we take for granted once located. Richard suggested that maybe one day, after he was better established in his career, they would try to create a business that was location-independent. That way they could find a home location they liked because it matched their desired lifestyle and not because it was near their places of current employment. He wondered if the continued development of the Internet and of electronic communications would help him accomplish that.

They were only slightly more than half way into their drive when Danielle, the oldest girl, began to ask, "Are we there yet?" Alexandra, the youngest, didn't say much yet but Emily could see that she was beginning to squirm in her car seat as a clear indication that this ride had better have a quick conclusion. As Mom and Dad explained that they would be there in about twenty minutes, the question "Are we there yet?" became more frequently heard and with growing frustration. After all, five minutes can seem like an eternity to a three-year-old stuck in a car seat -- just about the same as that last half-hour in an economy airplane seat on a flight from Hong-Kong to Chicago, shall we say.

For Danielle and Alexandra, "THERE" was any near-immediate stopping point that would at least temporarily end the confinement of their car seats. And the sooner the better! If this next destination also involved the offering of food, that would be a major positive. "Daddy, I'm getting hungry." "Mommy I think I'm going to need to go to the bathroom." And finally from the littler one, a robust scream that could no longer be contained or ignored.

For the parents, with their plans of significant career changes and the relocation of their home, this question of "Are we there yet?" had a very different context. Perhaps they would feel more comfortable where "there" was after they made their decision whether to accept this new opportunity or not. But then there would still be the even longer-term plans that Richard and Emily were beginning to contemplate for careers that would allow them to pick whatever location they wished while still earning a good income doing what they most enjoyed.

Clearly some "Are we there yet?" situations are more easily identified than others. If I need to be in Washington DC tomorrow for a business meeting, then it's fairly easy to establish if I have accomplished that. On the other hand, many of our lives’ activities have outcomes that are more difficult to measure. When have we achieved "success?" Is our career progressing the way we would like? "Are we having fun yet?" As I think back over some of the high and low points of my still-developing career, I see much of that history very differently than I did at the time I experienced it. Now it seems that all those "learning experiences" -- some of which I most certainly did not enjoy -- have had a beneficial effect. Life's journey turns out to be more of a continuum, a blending and overlapping of a multitude of activities, than a pre-defined destination. There are certain times when changes and learning experiences are more intense and focused than others. In between, we get to rebuild our energies and enthusiasm -- perhaps to coast a bit if we so choose.

For companies and organizations such as SID, the process is similar. In the journey of growing a new company, it is appropriate to ask, "Are we there yet?" And just as appropriately, the answer often is, "That depends." It depends on what you want the next objectives to be and what the various participants think is possible. I have been in several situations where investors had expectations of the next "destination" that were, at least from my experience base, unrealistic. Yet, since each was a new situation with new technologies or new products, there was no ready comparison for me to use to conclusively prove that. The typical behavior in these situations is that investors will force a series of management changes until it becomes clear that no one can accomplish the wished-for results. The most clever players in this game are those executives who can anticipate the investors' "learning curve" and who take on the top position(s) at the time when the investors are finally willing to accept reality. (So far, I have not been very good at this game, but at least I now understand some of the rules.)

What about the Society for Information Display? Are we there yet? By most measures we certainly seem to be doing well. But can we do better? Fortunately, we do not have to contend with investors who have unrealistic expectations. But we also have to appreciate that the world is a competitive place and that challenges are being offered up to us on a regular basis.

In the last year the membership has increased from the 4,826 total reported by Tony Lowe at last year's annual business meeting to 6,409 -- a healthy thirty percent increase. This year's SID Symposium and Exhibition were held June 3 - 8 in San Jose. The technical conference consisted of 299 peer-reviewed technical papers and the exhibition had 523 exhibitor booths as compared to 432 last year. The attendance at the technical sessions increased from about 1,700 last year to over 1,800. The overall Symposium attendance exceeded 7,900 -- an increase of about 20 percent over last year. Paul Drzaic as the general chair and Frank Libsch as the technical program chair, as well as the entire program committee, clearly are to be congratulated for making key contributions to this success.

The next major conference event will be the combination of IDW and Asia Display, to be held this year in Nagoya, Japan from October 16 to19. The technical program in Nagoja will be of similar scope and size as the one in San Jose.

Conferences, not only at the international level, but also at the regional and chapter levels, are a vital part of the society's activities. Over the coming years we will continue to identify new topics and venues, and we will continue to support the activities that encourage the exchange of the latest technical information.

The SID publications are also continuing to improve. Information Display magazine has been on a "continuous improvement" plan for several years now -- one that will never end. The major challenge this year was to get the Society's archival technical publication, the Journal of the SID, on a regular quarterly publication schedule. Editor Andy Lakatos has just about completed this objective. Tony Lowe has continued to champion our efforts to introduce important books on various topics of interest to the display community. The most recent contributions are by Ernst Lueder, "Liquid Crystal Displays," and Shin-Tson Wu and Deng-Ke Yang, "Reflective Liquid Crystal Displays."

This year major improvements were made to the SID web-site ( as its utilization and popularity continue to grow. An indicator of the growing importance of "" is that this year most of you registered for the Symposium using the web-site. The web-site is becoming a source of technical information and industry news and as a way to network with display experts anywhere in the world. It also contains what we believe is the most extensive and up-to-date conference calendar for display-related events in the world.

Local chapter activities continue to expand, allowing for the local and regional exchange of technical information, and for networking with colleagues. The opportunity to meet others and to be able to discuss technical and industry trends is becoming ever more important as the display community grows. Two new chapters were added this year, one in India and the other in Singapore/Malaysia. SID is today very much an international organization. It owes its success to the many volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise. We maintain only a small office in San Jose, competently staffed by Dee Dumont and Jenny Needham.

Should you wish to increase your participation or if you have some ideas about how to further enhance SID’s success, I would be very pleased to hear from you. One area that I will be emphasizing during this coming year is education. Can we as a society be more effective and have a greater ongoing presence in display-related education? Today, we do various seminars in connection with our conferences. I think we can do more.

So, "Are we there yet?" I think by now you can guess my answer. Do we need to make a quick stop for a stretch-break or to recharge our batteries? Would you like to get on board as we drive on to the next exciting interim destination? I would be pleased if you would share your thoughts on this topic and others. You can reach my by e-mail at, or, by phone at 425-557-8850, by fax at 425-557-8983, or by mail at 22513 SE 47th Place, Sammamish, WA 98075.