Around the 1975 time frame a number of the electronic companies were bringing their chart recorders, or paper graphs as they were also called, to the market. These pieces of equipment created a huge uproar, primarily with a particular Minnesota Rep, and there was actually a Ban the Graph campaign in that state.
Well, suffice it to say, the paper graph wasn’t banned. You see, once people realized there was more to catching fish than finding them on a chart recorder and casting any lure, all the hubbub associated with the “non-sportsman-like” electronics died off.
But, nearly 10 years later the paper graph would again be on the chopping block – not because of some crazed politician, though. What was about to kill the thermal paper chart recorder was technology – of the liquid crystal type.
At the 1984 AFTMA show, Techsonic-Manns (now Hummingbird Electronics) debuted the first Liquid Crystal Recorders to the public. For those of you not old enough to remember AFTMA, it stood for the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association or what is known today as the American Sportfishing Association and the show is now ICAST.
Prior to this time, an angler would use a paper graph to pinpoint structure and then use their flasher to stay on a spot. The reason for this was two-fold. One, the cost of thermal paper was kind of spendy and two, you always seemed to run out of paper at the most inopportune time. What the LCR promised was uninterrupted use of a graph-like recorder without the hassle of paper.
While that may seem all fine and dandy, the fact was the resolution of the liquid crystal technology left a lot to be desired. That’s putting it nicely. A paper graph had infinite resolution because the signal was burned into the paper throughout the entire stroke of the stylus on the paper. Trying to transpose this information into a series of small squares (pixels) would be a lot more difficult. You see, resolution is dependant on the number of pixels per square inch placed on the screen. The more pixels per square inch, the better the resolution. The answer isn’t to make the screen bigger either. What’s the difference between a small crappy picture and a larger, just-as-crappy picture? More crap.
Within a year, Lowrance Electronics had answered Hummingbird’s call and came out with their Lowrance and Eagle LCGs – the X-3 and Z-6000 respectively. Their claim to fame was a more detailed picture due to 45 percent more pixels. Which, reverts back to my rhetorical question above – how big were the pixels compared to the other company’s product? Still, the resolution was beyond awful by paper graph standards.
At the same time, the ocean electronic moguls like Furuno and Koden were trying to break into the freshwater electronic markets with their high-resolution color charts. They touted, “no more expensive paper or poor resolution from LCD recorders.” The resolution of these units was as good as any recorder today but there was a major problem.
What these companies didn’t tell the bass fishing public was their units were CRT displays – or, just like your grandma and granpa’s TV. They were heavy and took up a ton of space. The analogy would be to compare a 24-inch television set of the ‘80s to one of today. There was no room on your console in which to place one of these behemoths.
In these early years anglers weren’t too worried about the LCR/G craze, the companies were still making paper graphs. But about three or four years later, when LEI and Hummingbird let the public know that they were going to stop making paper graphs, bass anglers, especially in the West, started buying up any and all paper graphs and paper they could find. I know of a number of western pros who had their “sponsored” LCRs or LCGs mounted on their consoles, but below the console, next to their feet, was their trusty old paper graph mounted to the deck.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the paper graph that was the first to be phased out of the market by the new-fangled technology. The flasher was the first casualty – and an unfortunate one at that. There’s nothing like a flasher on the bow to give you real-time data about what’s below you – there never will be. Even today’s high-falutin’ technological wonders can’t transfer information from transducer to your eyeball as fast as a flasher. There’s too much data for the processor to translate.
Thankfully after a number of years, technology finally caught up with the industry need and today we have units that rival the resolution of the old paper graph. Not only that, they tell us where we are via GPS and plot where we want to go. They tell us how fast we’re going, tell us whether we can make our destination with our remaining fuel and some of them can even tie a Bimini Twist. That period of time, between the late 80s and the turn of the millennium, is just a bad memory in the minds of the offshore angler – unless they’d stashed enough paper recorders and thermal paper.