Getting the LED Out!

The Time-O-Matic sign in Spokane, WA — circa 1951

Here’s a bit of historical sign trivia for you. Did you know that the very first sign to alternately display both time and temperature with the same bank of lights was installed in downtown Spokane? If that wasn’t enough in the way of bragging rights, it so happens that this display was also the second largest bank sign in the country at the time of its installation in December 1951.

Aside from being a proudly Washingtonian business, Meyer Sign & Advertising shares a special connection with this historic first in the sign industry. This sign was the creation of the Time-O-Matic company in Danville, Illinois. Today, that company is known as Watchfire Signs — a key partner for our company in the delivery of LED signs and digital billboards.

Our KarMART sign just off I-5 tells you a whole lot more than the time and temperature!

Whatever passersby on the street in front of Seattle 1st National Bank may have thought of the wonders of sign technology in 1951, there is no way they could have imagined the miracle of the “Light Emitting Diode” — otherwise known as LED.  Increasingly, our sign customers these days are opting for LED displays for a number of reasons. To begin with, they are an efficient, effective, and ultra bright alternative to the incandescent bulb. Unlike traditional light bulbs, LEDs can’t burn out because they don’t have a filament. You can only wonder what Thomas Edison would have thought of this. And as any homeowner who is currently replacing their filament technology light bulbs with LED versions will be quick to point out, LEDs use far less energy…which results in lower utility costs. As the cost differential between LED and incandescent shrinks, commercial customers are making the shift in droves (read our blog, The Big Switch).

LED signs are comprised of “pixels,” which are clusters of three LEDs — one blue, one red, and one green. When considering LED sign options, we consult with our customers on a variety of display factors that include viewing distance, viewing angle, and reading angle. These factors are determined by the pixel pitch and matrix size of the sign. Pixel pitch is the effective resolution of the sign, and is dependent on the distance between each pixel: the closer together the pixels, the tighter the resolution and the crisper the image. The sign matrix (not to be confused with Keanu Reeves) is simply the number of pixels high by the number of pixels wide. This is particularly important in thinking about the size of the sign, since the outside dimensions of an LED sign do not directly correspond to its readability or impact. To get a better idea of how this concept works, check out this video on “pixel pitch” by Watchfire Signs.

LED signs are a game changer in our industry, not simply because of their intrinsic advantages over incandescent technology in energy consumption and reliability, but because they are inherently digital. Digital displays lend themselves to entirely new dimensions in what a sign can communicate. In 1951, being able to alternately display the time of day and temperature was a breakthrough. Today, LED displays are the basis for digital billboards whose display options can include live internet feeds as well as creative options that are limited only to the imagination and programing aptitude of the advertiser.

Our industry has come a long way in 65 years, and thanks to our relationship with Watchfire Signs, Meyer Sign & Advertising is able to communicate our customers’ brands in ways that would have been the stuff of science fiction back in the days of the vacuum tube.

Digital displays are a game changer in the sign industry!