An LCD that’s a Flasher

The Bottom Line TBL 210F liquid crystal flasher/graph by Bottom Line. circa 1988.

The Bottom Line TBL 210F liquid crystal flasher/graph by Bottom Line. circa 1988.

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 and the computing power needed in order to run them just wasn’t state-of-the-art. But that didn’t stop companies from completely bailing on the old tried and true technologies such as flashers and paper graphs.

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 from and to the transducer and once the signal got back to the unit, you were dealing with the speed of electrons (aka the speed of light) to send that signal to the business end of the unit. I’m taking fast.

As more and more anglers started hoarding flashers and paper graphs and refusing to buy the new-fangled equipment, companies started producing LCD units that mimicked the old-school units. A good example of this was Boise, Idaho’s Bottom Line.

Bottom Line FlasherIn 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.

The problem was back in these times LCDs got all buggered up in processing of the signal to convert it from a pulse into information that could be converted to something that would print out on a pixelated screen. In electronic speak, it took a long time to convert that information.

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 weren’t for those pioneering companies back then force feeding us technology we didn’t want, we may not have the lightning fast units we have today. Then again, I wish they would have waited for the technology to catch up so I could still have used the old flasher and paper graph.